Like our bodies, as we age it is important to keep our minds as healthy as can be. Carol Barkes, a conflict resolution expert, mediator, national speaker, educator and bestselling author, has some actionable science-based suggestions that can accomplish this and help slow down the aging process in the brain:
1) Sleep well.
When we sleep, our brains do two things—cleanse from the toxic chemicals built-up during the day and consolidate information (both new and old). This is the reason we often wake up with answers to problems we have been having. When we sleep, our brains get an opportunity to become more creative because we are not using it as much. It is then free to search for old information to apply to new problems. This time to resolve problems reduces our stress and improves our overall health.
2) Our brains love novelty.
New things help our brains grow and stay strong. For this to occur, we need to expose our brains to new experiences. This is not the same thing as doing a new puzzle on a different day if you routinely do puzzles. The act of doing a puzzle in itself won’t be of value to brain health unless you don’t typically do puzzles. The trick is to do something new and different. While this can also be scary, it is exhilarating to our brain.
3) Exercise AND yawn.
Our brains need a lot of oxygen to thrive. Ancestrally, women were estimated to walk 10–12 miles a day so our brains developed in an oxygen-rich environment. Consequently, our brains still appreciate and thrive with a lot of oxygen. Get outside, exercise in whatever capacity you can, and if you cannot exercise much, try yawning. Yawning gets oxygen to our brain quickly and 3–5 fake yawns will make us authentically yawn. It is a wonderfully easy way to fuel your noggin.
4) Reduce negativity in your life.
Watch less news. If you are insistent on knowing what is going on, read the news instead of watch it. Our brains have difficulty distinguishing from what we are watching and what we are experiencing. Also, remember gratitude and actively search for ways to be grateful. If you are a worrier, create what neuroscience expert Mark Waldman calls a C.R.A.P. board (Conflicts, Resistances, Anxieties, Procrastination) of things you worry about. Specifically, write those things down. Just the simple mindful act of briefly writing down what we worry about, will help our brains relax by knowing you have the worries acknowledged.
Carol Barkes, CPM, is a trend-setting mediator, business executive and educator specializing in the use of neuroscience to improve business performance, interpersonal communications, negotiation and conflict resolution processes for optimally successful results. She is also a speaker, educator, and author of the bestselling book: Success Breakthroughs: Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets for Breaking Through to Success.