Believe it or not, your brain has much more in common with your muscles than you may think. Everything you do alters it. Even reading a magazine article will generate a permanent, physical change. Also, just like your muscles, not using it will lead to stagnation and diminished power.
Yet “using it” is a misleading concept. Technically, if you are sentient and conscious (or even dreaming), you are utilizing some part of your brain. The term must therefore be expanded. Your brain thrives on new experiences and information. Performing the same wrote task or routine over and over again will actually lead to a loss of mental agility. So whether you are in your early 20’s or late 80’s, here are the best ways to stay mentally sharp for decades.
Never Stop Learning
This is a problem that both the young and the old experience. Young adults tend to feel as if they’ve finally learned enough to stake their claim in the world, whilst the old feel as if there is no longer any reason to absorb new information.
Yet reading books, picking up new hobbies, or even attempting to learn a new language are the absolute greatest ways to “work out” your brain. These activities are literally the 500-pound deadlifts of the mental exercise world.
Different activities target different sides of your brain. Puzzles and linguistics will address the left whilst musical pursuits or arts will address the right. Don’t worry about balancing the two. The end goal is to keep challenging your brain as a whole. It is no coincidence that when people retire, they suddenly have a drastically increased chance of mortality. Once your brain goes, so does the rest of you.
Continue to Socialize
A large part of your brain is actually devoted to social interactions. Many young people tend to immerse themselves completely in their work or studies whilst older individuals can often seal themselves off from the world completely.
Socializing is absolutely integral to proper mental health and agility. Don’t lose track of your friends, form new friendships, and keep in touch with your family. If you are not occasionally taking yourself out of your comfort zone, chances are the social part of your brain is stagnating.
While reading and studying new subjects is great for your brain, you should integrate a social component into your activities. Join a club or pursue a group hobby. Even morning yoga with five or six other individuals is a great way to keep your social skills functioning.
Proper Diet and Rest
Diet is a huge part of how your brain functions. Make sure you are getting your necessary vitamins and nutrients. They can often vary depending on your age and gender. Another huge component of staying mentally agile is rest.
You should be receiving at least seven hours of sleep a night; any less can have drastic effects on how well you function on a daily basis. Don’t sleep too much! Oversleeping can lead to negative consequences too, as well as lessening the time you have to pursue other brain strengthening activities.