Exercising our minds is just as important as exercising our brains, but it’s something we don’t often give much thought to doing. In your younger years, keeping your mind active is easy. Between work, family, friends and a busy social calendar, there are plenty of opportunities to engage and stimulate your mind. However, as you age, keeping your mind active becomes harder to do. For example, retirees lose the brain-boosting benefits that working provides, and empty-nesters lose their daily social interactions with family members. Seniors are also at an increased risk for depression, social isolation and boredom, making it especially important to keep your mind active as you age. Not only does an active mind help ward off memory loss, it works to improve the body’s overall health and leads to a better quality of life. To help you keep an active mind, follow these simple steps:

1. Maintain good health habits.

It’s amazing what good physical health can do for your brain. Limit your risk for cognitive decline by maintaining simple health habits, such as engaging in regular exercise, getting enough sleep every night and eating a balanced diet. You should also strive to limit alcohol use and avoid smoking and taking non-prescription drugs. And if you really want to tailor your health habits to your brain, consider adopting a brain friendly diet like the DASH or MIND Diet.

2. Make lifelong learning a priority.

Learning doesn’t have to end when you stop working or going to school — seek out lifelong learning opportunities whenever possible. Pick up a game of mind puzzles; attend a local lecture series; read a new book every month; sign up for a continuing education course. At Flatirons Terrace, we host monthly educational events and TED Talk screenings that are free and open to the public. Our residents also have the opportunity to discuss current events in our Great Decisions group. No matter what you chose to learn, you’ll be keeping your mind active and adding a bit of excitement into your life as well.

3. Try something new.

Keeping your mind active can be as simple as being open to new experiences. When you try something new, your brain is forced to wake up, listen and learn. Whether you try a new sport, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, or visit a new place, be sure to soak it in with all of your senses. Studies have shown that brain is more engaged when you challenge all your senses to take in the unfamiliar.

4. Stay social.

An active social life can ward of depression and isolation. It also has the power to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and improve your brain health. To expand your social circle, consider joining a Meetup group or volunteering for a cause that’s important to you. You should also consider scheduling regular interactions with members of your current social circle, such as a weekly lunch or dinner.

5. Use your memory sparingly.

Much like our bodies, our brains only have so much energy to exert throughout the day, so don’t waste your mental energy on little things. Use calendars, planners, lists and notes to help you keep track of small details and dates. Save your mental energy for social interactions and for learning new things.

Avoid falling prey to the stereotype of seniors having poor memory: If you believe that your mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, you’ll be less likely to work on keeping it active. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you to get out, make new friends and try new things. You’ll be surprised at how enjoyable keeping your mind active can be!

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