At the start of each new year, many of us resolve to make some kind of change in our lives, whether it is to lose weight, quit smoking, save money, or exercise more. Very few of us add to our lists that we will dedicate ourselves to brain fitness. Yet, concerns about memory problems as we age are common for all of us. This year, why not resolve to be more mentally active on a daily basis? Engaging your mind in intellectual challenges by doing new and interesting activities is one of several things you can do to support brain health and function. Other brain health contributors include eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting enough rest, reducing stress, spending time with others, and doing aerobic forms of exercise like walking, swimming, or biking.
As you think about what you'd like to do to challenge yourself intellectually, the chosen activity should be of interest to you so that you stick with it. It is also important to reach beyond what is comfortable and try to increase the difficulty. For example, if you like to listen to music, try listening to a different type of music that you really know little about and learn all you can about that genre. If you love to do a daily crossword puzzle, try doing more difficult or different types of puzzles. If you are an avid reader, pick up a book that you've always wanted to read but haven't, or read about a new topic of interest.
You can even work on brain fitness while waiting for appointments or at stoplights! All you need to do is work on recall. In fact, a common problem that many of us experience, especially as we grow older, is the inability to recall information when we need it. We have that "tip of the tongue" feeling where we know the name of a particular restaurant or person, but it is just not coming forth. This is a type of forgetfulness that can be frustrating. And, the more we try to remember, the more anxious we become in not remembering. So, challenge yourself with recall types of activities whenever and wherever you'd like! All you need to do is think of a category and start listing either on paper or in your mind. As an example, try to make a mental or written list of as many fruits and vegetables that you can. You will look to your long term memory to try to recall them. At first, common produce will come to you very quickly and easily, but the challenge comes when you really need to work to remember. It is at this point that you keep going and exercise your brain!
So, if you've wanted to try new things like learn a new language, take up knitting, or attend educational workshops, get to it! If you've vowed to "exercise more and eat healthy," take note that all of these resolutions are good for maintaining a healthy body and mind!