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You can keep your mind sharp by learning new skills

Harold Mandel's picture
Human Brain

As people age there is often a great deal of concern about the possibility of losing your mind. This is not something that is inevitable. There are tricks to keeping your mind healthy and clearly it is worth your time to learn these skills.

The Alliance for Aging Research writes that more research than ever before has been showing that there is a great deal we can do to keep our brains healthy and to potentially prevent or lessen cognitive decline as we age. You can make a dramatic difference in the health of your brain as you age by making brain healthy lifestyle changes. Your daily fitness routine should be both physical and mental.

Some suggestions to maintain healthy brain functioning include eating a nutritious brain healthy diet, staying mentally active, and exercising to stay fit. It's also a good idea to maintain social contacts, get a lot of sleep, and learn to manage your stress. It's also a wise idea to protect your head with a helmut when riding a bike or motorcycle, and of course you should always wear your seat belt when driving in a car. Also, you should avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol and using illicit drugs and prescribed drugs which cause side effects which undermine the health of your brain.

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The Association for Psychological Science has reported, "Learning New Skills Keeps an Aging Mind Sharp." Mentally demanding activities such as photography are likely to help improve your cognitive functioning as you age. Less demanding mental activities, such as listening to classical music or completing word puzzles, probably offer you less noticeable benefits as you age.

Psychological scientist and lead researcher Denise Park has said that it does not appear to be enough just to get out and do anything at all. It is really important to get out and do something which you are not familiar with and which is mentally challenging. Your activities should ideally provide broad stimulation both mentally and socially. Park has said, “When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.”

Park has gone on to explain that as a society we should learn how to maintain a healthy mind, just like we learn how to maintain vascular health with diet and exercise. Park and colleagues have found that the adults who were productively engaged in learning new skills showed significant improvements in memory in comparison to those who engaged in social activities or mental activities which are not demanding at home.

Park has concluded that engagement alone is not enough of a mental workout. People who are confronted with continuous and prolonged mental challenge appear to do better. Clearly, if you want to maintain a healthy brain as you age it's a good idea to firmly commit yourself to keeping your mind sharp with good nutrition, get adequate relaxation and sleep, exercise often, avoid drugs and alcohol, and involve yourself in challenging mental and social activities.