Most of us know the basics of maintaining physical health. Keeping your weight, cholesterol, and BMI in check are just a few things that most can agree will improve your health. It’s been drilled into our brains through advertising, self-help websites and books, and our healthcare providers. However, what about the brain itself? It is important to remember this vital organ is responsible for the majority of our functioning. Lifestyle and how active we are, especially mentally, plays a huge role in cognitive abilities. We can keep our bodies in great physical shape. But without “exercising” your brain, cognitive decline will be more likely as we age.

Of course, we cannot completely prevent either age-related cognitive decline or diseases like Alzheimer’s. But on the other hand, research has shown that age and genetics alone do not cause cognitive decline.  Awareness of the steps to improve cognitive health are far behind that of physical health awareness. But Next Avenue describes several ways we can exercise our brain to aid in improving brain health.

Habit and routine are great for keeping us on track throughout our day. At the same time, resist always going with the same routines day after day. Changing it up a little will stimulate your brain. Over time, this will aid in keeping your brain sharp and active. If you like doing crossword puzzles in the evening, try a word search or a harder level. Keep it new and interesting.

In addition, quit multi-tasking. Multi-tasking stresses our brains. Try something researchers are calling “strategic attention”. This brain exercise involves picking one task per day that requires fairly deep thinking. Then turn off the television, radio, and other background distractions. Whether it’s trying a new recipe or planning a family get together, set your focus on just this one task for a 20 to 30 minute session. This will over time improve your brain’s executive and overall functioning.

Last but certainly not least, do nothing! The brain needs two types of downtime to function optimally. Rest and sleep.  Take just five minutes per day to take a break from actively thinking. It could be meditation, gentle yoga, or even a mindful walk. Whatever you choose, this type of rest and relaxation has been proven to improve brain health, functioning, and overall well-being. But above all, remember it’s never too early or late to start improving brain health.