AS we get older, more and more commitments take up our time – whether work or ageing parents, kids or grandkids… or often all at the same time.
But making sure you look after yourself is vital and making space in your mind for a different outlook, a new challenge for your brain or a new element to your social life will not only benefit you but those around you, too.
As a busy mum who spent years looking after my parents and working full-time in a high-pressure TV job, I know that it’s not always easy but it is worth it.
Try just a few of these today and it could make all the difference…
People are as old as they feel – with those who report feeling younger than their age tending to live more active lives for longer. Commit to a more youthful mindset.
1 Don’t talk yourself old
Stop using phrases such as “I feel ancient”, or “When you get to my age…”. Negative language has been shown to limit people’s motivation and prevent them from trying new things.
2 Be curious about the world again
People who stay active into their 90s and beyond tend to share an undiminished curiosity about the world and new things.
Explore a subject you’ve never learnt about before, a book genre, cuisine or music you know nothing about.
3 Avoid negativity
Being around people who constantly criticise or moan can reduce your enjoyment of life.
Negative personality types have been found to have shorter “telomeres” – the caps on DNA strands that protect chromosomes from age-related damage. Shorter telomeres are linked to faster ageing. Surround yourself with upbeat people.
4 Train yourself to be more optimistic
Optimists recover faster from illness and may live longer. Older people were up to 35% less likely to die during the five-year study by University College London if they felt happy, excited and content on a typical day.
Daily positive affirmations such as “This will be a fun experience” or “I can do this” will change your thought process. This can boost self-esteem and fend off depression.
5 Rediscover your inner child
“Notice how small children get so much joy out of very simple things and try to do the same for an instant brain anti-ager,” suggests psychologist Dr Meg Arroll.
Taking the time to savour a flavour or that special song can boost your mood.
6 Puzzle it out
Any challenging mental activity will ensure the neurons (nerve cells) in your brain remain strong and renew themselves. Do the number puzzle or crossword in your Mirror.
7 Try something different
Being stuck in a routine stops your brain being challenged.
A new routine can be as simple as brushing your teeth with the other hand, taking a new route to work or swapping your knife and fork.
These changes force your brain cells to make new neurons and gives old ones a good workout.
8 Surf the net
Don’t feel guilty about idle web surfing – it’s a brain workout.
The University of California Los Angeles compared middle-aged people who rarely used the internet against experienced users and found the latter had more active areas in the part of the brain which controls decisions and remembers complex information.
9 Do Things the Hard Way
Technology can make us lazy. Using your brain instead of your smartphone for basic mental skills will give it a quick workout.
You could also try to memorise the phone numbers of your close contacts. Or why not turn off your satnav for short journeys?
10 Get crafty
Using your hands to make things – be it cards, clothes or even furniture – has the power to focus the brain in a similar way to meditation. Focused activity can act as a natural antidepressant and may protect against brain ageing.
11 Keep friends close
Developing friendships is a key secret to living to 100, an Australian study found.
Scientists believe the emotional support helps deal with stress and boosts the body’s production of feelgood chemicals dopamine and oxytocin.
12 Get out and about
Make the effort to see friends at least once a week or look for ways to meet new people.
13 Learn to argue less
Rows release large amounts of the stress hormones cortisol and corticotropin – both enemies of good recall.
14 Make love more OFTEN
Sex boosts prolactin, which appears to help create and nurture new nerve cells, according to Prof Perry Bartlett, of the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute in Australia.
15 Have a cuddle
Cuddling releases the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for stress relief, building a stronger bond and may even reverse brain ageing.
16 Book a fun night out
Laughter boosts blood to the brain and improves your memory. Smiley people are also thought to look three years younger than glum counterparts.
17 Catch hearing loss early
Treating hearing loss would have more impact on overall dementia rates than any other measure.
Deafness is believed to trigger changes to the brain which weaken its resistance to damage.
It can also lead to people becoming more socially isolated and depressed.
Speak to your GP or visit hiddenhearing.co.uk.
18 Check your blood pressure
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in your brain, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen.
This can result in vascular dementia – brain areas becoming damaged or even dying.
See your GP if you are over 40 and have not had your BP checked for two years.
19 Stop smoking
If all smokers over 60 quit it would cut dementia cases by 5%. Stopping smoking reduces exposure to toxins and improves circulation and heart function, which also boosts brain health.
20 Go to bed an hour earlier
Any sleep deprivation – even losing just an hour a night – can hamper memory as when you sleep a part of the brain called the hippocampus files away memories.
21 Don’t ignore depression
Having depression nearly doubles your risk of developing dementia. Experts are not sure if depression somehow damages the brain or if it’s the resulting isolation and physical inactivity that are to blame.
It may even be a combination of the two. If a low mood is affecting your daily life don’t ignore it, speak to your GP.