Research says one of the best things you can do to delay or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is to keep your mind active. Mental activity in the form of puzzles, riddles, learning languages, or taking classes on something new all help to improve cognitive ability. Dementia and memory loss can bloom and grow more rapidly in the mind of an inactive person. That is why finding something interesting to study or learn about or develop as a hobby is essential to the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. Here are some suggestions for things to study or focus on to keep your mind busy and productive.
- Personality Tests/Systems – One thing you may find exciting is learning all about different personality tests or systems. There are so many out there: Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, Strengths Finder, DISC, etc. Focusing on one of these and doing an in-depth study into one will not only keep your mind active, but it will also help you get to know yourself better, see how you function in the world, and realize why you may get along with certain people better than others. The insight into yourself and your relationships are worth the deep dive into personality systems. And an active brain is a bonus!
- Learn a new language – Almost all local community colleges offer language classes for a fairly low price. Studies are showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain. It also improves development in the brain’s areas of executive function and attention, no matter the age of the person learning the language. Multilingual speakers tend to be more creative than monolingual people and they get jobs easier and stay smarter for longer.
- Buy a book of puzzles, mazes, or word problems – Any activity where your mind has to find connections and patterns is good for the brain and the crossover of pathways in the brain. Sudoku is a favorite among many.
- Use all of your senses – The more senses you use in learning something, the more your brain will remember it. Some studies have shown that visual images paired with an odor are remembered far more accurately than images shown without any accompanying smell.
- Make good use of your brain space – Mental energy does get used up in a day. If you don’t have to focus all your mental space on where you put your keys or when everyone in your family has a birthday, then you can free up that space to do more extensive learning and stimulation. The best way to free up some of this space is to set up systems that help you with the daily, mundane things to remember. Get planners or calendars and write down all the significant events and important dates. Have a transition place near your front door where you always drop your keys or anything else important that is in transition or needs to be attended to.
- Do things as you usually don’t do them – Switch hands when doing things. If you are usually right-handed, try doing things with your left hand for a bit each day. Eat with chopsticks. Do things backwards or upside down (such as wearing your watch upside down, NOT standing on your head or anything else unsafe). Do chores with your eyes closed – such as washing your hair or folding laundry. Read books aloud.
All of these suggestions are fun ways to keep your brain sharp and your mind active. Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more and more common in our culture. Now is the time to keep your brain working.