For many of us, retirement sounds like a dream. You’re now ready to leave your working days behind and live out the rest of your life. However, the end of a career often comes with a decline in mental stimulation, which left unchecked, can lead to a variety of health issues. Just like the rest of your body, you need to keep your mind sharp and alert.
According to a recent survey, 28.7% if Australian seniors feel very active intellectually, while 52.8% feel reasonably active. So how can you make sure that your mind is sharp? Here’s the rundown on how you can do just that.
- Pick up a book and start reading
Reading is for the mind what exercise is for the body. While picking up a fiction novel might seem counterintuitive, as you’re not getting the ‘hard’ facts, studies show that it’s really good for your brain. So, how does this work?
Reading fiction heightens your brain connectivity, particularly in areas associated with language comprehension, sensation and movement. What this means is that the reader gets put in the shoes of the main character, which according to neuroscience, helps improve ‘theory of mind.’
This refers to your ability to better understand both your own and other people’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs and desires. This in turn allows you retain and sharpen your ability to empathise as you get older.
So next time you reach for the television remote, think about heading to the bookshelf instead.
- Learn a language
While learning another language will inspire you to travel, it’s also great for sharpening the mind. In a way, it’s one of the best long-term workouts you can get, as working with new words and grammar rules exercises multiple areas of your brain at once. With time on your hands during retirement, it’s one of the most interesting (and productive) ways to keep your mind sharp.
Among other benefits, learning a new language can:
- Develop your discipline
- Deepen your appreciation of your own language
- Exercise muscles around your ears and mouth
- Expand your cultural knowledge
- Improve your logical and conceptual abilities
- Boost self-esteem and confidence
- Retrain your eyes
- Help you make new friends
- Help slow you down and concentrate
- Exercise your memory
- Feed your mind with a good diet
Keeping your mind sharp can be as easy as eating well. But when it comes to boosting brainpower, there are some foods and nutrients that are better than others. Here’s are five foods (of many) that will keep your mind happy and healthy:
- Wholegrains. Wholegrains with low-GI will help you keep mentally alert throughout the day. To bring out the best in your brain, opt for ‘brown’ wholegrain cereals, bread, rice and pasta.
- Oily fish. Essential fatty acids (such as Omega-3) are great for the mind. Go for fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines.
- Blueberries. Studies show that blueberries can improve or delay short-term memory loss.
- Tomatoes. Eating tomatoes can help prevent the development of dementia.
- B Vitamins. Foods with B6, B12 and folic acid are all known to reduce homocysteine in the blood, helping decrease the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment.
- Pick up a pen and start writing
When was the last time you wrote something down on a piece of paper? In our technology-reliant world, most of our thoughts, feelings and notes are recorded on digital devices. However, the benefits of handwriting shouldn’t be overstated. Here are a few ways it can help out your brain:
- Stress relief
- Boosts efficiency
- Gives your mind a workout
- Helps you keep learning
- Improves your memory
- Stimulates your brain’s motor cortex
Retirement gives you more time to get back to the simple things. So to start off, get in the habit of writing a page or two every week. You never know where your writing will lead you.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise
It doesn’t matter how old you are – exercise is always going to be good for you. With more time on your hands in retirement, it can be a great time to establish a healthy exercise routine. Importantly, you should consult a GP or professional trainer to help you understand what kinds of exercises are best for your body.
Aside from the physical benefits, studies have proven that exercise boosts your mind power and improves mental health. Scientifically speaking, it changes the levels of chemicals in your brain such as serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones, which help reduce and manage symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. The great thing is, even the smallest amounts of exercise can help. If you’re having trouble committing, simply start small (like a walk to the shops) and go from there.
Think about tomorrow, today
To make the most of your golden years, it’s important to keep your mind happy and healthy. While your life might slow down a bit, your brain doesn’t have to. Whether you’re nearing retirement, or you’ve had your feet up for a while, just remember that it’s never too late to exercise your mind.