We don’t think about exercising our brains as much as our bodies, but we should.
In order to age well, we not only need to take care of our bodies, but also pay attention to maintaining our brains, too. Studies have shown those who stay mentally engaged retain cognitive function longer than those who don’t exercise their minds. This week in our #SummerToRemember series, let’s explore ways to stay mentally sharp.
How do you exercise your brain? In our middle years, we have numerous mental challenges bombarding our brains all day long. We long for the day when we can physically and mental relax a bit in retirement. But that attitude can lead to golden years of lackluster cognitive function. In order to have sharp minds now AND later, we need to stimulate our minds daily, no matter our age.
Retirees may feel they deserve a break-as well they do. However, if we choose to not engage in mentally challenging activities as we age, we will lose the ability to think and function at a high level. It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ adage that applies to both physical and mental ability. When we exercise our brains, we then have more brain power to call upon when needed. It’s that simple.
When life shifts into retirement or a different season of life, how can we continue to challenge ourselves? By being creative!
Daily life offers a plethora of choices and options to stimulate our minds, but are we capitalizing on them? Whether it’s working, raising a family, juggling both children and parents, caring for grandchildren, or just managing our aging lives, we all have choices. How we choose to spend our time truly matters.
Are we engaging mentally in something that stimulates our brains or do we choose easier, more passive ways of spending our days? Are we using our time wisely or taking the path of least resistance to just get by? What we choose will make a difference in our mental capacity later in life. If we always choose the easy path and don’t challenge ourselves mentally, we’ll have less ability to do so later.
Let’s pick the road less travelled as Robert Frost put it. Let’s do simple things like take a different route or figure it out without relying on GPS. Let’s do the math in our head instead of using a calculator. Let’s create a new recipe instead of making the same old thing for dinner. Let’s try a new game, read a different type of book, join a new club or make a new friend. All these simple choices can make a world of difference in how our brain functions now and when we’re older.
The added benefit of challenging ourselves mentally is the good feelings it evokes. Trying something new or different feels uncomfortable at first. But after a while, we settle in, find our groove and eventually can take pride in even attempting something outside our box. Endorphins are released and happier, more satisfying feelings result. WIN, WIN, WIN!!
Give it whirl. Try something new, step out of your normal routine and stimulate your brain more than usual. Do it today, tomorrow and the next day so your future self will thank you. Make it a #SummerToRemember by challenging yourself mentally!