Have you ever felt like you are having trouble coming up with names of people or remembering where you met them or wonder where on earth you have put the car keys you were holding just a moment ago? Do you have to pause to think about how many spoonsful of an ingredient you have already added to your recipe? If you feel like you are forgetful at times, then it is time for you to stop and figure out why. Is it okay to ignore these moments terming them to be ‘senior moments’? Is it fine to overcome the embarrassment by saying you have become a ‘professor’? Of course not!
The fact is you are concerned about your bones, muscles, weight and size but you forget about the control center of the body, the brain. It is quite natural for your brain function to decline with age; the brain gets smaller in volume, the neurons decline in size, and the connections get weaker. But, there is nothing to fret about as there are ways to slow down this cognitive decline. With some lifestyle changes, you can avoid memory lapses. Read on to know about how to reap the maximum benefits from your brain.
Your brain looks for an uninterrupted period of seven to nine hours of sleep to arrange all “files”, make necessary connections, clear the mess, reinforce the memory, and just rest because like the rest of your body, it also gets tired. Therefore, make sure that you get enough sleep every night, not just for beauty but also for a sharper and more alert mind.
While resting your brain by sleeping is vital, it is also important that you try sleeping and waking up at the same time every day. Make a sleep schedule. Shut down or turn off all notifications on your mobile phone before your bedtime. Avoid consuming liquids at night to avoid the need to empty your bladder up. Do something that calms you down like reciting certain verses of the Holy Quran or reading a few pages of a book as the last thing before bedtime. Over time, it will become a signal to your brain to help you fall asleep faster. Good sleep helps you cope with unnecessary stress too.
We are what we eat. The ‘fuel’ for your body functions is taken through your mouth. Make sure your food is primarily plant-based. You don’t need to follow a strict vegan diet, just add more whole-grains, leafy greens, and berries. Switch to healthy fats like olive oil and if you prefer going local, use mustard oil or clarified butter (desi ghee).
Among dry fruits, almonds and walnuts are linked to better mental health. Tea and coffee, taken in moderation, enhance your brain power. Restrict your intake of white sugar and go for honey, brown sugar and jaggery. Avoid consuming excess salt and refined flour. Take more seafood and organic chicken, but less red meat.
Exercising not only benefits your body but also sharpens your mind. A good flow of blood nurtures every cell of your brain. It livens up your mood and prepares you for the mental tasks you have been delaying. Persuade yourself on a lazy morning to have a brief walk for just ten minutes. Once started, you will not want to quit it anytime soon. A normal walk, climbing up and down the stairs, or some easy exercise steps in the bedroom will do the job.
Equally important is maintaining a good posture. Sit with a straight back aligned with your neck and shoulders. Don’t hunch forward or slouch. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Sleep either on your back or sideways keeping your spine straight. Avoid lying on your stomach.
Connect in Person
Though we are becoming more virtually connected with each passing day, we have lost in-person interactions. This era has increased the number of introverts. Why bother dressing up, spending on fuel, and wasting time commuting when we can meet virtually?
Aristotle’s opinion about man being a social animal is still relevant no matter how advanced we become. Spare time to visit your friends and family. Welcome them to your place warmly. Charge your emotional batteries by reconnecting to the people who radiate positive energy. Be the same for others. If, for some reason, you can’t go, make phone calls or exchange voice notes to enquire about their wellbeing and health. And this applies to the people in your house as well. Instead of the whole family being glued to their screens, it is vital to talk to each other and engage in activities that involve the whole family sans any screen.
Stay Mentally Active
Look for leisure activities that challenge your mind because if you don’t use it, you lose it! There’s no need to go for a paid brain-training session. Simply adopt some hobbies like solving jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. Figure out sudoku and riddles, play word games, read newspapers, magazines, blog posts, microblogs, poetry and articles. Avoid passive hobbies like watching TV as it does little to improve your brainpower.
Remember not to multitask! Eating a meal, reading a newspaper and listening to a podcast all at the same time is detrimental to your brain’s focusing ability as it has to switch from one activity to another quickly.
Keep Your Heart Healthy
A healthy mind likes to dwell in a healthy body, and a body’s health depends on a healthy heart. Take special care of your heart and blood vessels. Keep your blood sugar level, cholesterol value and blood pressure within a normal range. Avoid smoking and stay away from alcohol. Consume a Mediterranean styled or inspired diet as it is closer to what a healthy heart requires.
How to Sharpen Your Mind?
Here are some mental exercises to boost memory, focus and function of the brain.
Learn a New Skill
Believe in yourself and start learning a new skill without delay. Learn to stitch your clothes yourself, cook something that you always thought you couldn’t drive your car, grow a kitchen garden, or teach a certain subject. Teach the newly learnt skill to others as it will deepen your understanding. Try to learn a skill that requires attention and focus.
Learn a New Language
Learn a new language or improve the one you have been delaying for different reasons. Make a vocabulary list with meanings and usage of the words. Use a dictionary feature that allows you to revise after proper intervals to solidify them in your memory.
Younger children always look forward to someone who can read stories to them. Writing is also great help. Keep your phone aside for a while, and pick paper and pen instead. Write your feelings in detail, record day-to-day happenings, and important family incidents, or get creative and imaginative to make some stories up.
Playing games makes you more agile and alert. Good games add to your grey matter and make you think, decide and take action within a given time.
Draw or Doodle
One of the best time passes could be drawing. Every new thing takes shape in the mind. Illustrate your thoughts, ideas and feelings via drawing. If nothing else, just doodle out to relax your brain.
Think of innovative ways of doing the routine stuff. For example, if you cook biryani following the same recipe every time, try your friend’s recipe next time. Take a different route to the market or workplace. Use alternatives to the worn-out sentences, e.g., say “Any time!” or “No worries!” instead of saying “You are welcome”. Likewise, if you always cross your right leg over left, begin crossing the other way. When you always do things in a certain way, you fly on autopilot and your brain grows to like the inactivity.
Focus on Others
When meeting people, focus more on them than you focus on yourself. Choose any four parameters. For example, the color of their dress, whether they are wearing glasses or not, their hair color, movements of their hands, etc. As for remembering names, after asking, use their names a couple of times to address them, or try linking names to one of their features or qualities. Involve as many senses as you can simultaneously in whatever you do, listen, witness or observe. It will enable you to remember things more in a more vivid manner.
A healthy mind saves you from having frequent unexplained mood swings. It also ensures progress in your career that ultimately guarantees the happiness and contentment you dream of. So never mind taking control of your brain. HH
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