Next month doesn’t just mark the start of summer. June is also Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, which is a perfect time to talk about the importance of mental health. As you get older, it becomes even more important to find stimulation for your brain. Just like physical exercise, a mental workout can keep you focused and cognisant, and independent.
A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that older adults who received different forms of mental training in their old age still benefited from those lessons in later years. You don’t necessarily need to perform the same tasks as those in the study, but there are three things you can do right now to keep your brain busy and healthy.
- Recall tests
- Word and puzzle games
- Trying a new hobby
#1: Recall Tests
Approach this activity as if you’re studying for a test. All of the notes are in front of you, and you just have to try and remember each important point in your head. However, try not to think of something too complicated like a math problem or rocket science. Instead, write out a plan of daily activities and see if you can remember each task without looking down at your sheet. You can also write down a list of items to buy at the grocery store and try to memorize each item to buy before you head to the checkout counter. Over time, your brain should come up with different memorization techniques so that you won’t always have to rely on a cheat sheet.
#2: Word And Puzzle Games
Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean your brain should be idle. Grabbing a book of easy crossword puzzles or word searches serves as a warm-up exercise. When you’re ready for a head-scratcher you can pick up tougher challenges like a New York Times crossword or a tough Sudoku problem. If you want to ditch the paper and pencil, you can try your hand at a 1000-piece puzzle or the always-popular Rubik’s Cube.
#3: Trying A New Hobby
If you need something to take up the bulk of your time, you can look at new hobbies to keep you busy. Examples include building model kits, painting, or learning to play a new instrument. Regardless of your choice, the fact that you’re learning something new helps dust off the cobwebs in your head. Specifically, it forces your brain to process and retain the new information. A 2013 study in Psychological Science found that older adults who participated in productive engagement, such as learning how to make quilts or practicing photography improved their episodic memory, which deals with remembering past events. Training your brain to learn new things and retain in for future use will be difficult at first, but it should be easier over time if you commit (and improve) on a new hobby.