With the new year comes loads of information about getting healthy and fit and with good reason. Statistics show that Canadians and Americans are overweight as ever and with lockdowns happening (again), the need to keep moving and eat a healthy diet is critical.
Having said that, it is just as critical for everyone (including those of us in midlife) to take care of our mental fitness so that we go through the middle years and beyond with mental clarity and focus.
I won’t lie, I am creature of habit. I love routine, but often when we do the same things repeatedly, we may not feel as mentally sharp, especially when you do the same mundane things day in and day out.
So, it stands to reason that if you use your brain for new tasks, it gets sharper. You’ll essentially be exercising your brain!
Our brains have an ability to actually change structure and physiology in response to new stimuli and challenges. To give your mind this kind of food for growth, try some of the suggestions below.
Play mental games.
My mother read the newspaper well into her late 80’s and did the Word Search and crossword puzzle weekly. She loved it! She wasn’t fast and took her time, but it was something she looked forward to every week!
Crosswords, brain teasers, mazes, Sudoku, and other puzzles are all effective ways to challenge your mind. So, try something new and really give your brain a workout.
These are especially good if they are new experiences for you. Someone just beginning crossword puzzles is going to experience more improvement in mental fitness than someone that has been doing them for years.
Exercising isn’t just good for us physically. Moving your body during exercise accomplishes many things:
- The brain is forced to send stronger impulses to your muscles when moving vigorously or against resistance.
- The coordination required to use muscles not normally used challenges your brain to come up with ways to adapt and improve.
- The flow of blood and nutrients through the brain is increased.
Play Music and Listen to Music
Learning a new musical instrument is a great way to challenge your mental fitness. This is particularly true for someone who has never played a musical instrument previously.
Learning musical theory is like learning a new language. Not only is music an enjoyable way to spend free time, but it’s also great for your brain. Once things begin to open up, it might be the perfect time to look into piano or guitar lessons.
I love listening to music! No matter if it’s R & B, Classical, Hip Hop, Pop or something else. Music stimulates the brain and can get your creative juices flowing!
Meditation for mental fitness.
Some may dismiss meditation, but over the last almost two years, meditation has really helped many people deal with the ever changing landscape of our world.
Meditation challenges your brain by creating a new mental state. It is relaxing, plus it helps your mind to focus inward, which is a huge task for many people.
Read something new every day.
Reading is a complicated mental process that requires processing information quickly.
Try reading something new that interests you. You’ll get the added benefit of novelty, enhance your brain function, and learn something as well.
In addition, begin (or continue) reading “offline”, i.e. books, actual newspapers, magazines, etc. Reading a book forces your mind to read the book, not look at all the other tabs open on your computer. Squirrel!!
Challenge your memory.
Recently, I walked into my home and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember getting on the elevator, pressing the button, getting off the elevator, walking down the hall, putting the key in the door … see where this is going?
Each day, take a minute and try to remember the previous day. What did you have for lunch? What happened at work? Try to remember what you did last weekend. What happened last Christmas? Okay, I know … the last two Christmases left a lot to be desired for some, but you get the idea.
Make a list of 10 items and then see if you can remember them without cheating! Part of the memory loss sometimes associated with aging is due to not using our powers of recollection on a regular basis.
Watch LESS television
You’ll be amazed how much better you feel in every way if you watch less TV. You can do so many things to improve your mind and body that you’ll never get around to if you’re watching too much TV. I get it though … Netflix, HBO, sports, news, etc. There’s a lot of information and entertainment on television. This is where we get the up to date information about our world. It’s not such a bad thing, however, to reduce our TV watching and focus on other things that don’t require turning on the television.
To sum it up …
Mental fitness doesn’t have to decline dramatically as you age. The key is to expose yourself to new and challenging experiences on a regular basis.
So, break up your routine and try something new.
Doing something new that makes you really think is even better. Turn off the TV and work on a crossword puzzle. Take up the guitar. Try a physical activity that’s new to you. There are lots of ways to improve your mental fitness. Get started today!
Yours in health and wellness,
Francine Alleyne (RHNP™)
Holistic Nutritionist, Registered Holistic Nutrition Practitioner™
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DISCLAIMER: Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any symptoms. I am not a doctor. This post and anything else you find on my website is intended for informational, educational and self-empowerment purposes ONLY and is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition or disease.