As we get older we all suffer from memory ‘lapses’ occasionally. Whether it’s forgetting our keys, trouble remembering certain people’s names or those moments where you’re telling someone about something that’s happened in your life and then, all of a sudden, you forget what you were trying to tell them.
All these lapses are normal and it doesn’t mean that you’re ‘losing your marbles’ even though you may be getting older. However, mental stimulation does have a powerful effect on keeping your mind healthy, in later life particularly, and certain studies have shown that leading a mentally stimulating life in your later years can have a positive affect on reducing the chances of you suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Effects of Stress
If you suffer from stress to any great degree, you should try to find a solution that will help to relieve you of it as stress, especially if it’s ongoing or prolonged, can have a detrimental effect on your mental well-being and can lead to problems with anxiety and depression.
Diet and Exercise
Saturated fats are one of the key ingredients in increasing the rate at which your brain declines and they’re not good for you physically either. You should adopt a diet rich in oily fish, soya based products, leafy green vegetables and fruit, particularly oranges – all of which have been found to be of great benefit to your brain and nervous system. As with most healthy food recommendations, you should combine this with regular physical exercise because, as you get out of breath and your blood starts to be pumped around your body much faster, this in turn carries more oxygen and nutrients to your brain. Bad diet, little exercise and a general apathy towards the entire ageing process can often lead to depression and anxiety, both of which are not good for your mind.
Stimulating Your Mind
To keep the mind healthy, however, it’s important that you do lots of stimulating mental exercises and by varying these, it will improve your memory and help to keep your mind sharp and active.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make it a point of doing the daily crossword and/or puzzles in your morning newspaper and set yourself time targets to complete them by
- Don’t use a calculator – get a pen and paper out and use your arithmetic skills instead
- Read more books and read up on a variety of subjects
- Join a club for those hobbies which take a little bit more ‘intellectual nous’ – e.g. chess, bridge, backgammon and even play against others on your computer
- Take up a new hobby from scratch – in the early days, particularly, it will stretch your mind as you come to terms with doing something new
- Enrol on an educational course or evening class – not only will you be mentally stimulated by learning something new, social interaction is also a good way of keeping your mind healthy
- Socialise with friends and relatives more – you’ve more time on your hands when you retire so meet up for a night at the pub or the cinema or theatre. Engaging in conversation is good for the mind
- Test your memory by trying to go to the shops without a shopping list. Write down the list as usual and see how many of the items you remembered to buy without referring to the list.
- Keep up with the exercise – half an hour, 3 times a week should be your minimum
Just like any muscle in your body, you need to exercise your brain regularly and provide it with stimulation if you want it to work properly. Just as muscles lose their strength so can your mind if you don’t pay it enough attention. Having an active and healthy mind will give you a positive outlook on life with the result likely to be that you’ll live a happier life and live it longer.