How to Have Mental Longevity
"You grow older because you stop playing."
The traditional story about aging is that as we age, we slow down, become trapped in our habits, and forget to play. The good news is that we can avoid this, and we can all learn to use our brains to change our age. Who doesn’t want to live longer? And not only longer, but better?
I’ve talked before on the podcast about the study of nuns published by Time magazine—all of them were living youthfully despite being aged 90 and above—and the secrets to their longevity were their gratitude, faith and their dedication to lifelong learning. They were lifelong learners—just like you and me!
If you haven’t already checked out my previous episodes with Dr. Daniel Amen, check them out here!
Dr. Amen’s Books:
In today’s episode, I’ll remind you to schedule time to build your mental fitness, speak about the power of imagination to literally change the way you age, and the importance of retaining playfulness in your life as you grow older. I’ll take you through the 10 steps to healthy aging, and ask you to consider your progress on each step.
- The study conducted by Ellen Langer in the 1970s. She was looking at nursing homes, as she knew they were not the best place for people to thrive and age well
- The study involved 8 seniors aged in their 70s. She took them to a monastery for 1 week and asked them to act as if the time was 20 years ago. She set up the environment as if it was 20 years ago, asked them to behave as if they were 20 years younger, no mirrors to see themselves
- Control group: told to reminisce about experiences they had 20 years ago
- After one week, the experiment group was younger, as measured by physical strength. They also had better hearing, eyesight, cognitive performance, and memory
APPLY THIS TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL GROWTH
- Children have the most imagination and are the fastest learners. They ask lots of questions and play all the time
- When was the last time you actually played?
- The usual assumption is “you stopped playing because you got older”, but actually, you grow older because you stop playing.
- Rate yourself on the 10 steps below: how well are you doing in each of these categories? Give yourself a score on a scale of 1 to 10
10 STEPS TO AGEING
- Good Brain Diet: avocados, blueberries, broccoli, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, green leafy dark vegetables, turmeric, almonds
- Killing ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts): your thoughts make a difference to your performance, and become self-fulfilling. If you say constantly “I’m forgetful”, you will become that way. If you fight for your limitations you get to keep them, and your mind is always eavesdropping on your self-talk.
- Exercise: the number 1 function of your brain is to control movement. Moving your body in different ways stimulates neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, and the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). We lead sedentary lives- you have to move! Remember sitting is the new smoking.
- Brain nutrients & vitamins: find out what works for you! DHA is the most important supplement for the brain.
- Positive peer group: how inspired, encouraged, challenged, and energized by your peer group are you? This is not your family, but the peer group you choose to have in your life.
- Clean environment: how clean and organized is your environment? Your external world is a reflection of your internal world. Have you ever cleaned your workspace and had clarity of thought?
- Sleep: sleep is incredibly important for the following three reasons!
>Sleep allows your brain to consolidate short term memories to your long term memory. This works similarly to the way your body does—you build mental muscle, not during the workout, but when you rest.
>Sleep allows your body to work to clean plaque out that can lead to dementia
>Deep sleep will mean you enter the REM sleep phase. This is the phase where creativity comes from. Remember your brain is more active at night, it doesn’t shut off. Many creative leaders came up with life-changing thoughts during their dreams—this is a good reason for you to work on remembering your dreams!
- Brain protection: how well are you protecting your brain? Do you think we evolved to be able to handle all the electricity coming from our smart devices? This is especially concerning when you consider that many children sleep with their smart devices under their pillows.
To learn more about EMFs, check out this past Kwik Brain episode: 57: Protect Your Brain From EMFs with Dr. Joe Mercola
- New learnings: the nuns mentioned earlier were lifelong learners—they added years to their life and life to their years! The secrets to an ageless brain: neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which can be achieved through a novelty of ideas and nutrition. Unfortunately, as we get older many of us shut down because we feel like we know everything. Try to counter this—and think about this Rumi quote: “Sell your cleverness for bewilderment.”
- Stress management: how many of you don’t realize you are stressed? We don’t feel it sometimes because it’s there all the time without us noticing. We are under so many stresses (e.g. environmental, cognitive, relationship, financial), and this is not good for our thinking. It doesn’t help us study or perform—we can’t perform while adrenaline and cortisol are shutting down parts of our brain.
- How are you using your imagination? Your mind doesn’t know the difference between something you vividly imagine or something that is real.
- Remember that your mind is a powerful tool that can be used to support you or not support you.
- How can you change your environment in order to enhance your best self?
RELATED KWIK BRAIN EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Episode 56: How To Keep Your Brain Ageless
Episode 57: Protect Your Brain From EMFs with Dr. Joe Mercola
Episode 74: 7 Steps to a Healthy Brain with Dr. Daniel Amen
Episode 94: How to Love Learning