“Peace of mind is the basis of a healthy body and a healthy mind; so peace of mind, a calm mind, is very, very important.” The Dalai Lama
A healthy body and healthy mind are inextricably entwined. We know that 30 minutes of exercise each day will keep the body healthy, but what about the mind? Here are three ways that you can help to support a healthy aging mind for your loved one.
1. Challenge the mind: The best activity to maintain brain health is to learn a new language and challenge the brain’s neurons to grow. However, your loved one may not be interested in this task and their health may make it too rigorous. There are other mentally stimulating games that are fun and interesting. Reader’s Digest suggests three that are particularly interesting:
a. Brush teeth with the non-dominant hand: Research has shown that using the opposite side of your brain (as in this exercise) can result in a rapid and substantial expansion in the parts of the cortex that control and process tactile information from the hand. (Don’t forget to open the tube and apply toothpaste in reverse, too.)
b. Play “10 Things”: Forcing the brain to think of alternates to the every day will help keep it strong. Hand your loved one an ordinary object and ask him or her to demonstrate ten different “things” that the object might be. Example: A fly swatter might be a tennis racket, a golf club, a fan, a baton, a drumstick, a violin, a shovel, a microphone, a baseball bat, or a canoe paddle.
c. Read differently: When we read aloud or listen to reading, we use very different brain circuits than when we read silently to ourselves. Read aloud to your loved one and then alternate the roles of reader and listener. It may be slow to get through a book, but as a bonus, you’ll spend quality time together.
Other mentally stimulating activities that keep the mind active include math problems and experimenting with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental efforts, like drawing, painting, and other crafts.
2. Get physical exercise: Harvard Medical School says that one of the top three ways to support a healthy aging mind is to get exercise. Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. Directly it benefits the brain by improving health. It reduces insulin resistance and stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affects the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety.
Essentially, exercise keeps the brain more efficient.
3. Improve your diet. Eating well and drinking enough water will benefit the brain and keep it healthy. The brain needs nutrients just like the rest of the body does. Good nutrition for the brain includes the following:
a. Watch calories. Eating foods that are low in calories will naturally reduce fat and sugar intake. It will also steer the diet toward fresh foods and away from processed ones.
b. Eat the right foods. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables that are as fresh as possible. Stay away from fast food and highly processed foods.
c. Eat foods that are rich in vitamin B6 and B12 that can be found in leafy green vegetable and fortified cereal.
The top five brain foods are blueberries, citrus foods (oranges, grapefruit etc.), nuts, fish, and avocados. Check out our advice on how to incorporate these superfoods into your diet.
Have you found ways to engage your loved one in brain healthy activities? If so we would love to hear about them.