Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

Mental Exercise

Everyday Ways to Stay Sharp

Want to keep your brain in shape? Work it.

30. Redecorate and redesign your environment. Plant new flowers in front of your house. Redecorate the kitchen. Rearrange your closets and drawers. Replace the candles in your living room with some that have a different scent. Making such changes can alter motor pathways in the brain and encourage new cell growth.

31. Choose a side. Talk sports, business, or politics. If you can do it without getting angry, which raises the memory-hindering hormone cortisol, engaging in a good debate can form new neural pathways and force you to think quickly and formulate your thoughts clearly.

32. Sleep. Shut-eye isn't a luxury. It's when your brain consolidates memories. Poor sleep, caused by medical conditions, worry, depression, or insomnia, can interfere with your rest. So treat yourself to relaxing scents like vanilla before bed. They raise the chemical dopamine and reduce cortisol, a stress hormone.

33. Check your neck. It may sound crazy, but a clot in your neck can stunt your memory by preventing enough blood and oxygen from getting to your brain. At your next checkup, ask your doctor to use the other side of his stethoscope to ensure that all's clear in your carotid artery—the main one in your neck.

34. Take a mental picture. Connect names with faces by creating mental images that trick your mind into remembering. For instance, remember Mr. Bender with the curly hair by imagining him bent over, with his curly hair facing you.

35. Read the news. Keeping up with the latest not only activates the memory part of the brain but also gives you something to talk about with friends and family. That kind of socializing can activate multiple parts of your brain and encourage cell growth.

36. Turn off the TV and pick up an instrument. Frequently tickling the ivories or blowing a horn—especially if you're trying to master it—is associated with lower dementia risks. What's more, it eliminates boredom, a brain state that can cause some thinking skills to atrophy.

37. Join a book club. Pick up a good book to cut down on brain-withering boredom. Frequent reading is associated with reduced risk of dementia. And meeting new people forces new neural connections. Besides, you might enjoy the book.

38. Play Yahtzee! Whether you choose Risk, Pictionary, Scrabble, or Boggle, board games are associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. They activate strategic, spatial, and memory parts of the brain, and require you to socialize, which can help form new neural pathways.

39. Parlez-vous brain health? You don't have to be a linguist to benefit from learning a new language. Adopting a foreign tongue boosts the verbal, language, and memory parts of the brain.

40. Savor a sensory experience. Those with the best memories take advantage of all their senses. That's because memorization is a cohesive brain effort. So head to the garden or the kitchen and take in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and sensations.

41. Quick temper? Instead of yelling, take a few minutes to cool down. The stress of chronic anger can actually shrink the memory centers in the brain. Get to know the signs that you’re seething and address the problem before it erupts.

42. Replace your salt shaker with a sodium-free alternative. We all know that hypertension can lead to heart problems, but new evidence suggests that decreasing the salt in your diet can also improve blood flow to the brain and decrease dementia.

43. Have a chat. Instead of popping in another movie rental, pick up the phone. Talking with someone else not only gets you out of your rut—lack of activity can decrease brain-cell formation—but the socializing can also reduce potentially memory-sapping depression.

44. Check your meds. It may not be you having the memory problems; instead, it could be your medications impeding your memory. Older antidepressants, anti-diuretics and antihistamines—all block a critical brain chemical from doing its job. Ask your doctor for an alternative.

Next page: Bear some weight. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Keep Your Brain Healthy

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Grandson (8-9) whispering to grandfather, close-up

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points