As you age it is very important to keep your brain engaged in mental stimulation activities. These activities are like exercises for your brain. You need them to tackle chances of cognitive decline.
Here are the activities that will improve your brain health.
1. Learn To Play A Musical Instrument
Everybody knows that listening to music helps you to get into a better mood. It releases a chemical known as dopamine, nicknamed the “happy hormone.” But there is more. Music has the power to involve several areas of the brain. Just by learning an instrument, you are increasing your chances of better coordination, memory capacity, and better auditory processing skills. Not to mention, the attention you would receive in your social life!
It’s never too late to pick up an instrument. All you need is to choose an instrument you like and practice. The more you practice, the better for your brain.
2. Get Back To Math
Have you noticed your dependence level on calculators and computers? Most of us have left counting and calculating to devices, not realizing that doing math in your head is just what your brain needs. Math has been deemed food for the brain. You get better at analyzing and solving problems, you find out patterns and sequences, and you begin to enjoy working on complicated problems because you get busy trying to find a solution.
So, the next time you need to split a bill at a restaurant, use your brain.
3. Learn A New Language
Your brain sees language as an intricate task. When you are bilingual/multilingual, it means your brain needs to use more effort to process and speak. That’s not all, studies claim that people who can speak more than one language have more gray matter, and they are better at filtering out unnecessary words.1
Another study claims if you are rich in vocabulary, you reduce your chances of cognitive decline because your brain has the power to deal with pathology.2 Being bilingual acts as a constant exercise for your brain. You get better at memory and you are able to multitask better. If you aren’t bilingual, remember it’s never late to learn a new language.
4. Practice Meditation
You have probably heard that meditation helps to cope with stress. But there’s more to it. Practicing meditation scores high in your neurological department, confirms several EEG tests. Meditation helps to increase the gray matter in your brain, it improves attention and your concentration levels.3 This is besides reducing levels of anxiety and depression.
Another study claims that regularly practicing meditation helps to reduce activities in default mode network.4 The DMN gets activated when you aren’t engaged in an activity and your mind wanders off. Your mind moves from thought to thought when your DMN is functioning. Meditation helps you to focus in the present and things in front of you.
5. Read As Much As You Can
Mental stimulation is very important for the brain’s efficiency. Reading helps you to focus harder and you use a lot of brain resources to continuously pick up and comprehend the words. Mental stimulation is one way to reduce chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Another benefit is that reading helps you to build your knowledge bank and your memory power increases. Reading in a different language is even better for the brain.
6. Dance Away
What’s dancing got to do with increasing your brain health? Plenty. While listening to music enhances the brain’s reward centers, dancing focuses on the motor and sensory parts of the brain. One interesting research tells of how 11 activities were studied including cycling, swimming, tennis, but it was dancing that helped lower the risk of dementia. This is because dancing involves mental effort and social interaction, a type of stimulation useful to reduce dementia. Other benefits also include reduced levels of stress, improves long-term memory, and spatial skills.
Imagine the results of your combination of a mentally stimulating activity and a body workout. A healthy brain and body. It’s a double whammy!
7. Get Painting
Most of think that painting is all about using and increasing creative skills. The truth is that while creative skills get improved, so does your overall cognitive skills. Painting helps to boost your memory, recalling skills, problem solving, and you develop fine motor skills. It’s an emotional getaway for you to relax and be calm with colors.
8. Play Video Games
If you love spending time with your playstation, pat yourself on the back. Playing video games has been found to improve cognitive skills and tackle mental decline in old age. One study claims that participants who were over 50 had better cognitive functioning after playing video games for 10 hours.5 The improvement was seen for several years.
Another study found out that the prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus and cerebellum had grown after regularly playing video games. These areas were responsibility for navigation and motor skills. Other benefits include better memory and attention span. The reason for improvement in cognitive skills could be a culmination of having to focus sharply at several objects at the same time and moving your fingers quickly in response to a stimuli.
9. Play Chess
Chess has multiple benefits for your brain. It enhances mental stimulation, exercises both sides of the brain, promotes problem solving skills, critical thinking, and enhances your planning skills. It also reduces chances of dementia. One study revealed that playing chess even increased your IQ!
10. Do Puzzles
Working on puzzles has the same effect as meditation. You are focused on the puzzle and you feel a sense of relaxation with it. Dopamine is released while working on jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles. They help build concentration, increases memory (especially short term memory because you need to recall the shapes and pictures of the puzzle pieces), and your cognitive skills become sharper. One study says that doing jigsaw puzzles regularly reduced chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was even found that they lived longer!
|↑1||Grant, Angela, Nancy A. Dennis, and Ping Li. “Cognitive control, cognitive reserve, and memory in the aging bilingual brain.” Frontiers in psychology 5 (2014): 1401.|
|↑2||Bialystok, Ellen, Fergus IM Craik, and Morris Freedman. “Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia.” Neuropsychologia 45, no. 2 (2007): 459-464.|
|↑3||Luders, Eileen, Nicolas Cherbuin, Florian Kurth, and R. Lauche. “Forever Young (er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy.” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Akupunktur 58, no. 4 (2015): 30-31.|
|↑4||Garrison, Kathleen A., Thomas A. Zeffiro, Dustin Scheinost, R. Todd Constable, and Judson A. Brewer. “Meditation leads to reduced default mode network activity beyond an active task.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 15, no. 3 (2015): 712-720.|
|↑5||Zelinski, Elizabeth M., and Ricardo Reyes. “Cognitive benefits of computer games for older adults.” Gerontechnology: international journal on the fundamental aspects of technology to serve the ageing society 8, no. 4 (2009): 220.|