Five tips to keep cognitive decline at bay.
As I watch my parents and their friends not only grow older but live longer, I cannot help but feel that I need to be doing more for my brain health. According to Dementia Care Central, other than diet, exercise and socialising, mental exercises are key.
I am constantly hearing ‘the brain is like a muscle,’ we need to exercise it for healthy results. But what can I do at 48 to exercise my brain? I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night! Am I now expected to study a new language or take up chess?
Doctor Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, describes two mindsets. People with a ‘fixed mindset’ are those who believe their abilities are fixed, what you are born with is what you have, and you cannot deviate from that. She believes they are less likely to flourish than those with a ‘growth mindset’ who believe that you can develop abilities.
I want to have a growth mindset as my ‘fixed mindset,’ has not provided rewarding results. Apparently, a person can develop one, which I am thrilled about.
So where to from here?
Van Edwards, a behavioural investigator and the author of the book ‘Captivate’, suggests we all have a ‘learning bucket list.’ She recommends we put a list together of what we want to learn more about. We can have one for a year, 5 years and 10 years consisting of skills, abilities, and hobbies.
She also explained the concept of learning new ideas. These are nice quick ones, something a person can do in a day by reading up on the topic. As a quick example, I was recently on the phone to someone who explained she had changed her scenery for a few months whilst still working, albeit remotely. She was in Lofoten and looking forward to her surfing lesson after our call. Artic surfing in the depths of winter! I immediately googled the Norwegian island to see if I heard correctly. The dramatic scenery of mountain peaks, open sea and sheltered bays grabbed my attention. I read further and fell in love with what I read. So much so, I am off next winter to visit the Norwegian archipelago and explore the abundance of natural beauty. I will keep you posted.
For those of us looking to discover and learn something new every day, the good news is that we live in an information age. Online courses, podcasts, seminars, and webinars are constantly available. If technology is not your thing, puzzles, brainteasers, crosswords, colouring in and drawing are all encouraged.
My top tips to learn something new every day:
Tip #1: Be open to learning.
It’ll be more enjoyable and less of slog if you’re open to it. Coming from someone who studied the bare minimum as a student, the difference is enormous now that I am more open to learning.
Tip #2: Allocate at least 15 minutes each day to listen, watch or read something new.
My top 5 places to go are:
1) TED: A brilliant way to get a high quality study told you in a condensed version, by a professional in that specific field. The speakers are skilled at public speaking and provide intelligent content, often accompanied with humour, ensuring to hold your attention throughout.
2) Masterclass offer lessons from world-class instructors on topics like storytelling, arts, entertainment, food, sports, gaming and others. The lessons are not too lengthy, and it is a privilege to listen to masters in the various industries share their knowledge.
3) Udemy saved my bacon last year when I took on another job within the organisation. Over the years, my excel skills had dropped to below average as I hadn’t needed them. Udemy offers online classes that are easy to watch and available to pick up whenever you have a free moment.
4) YouTube is abundant with information, and people are keen to share their knowledge. From slides on conversational Spanish to an effective way to ice cupcakes if you have, like me, lost your reliable icing piping bag and nozzle. It is astounding what people know and want to share. Of course, we need to be discerning on who and what we watch, but this you can determine with a bit of common sense.
5) Podcasts, an utter treat! Available whenever you choose. Whether you’re commuting, cooking, exercising, or taking a break from your day, there is podcast out there for everyone. I love podcasts, not sure how I ever survived without them.
Tip #3: Try incorporating learning with your other well-being pillars.
With this plan to grow my mindset, I didn’t want to become bogged down with adding yet another exercise to my health regime. If you can, why not combine learning with your other pillars, for example: learn a language with a friend or listen to a podcast during a jog, for example?
Tip #4: Share your knowledge… with humility.
Interesting facts and different perspectives are all fabulous ways to contribute to conversations. Though don’t turn into a ‘know-all’, ‘it isn’t becoming’ to quote Margaret Thatcher from the Crown. People love to hear about new concepts, your experiences and historic facts, and by sharing your knowledge it also helps with retaining it.
Tip #5: Enjoy yourself. Do not let this be yet another item to add to your day.
This is under self-care, so I hope you can find fun and engaging ways to enjoy every day. There is a wealth of information readily available out there. Knowing that it is helping to keep our brain young makes it much more enticing. I highly recommend finding topics and hobbies that interest you and ways to stay engaged.
There is something for everyone out there. Expanding our knowledge will keep us young, add to interesting conversations, and keep cognitive decline at bay.