Increase longevity by exercising the most powerful organ in your body: your brain
The ultimate anti-aging trick? Brain exercises.
Longevity almost always requires being physically and mentally healthy. And even though it often doesn't get as much attention as regular physical workouts, you can do exercises to help keep your brain in shape.
“One of the keys to longevity is consistently exercising our brain with stimulating activities that bring us joy,” Dr. Laurie Archbald-Pannone, a physician specializing in geriatric medicine and an associate professor of medicine at University of Virginia, tells Yahoo Life.
Archbald-Pannone says it's totally normal for your brain to change over time — but it’s crucial during those changes to maintain brain health. “Our brain is a powerful organ that controls our body, our movements, our emotions and everything in between,” she says. “That's why it's so critical to engage your brain and to keep it healthy and active as the ultimate anti-aging strategy.”
Archbald-Pannone recommends doing the following daily activities to keep your mind sharp, regardless of your age.
Keep a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal is simply a place where you can jot down things that you’re thankful for. “Focus on three things that have gone well for us that day, or three things that bring us joy," Archbald-Pannone says. "Studies have shown that this improves our mood, our emotions [and] our overall health, and decreases our risk for depression."
Go for a daily walk.
Yes, getting physical will also help boost your memory. Archbald-Pannone points out that “our brain and our body are interconnected,” she says, adding, “to keep our brain active, we need to keep our body active.”
If you’re able, she suggests walking in the fresh air on a daily basis. “The fresh air can release endorphins in your brain, decrease your stress, increase your energy and help your overall health,” she says. But if you’re not able to move easily, she suggests simply doing what you can to be active.
Reach out to a friend or family member.
Connecting with loved ones can help keep your memory sharp. “Feeling part of a community is an important part of combating isolation, which can improve our health, improve our mood, and improve our brain function,” Archbald-Pannone says.
That could mean being physically together with loved ones or doing video visits or phone calls. "The key is to stay connected and stay involved as part of a community," she says. This, Archbald-Pannone says, "boosts our mood, boosts our energy level, and boosts our serotonin level, which is like the happy hormone in our brains and can bring us more joy."
Try something new.
This could be anything, Archbald-Pannone says. “Pick up a new hobby, learn a new language, try a new activity,” she says. “The key is to build on your curiosity, to have your brain working, to learn something new, to work in a different way and to be a little bit challenged.”
A new skill requires repetition, problem-solving, memory skills and curiosity — and those are all important factors when it comes to keeping brain cells active and brains healthy, she explains.
Get quality sleep.
Your body needs rest in order to function properly. That's why Archbald-Pannone says that good-quality sleep is a must. This helps you “to be able to recharge and do it all over again the next day.”
Recent research has even found that restful sleep helps to clear your of beta amyloids, the proteins that have been linked to the development of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, Archbald-Pannone points out.
If you’re struggling to get proper sleep, she suggests have a regular nighttime routine, limiting alcohol or caffeine and turning off screens at least an hour before you go to bed.
Archbald-Pannone says that it can be overwhelming to thing about making changes to your routine, which is why she suggests giving yourself "the grace to start slowly."
"Find something that you enjoy, find something that you want to do each day and build that slowly," she says. "Over time, it'll become habit, and then there's time for a new one to be put in its place."