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Brain Health

06/09/2019

 

As Abraham Lincoln said: It’s not the years in your life that count – it is the life in your years.

In this age when everything is measured and quantified, it is interesting to think about how to measure the life in your years?

When research scientists ask individuals, who are 50+ what matters to them, they tend to focus more on the subjective measures. Those subjective measures include: financial security, supportive social relationships, a sense of purpose, the ability to cope or adapt, spirituality and overall life satisfaction.

Out of all those subjective measures I like overall life satisfaction as a measurement tool. It is flexible enough to include the things that are most important to the individual and broad enough to have room for different perspectives.

So how do you achieve overall life satisfaction?

One of the fundamental elements of aging well and achieving overall life satisfaction is good brain health. Taking care of your brain so that you are able to have ‘life in your years is key.

Taking care of your brain requires that you address six areas of your life: physical activity, nutrition, mental activity, socialization, spirituality and having a passion and purpose in life. You can find out more about these different areas on our website at Fit Minds – but for the purposes of this blog post I want to focus on mental stimulation.

 

Mental Stimulation

Engaging with the novel and complex on a daily basis promotes brain health.  This includes learning something new, which actually involves a neurophysiological series of events that change our neural systems, our neural chemistry and our brain function.  Engaging in the new and complex can also assist with new brain cell development (neurogenesis).

 

This type of response to new learning was demonstrated by a research study done on medical students at the University of Hamburg. The students had three fMRI’s taken of their brains – one before final exams, one during final exams and one after final exams. What the researchers discovered is that their brains grew in size over those six weeks.

 

It doesn’t mean you have to study to be a medical doctor to grow a large brain. But you do have to engage in intellectually challenging activities.

 

The important thing to remember is that what is novel and complex for one person may not be novel and complex for someone else. It is important to find something that challenges you. You may want to learn a new language, a new knitting pattern, or dust off a musical instrument. The important thing is to find something intellectually engaging and challenging.

 

If you are interested in adding a daily brain exercise to your routine, sign-up for a daily puzzle on our website to keep your brain challenged.

 

Physical activity, social networks, nutrition, spirituality and having passion and purpose in your life also support brain health. Learning more about how choices in these areas impact you is important to aging well and having life in your years.

 

This article was put together by Nicole Scheidl from Fit Minds.

 

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash