11 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp

11 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp


“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

– Buddha

“Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline…with some basic good health habits…there are various strategies we can use to protect and sharpen our minds.”

– Harvard Medical School

Intro: The Buddha and…Harvard?

Quoting the Great Buddha – a sage that lived in ancient India, and Harvard Medical School – a preeminent institution of medical education – may appear to be a juxtaposition of the highest degree.

The opposite, however, couldn’t be more true. Harvard Medical School has published various research studies predicated on the very practices that Buddha himself promulgated thousands of years ago: mindfulness, self-awareness, meditation, and other means of harnessing the power of the human mind.

Similarly, both the Buddha and Harvard Medical School posit that one’s mind is a uniquely human component – one meant to be developed and strengthened. The very latest neuroscientific research studies (e.g. neuroplasticity, neurogenesis) have all reached one important conclusion: the mind/brain possess the innate capacity to develop throughout life.

Which segues into the topic of this article: methods of sharpening what is undoubtedly our greatest gift, our mind.

Here, we present 11 scientifically-validated means of keeping the mind and brain sharp. Additionally, these practices will further enhance many of the mind’s unique capabilities: critical-thinking, judgement, creativeness, focus, attention, and even spiritual connection.

Here are 11 ways to keep the mind and brain sharp:

1. Prioritize lifelong learning

According to Harvard University, “A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age.” However, that doesn’t mean you need a Ph.D. to take advantage.

The ultimate goal is to challenge your brain. It doesn’t matter the challenge is a Master’s thesis, pursuance of a new hobby, or learning a new skill. If your brain is learning something, it’s staying sharp.

2. Believe in the power of your mind

Negative stereotypes about aging and memory are mostly untrue – and can actually contribute to memory problems. On the other hand, if you possess confidence in your ability to maintain and improve the sharpness of your mind, you’re much more likely to engage it in activities that promote mental acuity.

3. Create a routine for the simple things

Lost keys, forgotten birthdays, getting lost…all of these trivial annoyances drain the mind’s capacity.

When you use tools (e.g. calendars, maps, lists, etc.) to keep these things in order, your brain is able to concentrate on learning and development. As far as misplacing things, designate a specific place in your home to keep the keys, eyeglasses, wallet…etc.

4. Repeat, repeat, repeat…

When you come across some piece of info that you want or need to remember, either write it down or repeat it out loud. Repetition helps to reinforce the neural connections responsible for remembering things.

5. Don’t “cram”…at any age, or for any reason

Related to #5, using repetition to memorize information is wonderful – if the timing is correct. Most people are not very adept at remembering unrelated information in a short period of time.

When you need to “study” or remember important details, it is extremely beneficial to designate periods of time to do so. Don’t “cram”…it doesn’t work.

6. Get your body moving

Researchers believe that regular exercise “may be the single most important thing you can do” for brain health, especially over the long-term. While our heart and lungs are pumping, the brain is getting fit as well.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every other day.

7. Understand and remember the importance of nutrition

Fitting that nutrition comes after exercise, as they are two of the most important determinants to long-term mind health.

First, it’s important to understand the intricate relationship between nutrition and brain health. Glycogen is the brain’s number one source of energy – and this source is expended quickly. The best option is a low glycemic nutrition plan – high fiber, moderate protein, and low fat.

8. Get plenty of sleep…but not too much

We’ll keep this simple: you should be sleeping 7 to 9 hours per night. Our brain cannot effectively consolidate and reorganize the prior day’s activities, otherwise. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hibernating for 10-plus hours a night accomplishes nil.

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