If you’ve ever walked into a room on a mission and suddenly had no recollection of what you were doing, you may have jokingly laughed it off as a ‘senior moment.’ Everyone experiences some cognitive decline as they age, some of which may be unavoidable. However, you’re not entirely helpless when it comes to preventing cognitive decline. The more active the mind, the greater your cognitive health throughout life. Here’s a look at a few activities that promote brain health and aid in warding off cognitive decline.
5 Activities That Promote Cognitive Health
Take Up a New Craft
Researchers say that crafting activities, such as knitting and crocheting, can be beneficial for reducing stress, boosting happiness, and preventing the cognitive decline associated with aging. When learning a new skill, the brain develops new connections between neurons that can promote cognitive health. Even after mastering a craft, the zen-like experience of engaging in an activity you enjoy and know well can offer benefits similar to that of meditation.
Hone Your Poker Skills
Some hobbies continuously challenge your mind no matter how long you’ve played them. Take poker, for instance. A strategy game that requires players to think about potential outcomes and attempt to read other players’ behaviors to make winning decisions, playing poker requires that you use your brain power whether it’s your first or 1,000th time playing. Bridge is another card game that’s good for boosting cognitive health, and many board games like Catan, Monopoly, and of course chess require a similar strategic approach.
Solve Brain Teasers
Working on brain-teasing games for as little as two hours each week can help to slow the progression of cognitive decline, according to researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. In a study, healthy participants age 50 and older participated in video games specifically designed to boost mental processing speed and quality for 10 hours, resulting in a delay of natural cognitive decline by as much as seven years. In other words, it doesn’t take much to make a substantial impact.
Learn a New Skill
Learning, overall, is incredibly valuable for maintaining cognitive health and keeping your mind sharp. Mastering a new skill, learning a foreign language, taking ballroom dancing classes, or enrolling in a course at your local community college are just a few ways to embrace lifelong learning to promote brain health (and maybe have some fun while you’re at it).
Get Enough Sleep
You might think that keeping your mind busy at all times is the best way to beat cognitive decline, but the truth is your brain needs sleep as much as your body does. The strange thing is that while studies find that people are about 33 percent more likely to realize connections between seemingly unrelated or distant concepts after getting a good night’s rest, most don’t actually realize that their performance has improved. So even if it doesn’t seem like you function better or think more clearly when you’ve had adequate rest, it’s having a bigger impact than you may think.
Warding Off Brain Deterioration
If you shy away from activities that are challenging or require a lot of strategic thinking, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors when it comes to delaying cognitive decline. Taking care of your body, eating right, and getting enough sleep is all crucial to brain health, but during your free time, consider engaging in tasks and activities that challenge you to stay mentally sharp.
This guest post is by George Mears – a brain fitness expert, educator, and counselor. One of his primary areas of study is neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and improve over one’s lifetime. He believes in the power of games, puzzles, memory activities, and other brain boosting practices to encourage brain plasticity and minimize brain health deterioration and shares his thoughts and favorite brain fitness exercises at BrainWellness.info.