Best Ways to Train Your Brain for Lifelong Mental Fitness

Updated: Jul 18

man mental fitness, fitness after 50

Finding it hard to focus? Can’t remember where you left your keys? Don’t worry, despite occasional glitches, it’s possible to sharpen your brain and maintain tip-top mental shape.

Clear out some mental clutter (and make room for the important stuff).

Ever find yourself staring into your closet, unable to recall what you needed in the first place? Or why do you sometimes jumble perfectly easy sentences or blank at a important moment during a work meeting? You're young and relatively healthy, so what's the deal?

Brain blips can be unnerving, but they're completely normal.

The good news is that they're rarely the sign of a declining mind. We tend to think of youth as a time of peak mental capacity, and that once our child-prodigy days are gone, there's no hope left. But, in fact, the human brain is most likely at its best during midlife, when life experiences combine with decades' worth of neural connections, resulting in peak intelligence and ability.

"We may not learn or recall information quite as quickly as we did in our teens and 20s!, But during our 30s, 40s, and 50s, we get better at what matters most: making decisions, synthesizing information, and coming up with big ideas! That means, however old you are now, it's never too late to adopt healthy habits that will get your brain in good shape-and even improve with time.

While it's natural for neurons to fire more slowly with age, stress and anxiety cause people to pathologize perfectly normal experiences, like forgetting an acquaintance's name (again). (You probably pay attention to the few things that go wrong, but forget to give your brain credit for the thousands of things it did right:)

What you do today!

Instead of focusing on the occasional lapse, concentrate on your daily habits. What you do today will play a major role in whether you operate optimally in the present and when it comes to brain function, everyday behavior matters as much as if not more than your DNA.

Whether you're 23 or 63, here are five proven ways to gain a mental edge for years to come:)

Here are 5 simple ways to boost your mind:

1. Work up a sweat regularly.

It shouldn't be news that exercise is good for both your mood and overall brain fitness. In fact, have researchers identified exercise as one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy brain. Research has also shown that regular physical activity is linked with an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is crucial to memory. Exercise can also reduce stress, boost creativity, and bolster self-esteem.

But working out on days when you have a big presentation or a stressful test can give your mind the added sharpness it needs. Let me give you an example: If you (young or older) do a Fitness exercise program regularly for four weeks and exercised the morning! then you will score higher in a memory tests than the regular exercisers who skipped their workout on test day. Exercise's stress effects can be positive for your mind, but remember that overtraining will most likely have the opposite effect!! (To much Stress is toxic to the brain) It releases the hormone cortisol onto the hippocampus, where memories are stored. That can make you momentarily forgetful and may weaken neural connections over time!

All that said, don't miss out on regular sweat sessions when things aren't especially stressful. Along with its more talked-about physical health benefits, keeping up a fitness routine is a lifelong way to boost mental wellbeing and focus :)

2. Eat for your mind, not just your body

Your brain, as much as your body, is affected by what you eat and drink. Thankfully, making things less complicated, good brain nutrition looks a lot like body nutrition. Research show that middle-aged and older adults who stick to an eating plan called the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet were able to slow down the cognitive decline. In fact, they scored the equivalent of seven and a half years younger on cognitive tests after one year of eating that way:) The (MIND) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. The (MIND) diet emphasizes nuts, beans, whole grains, poultry, olive oil and it calls for consuming leafy greens daily and at least two weekly servings of berries, as both are rich in brain-boosting antioxidants.

3. Try to learn a new hobby or skill

Listening to classical music and doing the crossword every week will bolster your brain, right? Unfortunately, not as much as you think. While these habits are certainly more stimulating than setting in the sofa watching another Friends marathon:) Research suggests that a great way to boost brainpower is through learning something entirely new-either physical, such as signing up for a fitness class or learning a new language. As we cultivate an unfamiliar skill, our brains get more flexible and form new neural connections that get stronger over time. For example: older adults who learned cognitively demanding activities, like weight training, improved their memories. Those who listened to classical music, watched movies, or engaged in social activities, on the other hand, didn't have the same gains. Try to get

exposure to a diverse array of activities throughout your adulthood! This will boost your cognitive functioning and slow down the signs of cognitive aging, such as memory loss and the declines in information processing:)

4. Prioritize Sleep

Adults need a solid seven to nine hours of sleep every night to reach the full mental and physical health benefits of sleep. Sleep is crucial for the brain: storing short-term and long-term memories, maintaining and improving cognitive skills, processing emotions, and strengthening and repairing neural connections, to name a few things that happen upstairs while you snooze.:) The brain processes information and consolidates ideas while you sleep, and most of that appears to happen between the sixth and eighth hours of sleeping!. If you have a restless or short sleep for just one night, it can take several nights of solid slumber to return to your sparkling self. :) If you are a chronically short-changed sleeper, the effects of which can accumulate exponentially over the years, has been linked to mental health concerns from Alzheimer's disease to depression and anxiety.

Do you have trouble falling asleep?

Consult a doctor or sleep specialist before turning to sleep aids. Prescription sleeping pills contain active ingredients that can slow down brain waves, making you feel groggy the next day. Over-the-counter sleep medications are questionable too. Most contain diphenhydramine, an ingredient that's been linked to short-term cognitive impairment (the hangover feeling). Or worse, people who used the medications regularly for several years is at an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease later in life. To avoid the downsides of sleep deprivation, see a sleep specialist if you struggle to catch enough (Snooze) every night.

5. Meditate and breathe

I know, you’re probably thinking the idea of meditation is a little bit ridiculous. Who can sit and think of NOTHING when your mind is packed with cluttered thoughts? I urge you to at least try to relax in a quiet room accompanied by deep breathing as a way to have a clear mindset. You don’t have to do it perfectly, and it doesn’t mean you have to empty your mind. It’s more about learning to recognize what’s happening right NOW and develop better focus.

You won’t be an expert the first time you try this. But even practicing for 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference over time.

Try this: When you feel those thoughts piling up and spinning out of control, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and breathe as deeply as possible. Breathe from your stomach instead of the top of your chest. Hold that breath for a few seconds before letting it out slowly.

Closing your eyes and very deep breathing for about 5-10 minutes will leave you feeling incredibly refreshed. When you open your eyes, it often feels like you’ve just taken a nap. That feeling, along with the increased oxygen from deep breathing, will help your mind work more efficiently :)

Concluding Thoughts About Mindset and Focus There are a couple of things I want you to please remember! Focus is not always about how to clear a cluttered mind. Instead, it may be a matter of just doing the job to the best of your current capacity and then putting it out there even if you don’t think it’s perfect. That said, I hope this list of 5 ways can help clear your mind :)

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