When you get older, you may engage in regular cardio for a stronger heart and lift weights for more muscle mass. But that’s not all you should do to maintain your body as you advance in years. You’ve got to keep your brain busy, as well. After all, when your memory starts to get dinged as early as your early 30s, and your “social cognition”—or your brain’s ability to recognize visual cues, such as certain bodily expressions—starts to fade as you enter your fifth decade.
But there’s a lot you can do to keep your noggin operating at maximum capacity. We spoke to some top thinkers to get their own stay-sharp tips and included them right here. And for more great advice for maintaining your brain, here are the Best Foods for Over-40 Brains.
Find your intellectual passion
“Mine is cognitive science, but it could be literature or bicycle design—anything that brightens your brain,” says Tony Dottino, founder of Dottino Consulting Group, which provides advice on the business applications of the latest brain research to major companies and government institutions.
Study it every day
“I’m always looking for new studies and articles about cognitive science,” says Dottino. “The more we learn about a subject that excites us, the easier it becomes to learn in general.”
Develop a like-minded cadre
“I’m part of a ‘master-mind group’ that exchanges e-mails, swaps links to stories, and keeps one another up-to-date on the latest science,” says Dottino. “Networking for intellectual knowledge accelerates the accumulation of it.”
Optimize your intellectual bandwidth
“To that end, I structure my day deliberately,” says Stephen Wolfram, Ph.D., author of A New Kind of Science, and winner of the MacArthur Prize fellowship. “In the morning, I answer simple e-mails. Then I conduct perfunctory meetings (i.e., those that involve more talking than problem solving) while I’m on my treadmill. I work on creative projects at night, when my mind tends to be most alert. By listening to my intellectual rhythms, I ensure I always have the mental energy for the task at hand.” And speaking of energy, here are 13 Tricks for an Instant Energy Boost.
Balance work with play
“For me that’s surfing and snowboarding,” says Garrett Lisi, Ph.D., a physicist and author of the paper “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.” “A hurried life that is spent attending to one task after another is incompatible with deep creative thought. Fortunately, I have a network of friends in beautiful locations from Maui to Colorado, and they’ve helped me find that balance.”
Begin and end every day with a 10-minute mental vacation
“I sit in a chair, close my eyes, and visualize one of two scenes: my favorite beach in Aruba, or the farm at the base of the Smoky Mountains where I grew up,” says Scott Hagwood, American Grand Master of Memory and author of Memory Power. “I’m not just picturing where I am, I’m also sensing it—the smells, sounds, textures. In so doing, I train my brain to be engaged in the moment, to sharpen its focus, and to dismiss distractions. Mindful visualization has taught me to quiet my mind on command.” Remember: meditation is one of the 20 Healthy Living Rules You Should Live By.
Protein is brain food
“I begin most days with a high-protein meal of two hard-boiled eggs and a small bowl of oatmeal,” says Frank Lawlis, Ph.D., a psychologist for American Mensa and author of The IQ Answer. “Studies show that students who eat a couple of eggs prior to taking an academic test score up to 20 percent higher than those who don’t.
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