Of course it’s important to eat the right things and exercise regularly, but if you’re sculpting your guns while your brain is living on a strict diet of only reality TV, you could find that it’ll turn to mush before you know it. Studies have shown that having a healthy mental workout regime on top of your normal active lifestyle and healthy diet contributes positively to the avoidance of dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.
The common misconception seems to be that to be ‘healthy’ all you need to do is eat well, and do a bit of exercise. This simply isn’t the case. Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to maintaining a positive feeling of wellbeing.
Things like ensuring you get enough sleep and managing your stress levels contribute to your overall feeling of happiness, help maintain a healthy weight, and make you more mentally alert. Surprisingly, the more physically active you are, the more your brain will benefit (by way of increasing your memory capacity, and improving your aptitude to learn new things).
That said, to keep your brain operating at an optimum level, new challenging stimulation is required, particularly later in life. There are many ways to do this, so find one or two you like, and practice them religiously. You could practice memorization, play strategy games, train yourself to observe the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, and why), or simply focus on smaller changes and challenges, like taking a new route to work, or making a conscious effort to vary your habits.
Changes to your lifestyle such as those listed are proven to work, but arguably the easiest and most fun way to keep your mind positively active is to learn something new. Try learning a new language, or a musical instrument; or simply read a good newspaper or challenging book. The greater the novelty and challenge, the more mentally sharp you can be!
AND ANOTHER THING…
Reading regularly, in my humble opinion at least, heralds more than just a boost to the brain. The entertainment value from a good quality newspaper or book makes your ‘brain workout’ an enjoyable experience rather than a chore. You’ll broaden your knowledge, sometimes with regard to the most trivial of topics. To get you started, be sure to memorise these obscure, unusual and some would say pointless definitions:
Googleganger – The person who shows up as the top result when you Google yourself
Griffonage – Illegible handwriting
Zugzwang – Positions in chess or connect 4 where all moves result in defeat
Philtrum – The bit of skin above your top lip, under your nose
Rhinotillexomania - Excessive nose picking
Punt – The indent at the bottom of a bottle of wine
Zarf – The cardboard part that goes round a disposable coffee cup
Glabella – The skin between your eyebrows