By Justine Wilson
Shared with permission from The Association of Mature America Citizens, Inc. (Amac)
Here’s what will give you an edge on your next big idea, or those leisurely crossword puzzles. Did you know that opportunities for creativity actually increase with age? Older adults, especially those in retirement, find great enjoyment through social, academic, and artistic engagements. Whether you begin a new hobby, embark on a fun project, or enjoy doing crosswords, it’s important to feed the mind. Here are some ideas that may help to improve your overall brain power.
- Never Stop Dreaming- Although more can be learned about the mechanisms of memory retention and formation, it is well established that a good night’s sleep has worked to improve memory and overall cognition. Try to maintain good sleep hygiene by sleeping on a schedule for an average of 8 hours and to reduce technology use 30 minutes before bed. (10)
- Reducing Stress- Chronic, or daily stress can have many negative effects on the body, such as decreased cognitive function, slower muscle repair, and difficulty regulating mood. Decreasing stressors, such as delegating tasks, keeping a clean work and home environments, and partaking in activities to reduce stress, allows for the body to decrease levels of cortisol in the spine and brain. A steroid, cortisol, sends the “fight or flight” message to the brain in high-stress situations for the duration of the stress. (8)
- Belief- Trusting in the ability that you can improve is one of the largest factors in increased improvement amongst all age groups. An important chemical in neurogenesis, BDNF, allows for increased neurogenesis and has been found in higher amounts in people with better outlooks on their situations. (3 & 4)
- Exercise- 30 minutes of daily exercise, as easy as walking, can improve cognitive function, concentration and creativity. Exercise can also act as a protective measure against progression of Alzheimer’s disease and improve self-reported happiness. Put on those running shoes and take a stroll! (1 & 5 & 6)
- Hydration- Our bodies use a tremendous amount of water to stay at its best. From mood to cognitive function, the brain requires plenty of water to optimally perform. Although the human body can filter through four 8-oz glasses of water per hour, it is suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that we drink around 2 liters a day of water, including through food and beverage consumption. (10)
- Consistency- The brain, like the body, loves consistency. Doing specific tasks at the same time daily allows our brains to prepare for that task in advance. This technique, called priming, is used by athletes and medical students alike.
- Mindfulness- Activities such as practicing gratitude daily, staying in the moment and meditation are just some of the ways that we are able to redirect our attention, allowing us to increase the ability of our attention, and to stay aware of how we use our time. (2 & 7)
- Yu, F., Kolanowski, A. M., Strumpf, N. E., & Eslinger, P. J. (2006). Improving cognition and function through exercise intervention in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 38(4), 358-365.
- Khazaee‐pool, M., Sadeghi, R., Majlessi, F., & Foroushani, A. R. (2015). Effects of physical exercise programme on happiness among older people. Journal Of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing, 22(1), 47-57. doi:10.1111/jpm.12168
- Torniainen-Holm, M., Pankakoski, M., Lehto, T., Saarelma, O., Mustonen, P., Joutsenniemi, K., & Suvisaari, J. (2016). The effectiveness of email-based exercises in promoting psychological wellbeing and healthy lifestyle: A two-year follow-up study. BMC Psychology, 4doi:10.1186/s40359-016-0125-4
- Lee, B. K., Glass, T. A., McAtee, M. J., Wand, G. S., Bandeen-Roche, K., Bolla, K. I., & Schwartz, B. S. (2007). Associations of salivary cortisol with cognitive function in the Baltimore memory study. Archives of general psychiatry, 64(7), 810-818.
- Deak, M. C., & Stickgold, R. (2010). Sleep and cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1(4), 491-500.
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