Today let’s talk about the single most powerful source of youth. One that will keep your eyes bright, your soul alive and leave you with an instant charisma bonus.
Maintain Your Cognitive Flexibility
„Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.“
– Henry Ford
Nothing is as dull, as unattractive, as big a turn-off as a whiny puddle of retrograde ideas. Things were so much better when you were young – or in the “good old days”, the ephemeral fantasy world of the past. Oh really? Things were so much better in the old days? Which one of the many glorious days are you missing exactly, then: the before-women-could-vote days? The nobody-can-read-except-the-monks days? The bubonic plague, perhaps? The Hundred Years War? The days before the wheel was invented?
Of course I’m exaggerating, and heavily, but I’ve got a point to make:
Curiosity and an open mind are the best anti-ageing powers we’ve got. But it has natural enemies. Thankfully, we can help fight them.
The ability of a human brain to handle new ideas in new ways as well as to switch between ideas and concepts is called cognitive flexibility. It’s a vital part of learning, and learning is a vital part of staying young. As we age, our brain develops cognitive flexibility weaknesses also known as cognitive rigidity all by itself or perpetuated by our own poor lifestyle choices. However, researchers worldwide show that several healthy habits can help delay this decline.
Okay, science, so how do we maintain a youthful mind open to new and brilliant ideas?
1. Eat well
Eating whole foods, healthy fats (omega 3, in particular: DHA and EPA) – from fatty fish, nuts and unrefined plant oils – while avoiding sugar is something that helps keep our guts and, as a result, brains at their healthiest.
Our bodies are made to move. Not just from one seat to another, or to grab another cup of coffee (even worse: a cigarette).
Regular physical exercise is associated with healthier brains – and an increase of cognitive flexibility. Different sources define “regular” differently, but later studies suggest that half an hour of “moderate physical activity” every day or 150 minutes a week.
3. Meditate & practice yoga
Several studies find evidence for higher cognitive abilities linked to yoga and meditation practices. And – even though it’s pretty obvious, as there are studies proving that psychological stress reduces cognitive abilities – meditation helps keep your stress levels lower, eliminating an additional risk to your cognitive flexibility
(Source, source, source)
4. Sleep well
Oh how I love this one in particular!
There are so many articles dedicated to healthy sleep here on BEAUTYCALYPSE for a good reason – sleep is crucial for our health and wellbeing.
And when it comes to enhancing and maintaining our cognitive abilities, REM sleep is the phase we want to nurture and to wake up during.
There are studies proving that learning can help restore cognitive flexibility – even in the elderly (>75)! Learn new ideas or new skills; memorise and recite poems; learn a new foreign language; learn how to draw or how to cook – the possibilities are nearly endless and, with today’s technology, don’t even require you to leave your home. This is for all my introvert friends 😉
6. (My favourite) Play!
Now that is my idea of fun!
Research shows that games focussing on rapid switching between multiple information and action sources lead to a large and measurable increase in cognitive flexibility: bad news for Solitaire players, good news for action gamers.
So excuse me, while I slip into the shoes of an Altmer fighter – I do it for my cognitive superpowers!