We all have that occasional "Am I getting dumber?" feeling. Maybe you went to your room for one thing but ended up forgetting it, or you just can't seem to find the right word to express an idea. It's only natural – the human brain is like a muscle, and it needs exercise to stay sharp in life.
A 2015 study found that 93% of Americans believe that being mentally well is important to overall health and proper brain function. However, it's not always easy to stay sharp. With all the demands of life, from work to family obligations, it's important to have some practical tips on how to keep your mind alert.
So, how do you stay sharp in life? Here are a few practical tips to help you keep your mind alert:
Continue Learning New Things
Learning is essential for staying sharp in life. Learning new skills and knowledge helps keep your mind alert and functioning properly. It's also a great way of making sure your cognitive abilities are maintained, especially as you get older.
Learning something new can be an exciting experience that helps you stay focused and energized.
For example, if you've been wanting to learn a new language or pick up an instrument but haven't had the time to do so, now is the perfect opportunity. Not only will this provide mental stimulation, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment when you become more confident in your skills.
Studies have also shown that engaging in continuous learning can have positive effects on brain health and mental functioning.
Lifelong learning has been associated with increased intelligence, memory, and problem-solving skills – all of which are necessary for staying sharp in life. Learning can also help reduce stress levels by providing an outlet from everyday routines and obligations.
Add Brain-Boosting Foods to Your Diet
Your diet plays a critical role in how well your brain functions. Eating the right types of foods can help keep your mind sharp and alert.
Add more foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts, and seeds, as these have been linked to improved cognitive performance. Blueberries are also great for brain health as they are high in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce cognitive decline.
In addition, adding more whole grains to your diet can also help keep your mind sharp. Whole grains provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can help improve mental acuity.
Various studies have also found that foods rich in vitamin B12 are linked to improved memory and cognitive performance. Foods such as eggs, cheese, fish, and beef are all great sources of vitamin B12, so make sure you include them in your diet.
This should come as no surprise – exercise is essential for keeping your mind sharp. Studies have found that regular physical activity can improve cognitive performance, helping protect against mental decline while reducing stress levels.
Exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain, leading to better mental clarity and alertness. Not only that, but exercise also releases endorphins, which are chemicals that help to reduce stress and boost your mood.
For optimal brain health, it's important to exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day – this could be something as simple as going for a walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Combine physical activities with mental challenges, and the perks become more pronounced. Things like Sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, or board games can help keep your mind sharp and engaged.
Use All Senses
We all have 5+ senses for a reason – using them! Not only do they help us better understand and interact with our environment, but engaging all of your senses can also help keep your mind sharp.
The more senses a person uses while learning something, the more involved their brain is in retaining the memory and the easier it is to remember information.
In a study, the participants were shown several emotionally neutral images accompanied by a smell. Later, when presented with a set of images, participants were asked to recognize the ones they had seen before. All participants were able to accurately identify the images that were accompanied by a smell; however, those who were shown images without a smell had much lower accuracy.
So, if you're trying to learn something, try to engage as many senses as possible. For example, if you are learning a new language, listen to a podcast in the language and take some notes. Smell certain herbs or oils associated with the culture, watch films, or taste traditional dishes.
Prioritize Your Mental Energy
Another great tip for staying sharp in life is to prioritize your mental energy. This means identifying the tasks or activities that do not require much focus and using external resources to complete them.
For example, remembering where you left your keys or when to leave for the airport can often be a distraction that can drain your energy. To avoid this, keep a list of things you need to remember and set reminders for yourself.
There are also many apps that can help you with this, such as task management systems or calendars to help prioritize tasks. For items that you often use, like car keys or glasses, place them in a designated spot, so they are always easy to find.
This way, you can focus your mental energy on remembering or learning new information instead of wasting it on mundane tasks. The more mental energy you have, the sharper your mind will be.
That's right, meditation can help you stay sharp in life. Meditation is a great way to clear your mind and focus on the present moment, which can help to improve cognitive performance.
When you meditate, it helps to increase blood flow to the brain and reduce stress levels. This is because meditation teaches us how to manage our attention so that we are better able to focus.
Meditating for just 5-10 minutes daily can make a huge difference in your mental clarity and alertness. The key is to find a type of meditation that works best for you – there are many different techniques out there, so don't be afraid to explore!
Don't just take our word for it. According to researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center, meditating puts the brain in a state of relaxation, changing its structure and function, which in turn:
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
- Improves attention span and memory
- Increase learning concentration and focus
Control Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels can have a negative impact on cognitive abilities, leading to impaired memory or mental alertness. Keeping these levels in check is important for maintaining a healthy brain.
In fact, according to a 2021 study, good cardiovascular health can lead to better cognitive function and improved memory. This means that if you want to stay sharp in life, it’s important to exercise regularly and watch what you eat.
Some of the ways you can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels include:
- Eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Regular physical activity
- Reducing stress
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Yes, we know – this is easier said than done. But believe it or not, socializing can be good for your brain! Studies have found that humans are hardwired for connection; when we interact with other people, it releases a hormone in the brain called oxytocin which helps us relax and feel happy.
More specifically, a recent study of older Japanese adults found that those who spent more time with other people had a lower risk of dementia than those who stayed isolated. Dementia is a degenerative brain disorder that affects memory and cognitive abilities.
Socializing also helps to reduce stress, which can improve mental alertness and focus. So even if you don’t feel like going out, try to find ways to connect with others virtually or through a hobby or activity.
Here are some ideas to help you stay connected:
- Call a friend or family member and chat.
- Find an online group that shares your interests and start participating.
- Take up a new hobby and join a club or class.
- Go for a walk with a friend.
- Write letters or emails to people you haven’t talked to in a while.
When Should You Seek Help For Mental Alertness?
Mental alertness is something that all of us could use a boost in from time to time. But if you find that your concentration and memory are consistently suffering, it may be time to seek professional help.
It’s normal to feel a bit forgetful as you get older, but if you find that your mental sharpness is declining significantly or interfering with your daily life, it could be an indication of something else – like dementia or depression.
Some signs that you should seek help include:
- Significant memory loss
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Trouble with problem-solving or completing tasks
- Depressed mood or lack of motivation
- Changes in personality or behavior
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. A mental health professional can help you identify any underlying causes and provide the best treatment plan for your needs.
Learning how to stay sharp in life is an important part of maintaining both physical and mental well-being. With the right strategies, such as meditation and socializing, you can ensure that your mind stays alert and active for years to come.