Memory loss, and its associated conditions, is one of the greatest fears of aging Americans.But you can easily fight cognitive decline with every day activities that improve your brain fitness and mental wellness. Take a look at these simple ways to start improving your brain health.
1. Work on your sleep cycle.
Do you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning only to spend the day feeling groggy and bemused? Your restless nights may be doing more harm than keeping you from feeling rested.
Your brain isn’t able to operate at full capacity without a full night of restful and rejuvenating sleep. Too little or poor quality sleep compromises our ability to think, plan, solve problems, and create. That’s why you feel tired and confused after a night spent tossing and turning.
Sleeps is an essential part of the cognitive process, too—directly affecting how we learn and remember new information. Research has shown that it is during the deepest stages of sleep that our brain sorts through memories and consolidates the new information we have learned. If you aren’t getting enough restful sleep, your brain doesn’t have the opportunity to perform these processes.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, consider incorporating these 5 practices into your daily routine.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule and develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time can help you develop a regular routine that promotes more restful sleep. As you prepare for bed, go through a few calming activities like listening to soothing music or reading a chapter from a book.
- Create an environment that promotes restful sleep. Take whatever steps you need to make yourself comfortable—invest in a good mattress, set the thermostat in that perfect temperature range where you won’t become chilled or overheated, use blackout curtains to block ambient light.
- Get outside at least once a day. Try taking walks in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is out and you can get a few rays (just remember your sunscreen). You’ll soak up revitalizing Vitamin D from the sun, and get in some exercise at the same time. Plan wisely though as working up a sweat within 3 hours of your scheduled bedtime can keep you awake at night.
- Be careful about caffeine and other beverages. Any drink with caffeine in it, whether its coffee or tea, will keep you up longer at night, and drinking anything too close to bedtime may cause you to wake up during the night.
- Dedicate your bedroom as a place to sleep. Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning for hours. After you settle down for the night, get up and out of bed if you’re still feeling wide awake after about 20 minutes. Only go back to bed when you start to feel tired.
2. Make time for family and friends.
Human beings are social creatures; we thrive the most when we have meaningful contact with others. And building strong relationships may be one of the best steps you can take toward greater brain fitness.
Research has shown a relationship between cognitive decline and social connectedness, but more recent studies have shown just how critical meaningful relationships are to brain health and mental wellness. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have discovered that in addition to providing support and encouragement in healthier behaviors, strong social ties also provide direct emotional and intellectual stimulation in senior living.
- Volunteer. At Marjorie P Lee and our sister ERH retirement communities, we’ve found that volunteer outreach programs have provided a way for our residents to build lasting relationships within the Greater Cincinnati community. If you’re looking for a way to make connections in senior living, consider becoming a volunteer.
- Go online. Sometimes, you just can’t find the motivation to go out, and that’s okay. Studies show that more and more frequently, older adults are using the internet as a way to find support and build meaningful relationships. You’ll be able to stay in touch with distant family and make friends across the globe from the comfort of your own home.
- Join an interest group. Plenty of retirement communities and senior centers offer group activities like art classes or book groups. Signing up for an activity will put you in contact with peers who share your interests—a great starting point for a good friendship.
Image Credit: Hey Paul Studios