One of the best things about retiring is that you get to step back from the hustle and bustle of a busy workday.
But at the same time, a mounting body of evidence suggests that having too much leisure time in retirement may actually hamper your ability to think clearly and stay mentally sharp.
What’s a retiree to do? We’ve got a few ideas! Here are five expert-approved methods that may help keep your mind sharp well into retirement:
1.) Take Care of Your Body
Our bodies are complex, and made up of lots of interconnected systems. For that reason, it’s important to consider that better brain health may start with, say, your heart!
Yep—research suggests that better cardiovascular health is associated with better cognitive function. Taking care of common heart health issues, such as high cholesterol and hypertension, can help lower your risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke. These sudden health emergencies could have a catastrophic effect on your brain health.
Experts also recommend eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and taking steps to stay within a normal weight range. Getting proactive about your health helps reduce your risk for developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, which doctors say can all affect your brain in different ways.
2.) Adopt Healthy Habits
For most people, retirement means having more free time—which means having a better chance to kick bad habits, and pick up healthy new ones.
For example, retirees who cut back on smoking and excessive drinking are setting themselves up for better long-term health. Both of these bad habits have been shown to increase your risk for cognitive decline—and may even put you on a course for developing dementia. One National Institute of Health (NIH) study found that people who continued smoking as they aged were 41 percent more likely to display cognitive decline than former smokers or lifelong non-smokers.
At the same time, retirement is a great chance to adopt new behaviors, which could help keep your brain and body healthy for decades to come. Studies show that physically active people lower their risk for developing dementia, and are more likely to stay mentally alert over time.
Need some inspiration to get started? Why not check out our guide to staying physically active in retirement, here!
3.) Stay Socially Active
When you’re working, it’s often easier to stay socially engaged. Whether you’re negotiating with clients, chatting with your fellow employees, or fielding phone calls, the workday is often full of person-to-person interactions, which can be absolutely invaluable for staying mentally sharp.
Without the structure of a job, you may need to find other ways to stay socially engaged and mentally active. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Find volunteer opportunities
- Join a community organization
- Plan regular meet-ups with family, friends, etc.
- Organize a book club or other group activity among friends
4.) Engage Your Brain
One of the best ways to keep your brain healthy is to treat it like a muscle, and make sure it gets regular “exercise.”
The challenges of a workday, while occasionally stressful, can do wonders to keep your mind engaged and working up to its full capacity. With all of your newfound free time, it’s important to keep your mind occupied—or else it might just start to get lazy.
With that in mind (pun definitely intended), there are all sorts of ways you can challenge your brain every day. Some experts recommend taking up mentally challenging puzzles and games—such as crosswords, word searches, Sudoku, or chess—as a way to keep your mind active; others recommend trying to teach yourself a new skill, or learn a foreign language.
One more activity to try is meditation. In countless studies, this ancient practice has been found to:
- Reduce stress
- Lead to clearer, more positive thinking
- Boost self-esteem
- Help with problem-solving
5.) Get Plenty of Rest
For many people, one of the worst things about having a day job is waking up early every morning. That’s one of the great things about retirement! In many ways, you have a lot more say over your own schedule.
One way you can put this newfound freedom to work is to give yourself plenty of time for sleep and relaxation. Studies have suggested that getting too little sleep can negatively affect your memory and cognitive function. Most experts recommend getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep per night for optimum physical and mental health.
One More Thing . . .
Retirement comes with a whole new set of challenges and opportunities—do you have the right insurance to keep up? If you have any questions about health or life insurance, including Medicare supplement plans, the Enrollment Specialists can help!
With our health and life insurance superhero Matt Peebles on your side, you’ll always be able to say, “I Got A Guy!” for all things health and life insurance. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started for free.