What can we mature adults do to sharpen our brains?
The differences between a sharp and a dull brain can depend on whether you establish and maintain certain factors. A large body of research has shown that without these factors the brain dulls, resulting in major health problems, including dementia. By applying them to your daily life, you can cultivate a healthy brain capable of thinking clearly and feel positive through the rest of your life.
Research shows that the health of middle-aged people diverges greatly at this pivotal period as a result of lifestyle and habits. "The Brain Bible" by author John Arden, Ph.D. describes five categories of actions mature adults can take to promote healthy, sharp brains through the middle years and into old age.
The Education Factor: New learning is critical for the mature adult brain. People who are more highly educated and use their brains to learn new things throughout their lives are more resistant to the symptoms of dementia. The more brain connections that exist, the greater your brain's longevity. A brain that is intellectually challenged demonstrates the positive side of the old adage, "Use it or lose it."
The Diet Factor: Diet dramatically affects the way the brain functions. By learning how to maximize a healthy diet, you can enhance brain performance.
The Social Factor: The brain thrives on compassionate communication with others and is starved without it. From the first few days of life to our last, relationships have a dramatic effect on our mental health. The social factor, in short, expands our longevity and boosts the brain's vitality.
The Sleep Factor: Most people do not know how important sleep is to the brain. Because sleep accounts for roughly one-third of our lives, a healthy sleep cycle can enhance memory and clarity of thought. But when the brain is deprived of sleep, it can fail to take advantage of those critical cognitive abilities.
All the healthy brain factors described may sound deceptively simple, yet reasonable enough, but you may regard them as things to do when you have the time and during periods without stress. Ironically, your stress level actually increases if you do not attend to these factors.
A periodic and moderate degree of stress is actually good, not bad. Without a moderate degree of stress, we wouldn't arrive at work on time or get to the grocery store to pick up food when the refrigerator is bare. A moderate degree of anxiety turns on the prefrontal cortex to help us adapt to the world and be successful in reaching our goals.
Do not wait until you are stressed out to incorporate relaxation exercises into your life. Practice them before you are stressed out so that it will be easier to use them when you are stressed later.