Watching our bodies get frail and the bones brittle as we get older is a painful and depressing image. Over time, we can find ourselves becoming less able bodied, slower and older in our appearance as well. But it doesn't necessarily have to be this way. There are many ways to fight of the ravages of time as we age, both for the body and the brain. This article focuses on what you can do for your brain.
What is actually much worse than this, is noticing your brain starting to fail and to make a bad situation worse, you yourself often won't notice. It is those closest you us that watch us get forgetful and distracted. Our brain is what houses who we are. Our brain is what gives rise to all of our subjective experiences... and seeing that start to deteriorate is very frightening indeed.
So the question is: how can you protect your brain into old age? Here are some strategies and suggestions that may be able to help.
Learning New Things
One of the very most important things you can do for your brain is to keep learning and to keep subjecting yourself to novel experiences. Just like with any other muscle in our bodies, our brains operate on a 'use it or lose it' basis. So if you are going through the exact same motions day in, day out, then you will find that your brain loses the ability to learn and adapt to changes the way it once did.
The problem is that so many of us do stop subjecting ourselves to new experiences as we age. Partly this is due to simple societal pressures: when we age, we tend to become less active and less social and this means we lose our opportunities for learning.
The key is to keep trying new things. Many blogs will tell you that playing chess is a good way to keep your brain healthy but in fact this isn’t necessarily the best option: playing chess is just one activity and involves relatively little learning. Instead, try computer games.
Why? Because every time time you try out a new computer game, you are forced to take up new skills and new abilities. Each time you learn a new game, you need new controls, which will create new neural pathways. Each new game has an entirely new set of skills and that means you are continually learning and evolving.
One of the very best things for our brains is to keep socializing. This is highly important, as social interaction stimulates the production of helpful and beneficial hormones and keeps our brain active and challenged. As we get older we often we start to keep ourselves more and more locked away and stop going out as often. This means less social stimulation, which means rapid deterioration. Again, this is something you want to avoid as much as possible.
Traveling, seeing and experiencing new things and places is a must if you can afford it. This is bound to keep you not just excited about life, but it is an excellent way to also keep your brain very active and engaged. Traveling makes you more adaptive and you also learn new languages (even if just a few basic words).
Getting older is an unavoidable part of life, but there are many things we can do to age gracefully and staying alert and with our full wits around us as we age.