Research shows it’s possible for both our bodies and our minds to age well. Try incorporating a few of the tips below to keep your brain sharp and strong well into your golden years.

  1. Write a thank-you letter. Research shows that writing with a pen on paper can create and sharpen existing neural pathways in the brain, while carving new neuronal connections. The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation, and stories of memories also is exercised. Research proves every day that cultivating and expressing gratitudecan make you healthier and happier.
  2. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. This activates the non-dominant area of your brain, although most people use both sides of their brain for different tasks most of the time. While you are at it, stand on one foot and try to balance yourself while brushing. You can also try writing with your non-dominant hand.
  3. Change up your existing routines. While everyone craves the comfort a routine brings, changing things up from time to time will also work out your brain muscles. It can be as simple as trying a new food to something more complex such as making a change in your life, or learning to become less stubborn, or selfish. Any kind of positive change you introduce can increase your brain’s neuronal reserve.
  4. Exercise. In order to ensure your brain will be in its optimal shape, you must exercise your body. This time, do something different. Instead of the treadmill, try a light jog outside. Any movement can help to neutralize the effects of the stress hormone cortisol, which puts the brakes on effective brain neuronal communication.
  5. Get out and socialize. This doesn’t mean that if you are naturally introverted, your personality needs a major adjustment on the extroverted scale. All this simply means is that you should flex your cognitive muscles, whether it is opening up a conversation with someone during your morning commute, or forming a Meetup group with others who share similar interests. It might seem intimidating at first, but practices makes perfect. Current research shows that the more positive your morning commute is from a social viewpoint, the higher your productivity level is at work.
  6. Become interested, or at the very least curious about new things. If you are a science fiction person, try reading a nonfiction book. If you normally attend lectures on a topic you find interesting and are familiar with, find another kind of lecture to attend or podcast to listen to.
  7. Take some time to meditate, or practice mindfulness, even if it is just once a week. You don’t need to say a chant or mantra. Simply close your eyes for one or two minutes and practice deep breathing. Each time you practice, you will notice your mind becoming more quiet and more adept at filtering out incoming distractions.
  8. Volunteer. Connecting with others can stimulate parts of the brain that control our empathic responses. Find a cause you are passionate about, or lend a helping hand to a complete stranger, without expecting anything in return.
  9. Learn a new skill. It does not have to be a new language. Nor do you have to do crossword puzzles daily. Research shows any kind of a new skill can create more dopamine neurotransmitters to be released in parts of the brain that control our reward and learning responses. A natural high ensues as nature intended. You just have to find something unique that stimulates your mind in new and exciting ways.

Learning how to train your brain does not have to be a daunting task. A little practice and patience is all one needs to see the mini brain transformations that take place throughout one’s life. Utilizing just a few of these tips, or ones that you can think of on your own to tweak, or do differently will go a long way to preserving your cognitive muscles, and more importantly carving a space for creating new connections to grow.

Woman with toothbrush photo available from Shutterstock