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11. Engage in mentally stimulating activities
Mental stimulation refers to the ways our brains respond to stimuli in the environment. Novel and complex stimuli are health promoting for the brain. New learning translates to neurophysiological growth and to mental stimulation in the same way that aerobics translates to cardiovascular health. We can benefit from being challenged, from learning information and skills that we do not yet understand, and from engaging in pursuits that are initially hard for us!
12. Maintain your role and sense of purpose
Retirement as it is presently envisioned in this country is not good for the human brain, which benefits from environments rich in novel and complex stimuli. Retirement by definition reinforces disengagement and passivity. Our nation might consider prioritizing social engagement across the lifespan from a brain health perspective. Although it is important to allow elders to choose more passive lifestyles, many may benefit from an understanding of the importance of actively participating in society and finding personally relevant roles and senses of purpose.
13. Seek financial stability
Research clearly demonstrates that having some money late in life correlates with better health. Therefore, a practical tip for maintaining lifelong health is to hire a financial planner and begin a savings plan that will provide some money late in life. Financial planners do not consider themselves to be health promoters, but they are. We are never too young or too old to begin saving, and the less money we make the faster we need to get started!
14. Engage family and friends
Developing and maintaining a social network of relationships is important from a health perspective. Our friends and family help us stay active and involved in the fabric of society. They can provide us with emotional support and can nurture trust. Our roles in life, from child to parent to grandparent, exist within the family; they provide much health and human enrichment across the lifespan. And intimacy, broadly defined, is itself a health promoting behavior at any age.
15. Engage Yourself in the Complex and Novel
Learning new information and skills across your entire lifespan helps to keep your brain strong even in the later years of life. Activities that have the highest value for brain health are those that are novel and complex to each particular person. What is easy for one person may be challenging for another, so the things that challenge you the most have the most value for your brain. It is the novel and complex that will challenge the brain, stimulate learning, and promote synaptic density, decreasing the likelihood that neurodegenerative disease will manifest. With practice of an activity or skill, your synaptic density increases, and what was once novel and complex can easily become rote and passive. Therefore, continually learning new things will ensure your brain is always expanding and staying sharp.
16. Be Health Conscious
It is important for us to take control of our health and understand that we are in charge of managing of our bodies. Physicians work for us, and when it comes to our bodies we are the boss. Once we establish our own role in the management of our health, the importance of a close and trusting relationship with our physician becomes apparent. Open communication can help the physician make sound decisions regarding our health. A team approach can help establish a united front against illness, and more importantly, promote our health. To keep yourself at your healthiest, maintain regular physical examinations, and follow your physicians advice.
17. Slow Down and Appreciate the Silence
Our society is evolving at an increasing rate, leaving us with little time to relax and process our environment. Our brains require time to process information more deeply, in order to gain more benefit from our daily experiences. The implications of a fast paced lifestyle are chronic stress and other negative effects on our health and well being. Reducing demands we place on ourselves is an important step towards stress reduction, and a more fulfilling life. A new field of study referred to as neurotheology has been advancing the study of the neurophysiological correlation between prayer and subjective experience. Multiple studies have shown a relationship between spirituality and the immune system. As we continually learn more about the potential of positive thoughts influencing health, people are beginning to integrate these practices more frequently into their daily lives, and experiencing life changing results.
18. Do Not Retire from Life
Maintaining a strong sense of purpose in life is an important contributor to longevity. Making a conscious decision to stay actively involved in your daily routine is beneficial to your lifelong health and well being. Positive attitude has been shown to play a significant role in success, as well as your ability to recover from illness. It is important to develop multiple skills and interests over your lifespan, as we have the ability to learn and develop new talents continually over time. It is our responsibility to nurture different roles and develop personal meaning and life purpose. Work can also be a necessary activity to help us find more meaning in our lives. Matching our passions in life with an occupation is powerful, and can promote our talents and potential in significant ways.
19. Reduce and Eliminate Smoking Drinking and other Drugs
Mood altering substances, such as drugs and cigarettes, can decrease our functioning, lower our motivation, and impair our cognitive processes. They alter our emotions, which impairs our thinking by reducing focus, attention, memory, and our ability to execute plans. Smoking is one of the leading causes of over a dozen cancers, including lung, oral, stomach, and liver cancer. Not to mention it stains our fingers, teeth and hair, and leaves us with foul smelling breath!
20. Set Financial Goals
A well developed plan for financial security is a great way to stimulate your Executive Functions (responsible for complex activity like organization, scheduling, impulse control, and more). Keeping track of your expenses, and being aware of where your money is going, helps you feel more in control of your financial situation. No matter what expenses you have, set aside 5% a month for yourselfyou will thank yourself later!
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