8 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp

September 2, 2016

Keep Mind Sharp

A lot attention is given to our physical health and strength. This is understandable since, in most cases, you need a healthy body to do the things you want to accomplish in life. However, another aspect that often gets overlooked is your mental health. I’m not talking about depression or other types of illnesses, but rather the actual mental sharpness of your brain.

Your brain is basically involved in every single thing you do, so it stands to reason that a little focus on keeping it active and healthy will help make the things you want to do in life a little bit easier and less challenging. In fact, you might even be doing your future self a huge favor.

Research shows that challenging your brain with new or difficult activities can actually build new brain cells and strengthen the connection between them, which is great for warding off cognitive decline and memory loss later in life.

When you’re ready to give your brain a good workout, here are some tips for keeping your mind sharp.

1. Keep Learning

Your brain is a muscle and like the other muscles in your body the “use it or lose it” philosophy applies. The key factor to this lies in understanding neuroplasticity, which is basically the brain’s ability to change throughout life. In fact, research shows that our brains actually never stop changing through learning. Every time you learn something new you help your brain form new connections between brain cells, and the area in your brain that deals with that type of skill grows!

Put It Into Action: Some ways to help boost your brain activity include:

  • Take classes.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Try a new hobby.
  • Play a new game.
  • Use your less dominant hand for tasks one day a week.

2. Simplify Everyday Tasks

Just like any other muscle, overdoing it can have negative side effects. Aside from making sure you have ample sleep, you also need to make sure you aren’t needlessly overtaxing your brain usage with simple mundane tasks. For instance, if you don’t have a specific place for your car keys, you might have to spend needless brain power looking for them before you leave the house. Or, you might be wasting brain power trying to remember your grocery list when you can just as easily write it down. Instead of using up your brain power on these small tasks, use tools to help you remember and save your brain activity for remembering new or more important tasks.

Put It Into Action: Take a look at everything you do in a day. Are there ways you can simplify and streamline your life? Pick three things to simplify and see how it helps your week go by.

3. Stay Physically Active

We all know exercise is good for your heart, but did you know it’s good for your brain too? Your brain is a muscle that also responds to your aerobic exercise. When your heart rate increases from aerobic exercise it helps pump more oxygen to your brain. Your body also releases hormones during physical activity that all help contribute to healthy environment for brain cell growth. One study showed that exercising for even 20 minutes can help your brain process information and perform better memory functions.

4. Relax More

Stress is more harmful to your brain then you might know, and what’s worse is that it can negatively affect your brain long-term. The effects can be seen in decision-making and even memory. Repeated instances of stress can cause premature shrinking in the hippocampus – the area of your brain that is vital to both stress regulation and long-term memory. This is due the excessive amount of cortisol that gets released in the brain when you are under chronic stress. Studies have shown that too much cortisol decreases the rate at which new brain cells are made. In short, long-term stress can negate the positive effects of neuroplasticity we talked about earlier.

5. Change Things Up

Your brain can become conditioned to daily activities and repetitive tasks. This means you’re not creating any new brain connections. Switch things up by switching hands when brushing your hair or teeth. Go a different way home from work, or just try something you haven’t before. These little changes “wake up” your brain, force it pay attention, and help it make new synapses fire.

6. Write it Out

There are many positive benefits of writing, including boosting your mental health. Most specifically writing has been shown to help activate parts of our brain that are associated with memory and language. In addition, the simple act of writing things down can help you clear your mind and allow to see the bigger picture or figure out your thoughts more clearly.

Put It Into Action:

  • Start a daily journal.
  • Practice your handwriting daily.
  • Learn hand lettering or calligraphy.
  • Use a paper planner instead of an app.
  • Write out your monthly or yearly goals.

7. Eat for Mental Health

If you’ve read anything about nutrition, you’ve probably heard of antioxidants. Antioxidants provide a host of helpful health benefits including slowing down the aging process and protecting the body from harmful free radicals. Free radicals negatively affect every cell in the body, and brain cells in particular. Making sure your diet is antioxidant rich can help reverse the harmful effects free radicals cause in the body. Foods high in antioxidants to consider adding include berries (especially blueberries), citrus fruits, nuts (especially walnuts), fish, avocados, dark chocolate, green tea and black beans.

8. Stay Social

The relationships we keep may be more important than just having someone to socialize with. There have been quite a number of recent studies connecting social activity with improved mental health. It seems that staying socially active as you age can contribute to overall memory and thinking power. Not only can socializing help keep your mind sharp, but it can also help prevent mental diseases such as chronic depression.

Put It In Action:

  • Volunteer.
  • Meet a friend for lunch.
  • Join a social group or club.
  • Plan a family or friends’ night.
  • Attend events in your community.
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

About Jennifer Good

Chief Inspiration Officer and Founder of Inspiration Insider. "You don’t need to wait to make a difference in your own life or the lives of others." - Anne Frank