Us Bawas love centuries, then be it cricket or life! We generally tend to live long and strong, but many people worry about their cognitive (intellectual/mental) health. They fear their mind will no longer be as sharp as earlier. The thought of losing the cognitive ability they had in their youth feels scary.
You know it does not happen to everyone. Many seniors remain sharp and attentive even into their eighties and nineties. But what makes them so lucky? How can we ensure that we, too, maintain mental clarity into old age?
Some say that it’s genetics, that some people are just born that way. Yes, there might be a genetic component, however, there is much we can do to combat the effects of time on the brain. Unlike what was thought earlier, the brain does have the ability to change itself, to continually rewire and grow its neuronal connections, an ability called ‘neuroplasticity’. By taking advantage of and nurturing this ability, we can give our brain the gift of longevity. Here are some tips for that:
Take Care Of Your Body To Take Care Of Your Mind: If you want to take care of your mind, you need to start by taking care of your body. Research has repeatedly proven that that people who engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and proper nutrition, are less susceptible to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process. Keep yourself active by doing some household work, walking and some form of exercises.
Learn Something New: Lifelong learning is one of the best ways to ensure brain health into old age. The brain is a lot like a muscle – being sedentary makes your muscles weak. It’s the exact same for the brain – ‘Use it or Lose it’. Just like exercise, you have to challenge your brain to keep it in top shape. Studies have shown that the brain retains its ability to grow new connections right into old age, so take full advantage of that ability. Consider taking on the challenge of something you always wanted to try but thought you wouldn’t be good at doing. Or try something that seems opposite of the education you already have. For example, if you are a Math person, try taking a music class or an art workshop.
Try Drawing Your Local Neighbourhood Map: While you might feel like you can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with your eyes closed, try challenging your brain by actually drawing a map of your local area or neighborhood from memory. No cheating! Try to include major streets, major side streets and local landmarks.
Use Your Non-Dominant Hand: Because using your opposite hand can be so challenging, it’s a great way to increase brain activity. Try switching hands while you are eating dhansak or when you are trying to write. It will be difficult, but that’s what it’s all about!
Find Purpose In Your Life: Especially after they retire, people often lose their sense of purpose in life. This is detrimental to brain health and a major cause of cognitive decline in elders. Basically, when people feel useful, they are happier, less stressed, and more resilient throughout their lives.
Plan On Living 120 Years: Assume that you will live to 120 years, not because it is guaranteed that you will live this long, but because it is the best mindset to have for a long, purposeful life. And, since the oldest people in the world are all near that age, it’s not impossible. With this mindset, you are still in the prime of life at sixty, seventy, or even eighty. Age, then, does not need to limit us in choosing a grand vision for our lives, one that makes our heart soar and leaves us feeling we’ve contributed to the world.
Ask Yourself, “What Is Most Important To Me In Life?”: Brainstorm a list – what do you hold most dear? Integrity, love, abundance? Write down ten things that come to mind, whatever they may be. For each item, ask yourself, “Would living this value make me feel really happy and fulfilled?” Then, choose the five things you think are the most important to you. Write down ways you can bring more of these into your life.
Meditate Regularly: Stress is one of the greatest enemies of brain health and is associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Since it is associated with various other illnesses, including digestive issues, heart disease and immunity problems, controlling stress is probably the best thing you can do for your health overall, both body and mind.
Meditation has been found to be especially excellent for reducing stress and for improving cognition. Numerous studies have noted that older people who meditate regularly have much more youthful brains than the general population. It improves one’s sense of well-being as well as the ability to focus – which many people struggle with in their later years.
Try This Exercise: Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair and straighten your lower back. You could also lie on your back on a flat surface. Relax your neck, shoulders, and arms and close your eyes. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your lower abdomen. When you breathe in, let your abdomen expand like a balloon filling with air. When you exhale, let your abdomen contract. The hand on your chest should remain relatively still. For beginners, it’s good to start with focusing on the feeling of slowly pulling the abdomen in and out without worrying about the length of each breath.
Relax any tension in your body and mind, and breathe comfortably. You don’t need to intentionally breathe slowly or hold your breath. Once your body is sufficiently relaxed, your breathing will automatically slow and stabilize. As you continue doing abdominal breathing, you’ll develop heat in your belly. Focus your mind on that heat, and it will gradually grow stronger, spreading to your entire abdomen and lower back. Your belly will also feel full of energy.
Play Games: Chess with friends, nothing better than it! Even fun board games which include light activity and strategy.
Taking care of your mind is the core of taking care of yourself. After all, you can’t be who you are without it. Here’s hoping you will take better care of your mind so that you can live a happy, healthy, and productive life for 100 years and more!