The Brain “Challenge” That Will Help You Live Better, Longer

Your quality of life in your golden years largely depends on what you’re doing to keep your brain healthy now.

While most people experience some degree of age-related brain changes, that doesn’t mean you can’t thrive as an older adult.

In fact, over the past few decades, scientists have found evidence that the brain is able to change, grow, and even generate new cognitive connections and pathways. (I’ll talk more about this later.)

This process is called neuroplasticity.

And today, I’ll teach you how you can harness this ability to keep your brain young and preserve your precious memories.

How you think about aging really matters

It can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook when it comes to aging—especially in a society where youthfulness is celebrated and emphasized.

The modern-day boom of anti-aging products, plastic surgery, photograph editing, and even social media filters send the message that you need to do everything in your power to reverse nature’s intended course.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking can actually accelerate the onset of chronic age-related diseases like dementia.

For instance, in a 2018 study from Yale, researchers analyzed the health records of nearly 5,000 participants over the course of four years. The participants were older adults, with an average age of 72.

At the onset of the study, participants were asked about their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs on aging.

And researchers found that participants who held more positive beliefs and attitudes about aging were less likely to develop dementia.

Even more interesting, the preventative effect of positive thinking was even found in participants with the E4 variant of the APOE gene, which signifies a genetic disposition to dementia.

The study showed that patients with this genetic variant who maintained positive beliefs about aging had a 2.7 percent risk of developing dementia. Meanwhile, dementia risk in those with the E4 variant who had negative beliefs more than doubled, coming in at 6.1 percent.

IMAGE SOURCE: PLOS ONE

Clearly, your mental outlook can have a major effect on brain health down the road. Which is one of the reasons I always encourage you to try and keep a positive attitude.

But there are also some simple things you can do to boost the brain-protecting power of positive thinking even more…

Challenge your way to a better brain

In order to build a bigger, brighter brain, you need to encourage neuroplasticity.

In other words, you need to challenge your brain on a regular basis. And the more often, the better!

As I mentioned earlier, when you challenge your brain, new communication pathways form between your brain cells. These are called synapses.

The more synapses you have, the easier it is for the different parts of your brain to communicate. And this improved communication results in enhanced (and better preserved) cognitive abilities.

The best part is, encouraging neuroplasticity by challenging your brain can be a ton of fun!

The key is to engage in an activity you already enjoy in a new way, or do something different that you’ve always wanted to try. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cook one new recipe per week.
  • If you sing or play an instrument, learn a new song.
  • Learn how to use a new computer program or phone app.
  • Read a book or watch a television program about something you’ve always wanted to learn more about.
  • Try a movement-based class like dance, yoga, Zumba, or tai chi.
  • Or even do some drumming with yours truly! Here are some free lessons!

For even more ways you can live a long, healthy life, check out the five longevity secrets of “SuperAgers”—adults who are 80 or older and in near-perfect health.

Living better is a choice

Here’s today’s big takeaway: Although you can’t control every outcome in life, you do have a say in how you choose to live it.

Most of your day-to-day life is largely comprised of your thoughts, actions, and words. So do your best to weed out the negative and cultivate more of the positive.

And if you’re ever faced with a challenge, look at it as an opportunity to learn or try something new. In turn, you’ll take on a great opportunity to stimulate neuroplasticity and strengthen your brain.

From here on out, I challenge you to seek out something “new” each day—and make it a point to notice the good things that happen along the way. In the end, it won’t just benefit your long-term health, but your mindset and enjoyment of life.

P.S. – For even more all-natural strategies to fortify and protect your brain, check out my Sound Mind Protocol. This only course utilizes the power of sound, vibration, and rhythm to sharpen memory, improve focus, and boost your mood. To give it a try or to learn more, simply click here!


SOURCES:

Cimons, M. (2018). Just saying ‘no’ to stereotypes about aging. The Record. Retrieved from: therecord.com/life/2018/04/25/just-saying-no-to-stereotypes-about-aging.html

Cohen, G. (2006). Research on Creativity and Aging: The Positive Impact of the Arts on Health and Illness. The American Society on Aging. 30(1). pp. 7 – 15. Retrieved from: agingkingcounty.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/185/2016/07/RESEARCH-ON-CREATIVITY-AND-AGING.pdf

Dean, N. (2019). The Importance of Novelty. BrainWorld. Retrieved from: brainworldmagazine.com/the-importance-of-novelty/

Driscoll, D. (2020). Learning New Tricks: Healthy Aging and the Creative Brain. BrainWorld. Retrieved from:brainworldmagazine.com/learning-new-tricks-healthy-aging-creative-brain/

Levy, B., Slade, M., Pietrzak, R., and Ferrucci, L. (2018). Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene. PLOS ONE. Retrieved from: journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0191004

Yan, S. et al. (2020). Association between sedentary behavior and the risk of dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry. 10: p. 112. Retrieved from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7174309/

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.