How Do You Keep Your Brain Sharp?

Wondering what you can do to maintain your mental edge? We asked some razor-sharp women to reveal their secrets.

Tips to Enhance Brain Power
Wondering what you can do to maintain your mental edge? We asked some razor-sharp women to reveal their secrets. Get inspired by their words of wisdom, and then share your own tips for improving your brain’s health in our discussion.

Reinvent the To-Do
Go visual. I make a list of things to do each day and I memorize it. As a help, I mentally attach each “to do” to the corner of a geometrical figure. Three things to a triangle, four to a square and so on.
— Submitted by Kate Learson, age 63, soul age 18

PLUS: Challenge yourself when you’re on the go with the Word Power iPhone app

Get Comfortable Pushing the Envelope
I try to work up a sweat for at least an hour a day — be it working out, walking the dogs, biking, hiking, scuba diving. Spin classes and Pilates are favorites. As for scuba diving, if you screw up on that, you die. That’s a pretty good motivator for keeping focused.

I work on political campaigns. Since I have pantyhose older than most of the kids working on these campaigns, it keeps me competitive. Living on caffeine and cold pizza for three or four months does have its drawbacks, but that’s where spin classes come in.

I enjoy seeing new things, experiencing new cultures, and eating new foods. Remember, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”
— Submitted by Susan B. Castner, age 52

Delight in Life’s Delicacies
Fall asleep to sweetness. Go to sleep looking at or smelling something lovely. When you wake up, it might very well still be there. If it’s not, remember it over coffee. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Want to do anything you do.
— Submitted by Jane-Howard Hammerstein, age 72

Keep Pace With Ambition
Move your body and mind. Learn to do yoga. Or, if you are into trendy, Pilates will do.

Get heavily involved with a new skill or a new venture. Mine is raising alpacas, and soon I am going to write a fabulous blog that everybody will read.

PLUS: Stay sharp and save the world–play Word Power: The Green Revolution

Keep current. Always have something on your brain burner that you are going to do soon — like a trip or Spanish lessons.

Maintain an alliance. Have an equally ancient friend who knows the same songs you do and the same slang from the same era.
— Submitted by Penelope Coker Hall, age 74

Extend Your Margins
Puzzle yourself. Do a Sudoko puzzle each day. Give back and gain — talk to the young. Get physical. Exercise and enjoy regular sex. Plan ahead. Resolve each year to learn something new and visit a remote part of the planet.
— Submitted by Anne Best, age 60

Seek Out Challenges
I do The New YorkTimes crossword until Friday or Saturday, when I’m at a total loss. I’m also addicted to Sudoku. And I do the taxes for my business partnership, which is pretty challenging, especially reading the small print!
— Submitted by Bette Weed, age 66

Embrace Vivacity and Dip into Diversity
I try to maintain my knowledge of languages, since I have always been interested in them. The group that I belong to is now working on Italian, and I will probably go back to Berlitz when I need to use French again.

I have been learning how to sing, and it is probably the most interesting thing I have ever done. I attend an amazing audition class, which seems to give me courage to perform, while making me appear calm and self-assured. Also, I found that learning lyrics of new material is hard, but rewarding. While the songs I knew when I was young stay with me, the new ones are always a challenge.

Reap the rewards of a demanding hobby. My husband and I ski most of the winter. We found you must work out all year to ski — it is that demanding. The travel makes it even more interesting.

Take a dip. I used to run and race, but my knees deserted me about 5 years ago. Now, twice a week, I work out with a trainer. I also swim 5 days a week, early in the morning. I think the laps clear my head.

Focus on family. The children — particularly the grandchildren — provide the incentive to keep up and stay active. Their interests, activities and even their homework allow opportunities to maintain some degree of acuity.
— Submitted by Dolly-Ellen Friedman, age 70

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest