As you get older, the number of cells (neurons) in your brain decreases with age and your memory becomes less efficient. Around the age of 40, we begin noticing changes in our mental abilities. Our memory is not as ‘sharp’ as it used to be. Our reactions begin to slow down and many of us find ourselves starting to forget things.
To reduce mental deterioration, you should keep your brain active throughout your life, no matter how old you are. There are many things you can do to help keep yourself mentally fit as you age.
There has been much discussion about the benefits of a recent scientific theory called NEUROBICS, which are simple exercises for the brain, based on neuroscience research. The theory is that you can ‘build up’ your brain by making different associations that will cause the brain cells to become more active. Neurobics are designed to produce natural brain nutrients, called neurotrophins, that prevent memory loss and increase mental fitness by stimulating nerve cells in various parts of the brain so that different nerve pathways and connections get activated. And, when the cells are more active, they appear more resilient to the assaults of old age. In other words, neurobic exercises are activities that can help slow the aging process.
Neurobic exercises use your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways and encourage you to change your everyday routines. They can be done at any time, anywhere.
You can easily change routine activities into neurobic activities:
- Walk backwards to the kitchen or bathroom.
- Get dressed for work or shower with your eyes closed.
- Brush your teeth or write a note using your non-dominant hand.
- Try combing, brushing and styling your hair with your non-dominant hand.
- Eat meals with your non-dominant hand.
- Turn all pictures, calendars or clocks on your desk upside down for a day.
- Take a completely new route to work.
- Learn sign language.
- Close your eyes when buying fresh fruits and vegetables, relying only on your spatial reasoning, memory and sense of smell and/or touch.
- Walk somewhere instead of driving.
- Fill a bowl or plate with coins of various denominations. Try to determine what they are by feel alone. Or, use only your sense of touch to identify a collection of items such as paper clips, fasteners, nails and screws without looking at them.
- At your desk, relocate your computer mouse, phone, wastebasket, files, etc.
- Wear your watch on your other wrist.
- Use your other hand to do tasks such as dialing, faxing, writing, typing or stapling.
- Use your fingers to learn Braille for controlling the elevator door.
- Read out loud; it uses a different part of the brain than if you read silently to yourself.
- In the super-market or other stores, change your usual route through the aisles.
- Eat your meal in silence, using only visual cues to communicate.
- Identify the food on your plate only by smell, taste and touch. A food’s flavor includes its texture, aroma, temperature, spiciness and even sound.
- At dinner-time, have every-one switch seats.
- Make a family video and then play it with different background music (scary, romantic, etc.). Notice how it changes your feelings about what you’re watching.
- Start a new hobby like fishing. It requires you to “think like a fish”, pay attention to the time of day, the feel of the water, and the types of insects around you.
- Crossword puzzles and logic riddles help stimulate your brain.
- Plant a garden. This involves all your senses. It stimulates your brain’s planning and spatial abilities as you decide which plants to put where, consider the direction of the sun, and how much water is needed. Besides the increased brain activity, the end result will include fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and a beautiful yard.
Besides doing non-routine activities, a well-balanced and nutritious diet and regular physical exercise can help enhance the anti-aging process. Avoid activities which can adversely affect your brain health such as:
- Excess alcohol or drug use
- Smoking, which lowers the amount of oxygen that the brain receives
- Certain combinations of medications that can alter your attention span and memory
- Stress, which releases hormones that can damage brain cells
Do some smart thinking and try something new as often as possible. You can help slow the aging process by keeping your brain active and doing something other than what your everyday experience would normally provide.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician. Implementation of any health-related advice should be undertaken in consultation with your physician, particularly if you have an existing condition, are currently receiving medical treatment, or are taking any kind of medication.
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