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Importance of mental stimulation

It is no secret that staying physically fit as you get older is beneficial for your overall wellbeing however staying mentally fit is just as important.

Our brains are a dynamic organ that constantly adapts as we learn new skills and experience new things over the course of our lives. This ability of the brain to be able to adapt and form new neural pathways and acquire new knowledge is called brain plasticity. Young children have the most adaptable brains, which helps them learn new skills very quickly. As we get older, our brains change; on average shrink around 5% each decade after we turn 40. However, this rate of decline can vary a lot between individuals and engaging in mentally stimulating activity can help the brain compensate for age-related changes. Mental exercises help keep your brain active as you get older and can slow down brain aging, delaying cognitive decline and keep you mentally sharp for longer. Mental stimulation can also help reduce stress as well as reduce the feelings of anxiety and depression as well.

Cognitive decline is an aging process that includes the decline in normal thinking patterns and thinking speed and can be related to dementia. There is also evidence that shows people with higher mental activity levels have a significantly lower risk of developing dementia when compared to people with lower amounts of mental activity. Overall, regular mental stimulation is very beneficial for you and your wellbeing and can be as simple as taking part in certain activities that engage your brain.

A good way to keep your brain active is to engage in mentally stimulating exercises like crosswords, Sudoku and other brain games regularly. Mental activity can increase the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain.

  • Brainteaser games – crossword puzzles, riddles, word jumbles and even Sudoku are some popular activities that can help challenge the brain.
  • Socialising – connecting with people through social interactions can help engage your brain as well as improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Creative projects – whether that is pottery or painting, creative projects are a good way to stimulate the brain. These can also be done in a social setting too.
  • Learning a new skill – you can learn to play an instrument or start a new hobby. When learning new things, your brain creates new neural connections which can be a good exercise for your mind.
  • Physical activity – engaging in physical activity, such as walking, stimulates more blood flow to the brain and helps keep you healthy as well.
  • Reading – an easy way to keep your brain active is by reading books or magazines. You can even join a book club and turn this into a social hobby as well.

Sources

Effects of mental activity on health - Heath Engine
The importance of mental fitness - Healthline