There is not a magic pill, at least not yet, that can prevent memory loss, ward off cognitive decline, or keep us young and healthy forever, but we can help to maintain our brain health by reducing stress, having a positive attitude, engaging in social activities, being more physically active and challenging ourselves mentally.
If I were to make just one suggestion for supporting mental health and memory it would be, “Exercise!” Exercise helps the body release hormones that make us feel great and aid in providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. We know that physical exercise is crucial for maintaining good blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, but it also helps protect against the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. In addition, a study conducted at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas found that engaging in a physical exercise program helps healthy aging adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness. Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine Regular found that aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the hippocampus, which is involved in verbal memory and learning. So the bottom line is: Exercise 30 minutes every day; it delivers oxygen to the brain and improves function in multiple areas.
Exercising isn’t your thing? Well, you in luck, there are many activities that keep those mental juices flowing.
Here are some of my Top Tips for Mental Fitness
- Eat well and drink water. Boost your levels of vitamin B, eat plenty of wholegrain cereals, leafy greens and dairy foods. Water is essential for overall health, both physical and mental. Drink plenty every day.
- Challenge yourself. Learn a new language, do a crossword puzzle or play chess
- Take time to relax. Excess stress hormones can be harmful to the brain.
- Start a new hobby. Learning something new gives the mind a workout and builds new neural pathways.
- Converse. Talk to friends and family about a wide range of interesting and challenging topics.
- Be positive. Learn how to cope with negative thoughts. Looking on the bright side of things increases your ability to experience happiness in day-to-day life. Collect positive moments by thinking about the times when you’ve felt comfort, tenderness, confidence etc.
- Do one thing at a time. Turn off your cell phone and stop making a mental “to do” list.
- Set personal goals. Goals don’t have to be ambitious but reaching one builds morale and a sense of satisfaction.
- Keep a journal. Expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective and release tension.
- Laugh. Life is too serious, so when you hear or see something funny, share it with someone you know.
- Talk about it. Sharing your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.
- Keep in touch. Friends and family can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help solve practical problems.
- Ask for help. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help from your support system at Kendal at Home.
- Care for others. Doing so is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you and feeling needed.
- Accept yourself. Seek out and embrace the positive traits of yourself and your life
- Express gratitude. People who are appreciative cope with stress better and have more positive emotions.
- Take a break. A change of scenery or a change of pace is good for your mental health.
- Join in. Joining community groups, clubs and organizations makes you a part of something bigger and helps you feel connected.
- Meditate or visualize. Simply imagine yourself in a calm, soothing place. Try this for just 10 minutes each day.
- Sleep. Studies show that getting enough sleep improves reaction time and split second decision making. Sleep is essential for forming and consolidating memories. It plays a central role in the formation of new neuronal connections and the pruning of old ones.