Written by Sally Perkins
If you are recently retired or are approaching your retirement you should be thinking about how you’ll keep your mind active outside of a work environment. Experts believe it really is a case of use it or lose it as far as brain power is concerned. So, if you don’t keep yours ticking over, could it be a blow for your cognitive powers?
Recent studies published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences suggest that the more you want to use your brain and the more you relish in doing so, the more likely you are to stay as sharp as a whistle as you get older.
So exactly how do we keep our minds active after retirement? Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Stay Active
Ever heard of the saying ‘a healthy body leads to a healthy mind?’ It’s true! If your body is healthy, your mind will also be healthy. Studies have shown that walking an average of 6 miles a week is a surefire way to keep your brain active and fight off dementia. If you have a dog, taking him for walks will be both enjoyable and of great benefit to the pair of you. Mild exercise releases endorphins, which are also known as ‘feel good’ hormones. If you engage in regular, moderate exercise you will be happier, healthier, more alert and have more energy.
- Eat right
When you stick to a healthy diet full of ‘brain food’, your mind functions with better clarity. It will be easier for you to make clear, concise decisions and you won’t suffer from that dreadful ‘brain fog’. Remember to include foods that contain essential fatty acids such as fish, seeds, nuts and olive oil. It is also recommended that you invest in a good brain boosting supplement to compliment your daily food intake.
- Learn something new
We are never too old to learn something new and by doing so your brain will retain its working mode. Retirement often provides us with that bit of extra time we never had before to pursue a new hobby. Take a cooking class, learn a new language or take up sewing. Do something you have never done before whether it is pottery, painting, ballroom dancing or even gardening. This is a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zones and experience new and wonderful pastimes.
- Indulge in cognitive activities
Solving puzzles and playing games are excellent cognitive activities for seniors. Activities such as these engage the brain keeping it alert and stimulated. The great thing about these activities is the variety – there truly is something for everyone. A few good examples of puzzles and games to keep our minds active are: word searches, crosswords, Sudoku puzzles, dominoes, card games and chess.
- Become social
Research shows that the circuits in the adult brain are continuously modified by experience. Social interaction is one thing that keeps our brains from becoming stagnant. Getting out and meeting people must never feel like a chore. If you aren’t a natural social butterfly then consider joining a local club or do some volunteer work with children. Social skills can always be acquired regardless of one’s age and can start with a small step like talking to the cashier at your local store.
- Explore the internet
Contrary to popular belief, the Internet is not just a mind-numbing evil. It is in actual fact a useful tool in helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output. Becoming internet savvy could open up a whole new world to you. Open a Facebook account to reconnect with family and friends or read your favorite newspapers from around the world at your own leisure. The Internet is also home to an array of brain training games and exercises that will keep you busy and efficiently entertained.
Here are some of the most popular online brain-games available:
- Lumosity is a group of scientifically developed games that test and develop your memory, speed, attention, flexibility and problem solving. You can play a trial version for free or pay a subscription fee for full access.
- Happy Neuron lays claims to being able to stimulate all 5 main cognitive brain functions.
- Fit Brains consists of games designed alongside neuroscientists that are both fun and valuable to your brain health.
- Keep a journal
Get into the habit of jotting your day down on paper every night. What went right? What went awry? What are your plans for tomorrow? This will force you to think of solutions to any situation that is bothering you and will keep your creative juice flowing freely.
- Listen to music
Studies have shown that listening to soft background music can actually improves one’s memory which is why it is so popular amongst students. Jazz and classical music is considered the best but you can choose any music you enjoy, although hard rock and heavy metal may not be a popular choice with your neighbors.
Regardless of how you choose to keep your brain active the most important thing to remember is to enjoy your retirement. You have spent the majority of your life at the grindstone and your new-found rest is well-deserved!