3. Eat Right
Food is fuel: if you don’t give your body something good to run on, then it’s going to react accordingly. The brain is no exception. Healthy foods not only provide energy for your muscles, but key nutrients to support brain function.
As an example: antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables help protect against free radical damage and stimulate the production of new brain cells.
There is also increasing evidence to support using healthy fats such as omega-3’s and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to protect against degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Make sure to eat a variety of foods with a wide range of colors and nutritional benefits.
Use plant-based oils and grass-fed, free-range animal products (if you’re not vegetarian or vegan).
4. Challenge Your Brain
Ever heard the phrase “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”? This often refers to the use and knowledge of foreign languages, but it is a perfect example of the importance of challenging your brain. By regularly stimulating the brain and drawing on knowledge from various regions of the brain, you can help prevent deterioration and preserve your memory.
There are several ways to go about this. Some people enjoy sudoku, word searches, scrabble, or crossword puzzles. While these exercises are truly wonderful as far as preserving brain function, you should try to utilize several different forms of brain training – just as you would with physical activities. There are online resources that give you a variety of challenging tasks so that you work every possible region of the brain.
Experts recommend at least 20 minutes of brain games every day, but try to spend less than 10 minutes on each specific task to maximize the benefits.
5. Use Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices can be incredibly helpful for remembering relationships, concepts, words, or larger amounts of information. “Righty tighty, lefty loosie” is one such example to remember which way to turn a lid or a screw. (5)
Other tools can be acronyms, using visualization cues, songs/rhymes, or chunking (a technique where large amounts of information are broken up into smaller ‘chunks’ to make them easier to memorize).
Phone numbers are a good example of chunking: we break up a 10-digit telephone number into 2-three number parts and 1-four number chunk.
6. Learn Something New
Giving yourself a new task to master or learn helps your brain in several ways, if done correctly. Your new task or skill should be cognitively challenging and require you to make connections and draw conclusions that you’re not used to doing. The new activity should also be something fun, that you look forward to and enjoy practicing. This will make you work harder and give you a valuable level of satisfaction once your task is complete.
Need ideas? You can try something as complicated as learning a new language, or something as simple as trying a new recipe. Quilting and digital photography are both proven to improve memory and prevent against cognitive impairment in studies. (6)
7. Quit Multitasking
This recommendation may seem like a no-brainer (pun intended), but it really is very important and, unfortunately, easily ignored. The ability to multitask may be considered a valuable and necessary skill, but it is nearly impossible to commit a new concept to memory while doing so. (7)
You may even be multitasking without knowing it: just having your cell phone visible while performing other tasks will distract you from whatever you’re doing. (8)
When performing a task or (especially) trying to learn something new, focus all of your mental and physical energy on that task. Leave the cell phone in another room, turn off the TV, and be present.