It starts slowly – you have trouble putting a name to a face. Then, it becomes a daily hassle – you accidentally put the coffee pot in fridge or the keys in the pantry. It can be so frustrating! Sometimes it seems like memory decline, “senior moments”, or “menofog” are an inevitable part of aging. That’s discouraging for anyone in midlife or beyond, but what if you could boost your brain power by doing something you already love? Well, science shows that you can!
The Whitehall II study indicates that memory decline begins around age 45, but this and other studies also reveal several things you can do to stave off memory loss and boost brain function. Luckily for adventurers and travel-lovers ,like us, many of these strategies can be exercised in the simple act of taking a trip.
Let’s take a look at the strategies and the ways travel can be incorporated to help stave off memory decline and increase quality of life at any age.
TRAVEL TO BOOST BRAIN FUNCTION
1. INCREASING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Whether its a trek through the airport or up a mountain, travelling gets us up off our butts and on our feet – at least for a time. To increase the benefits to your brain, schedule some intentional physical activity time into your travel plans.
- Walk to a nearby restaurant.
- Ride a bike around a park.
- Swim in the hotel pool, lake or ocean.
- Take a stroll on the beach or a hike into the mountains.
2. EMPLOYING THE SENSES
Different parts of the brain process different senses. So, when traveling, as you engage your destination with all of your senses, you trigger more and more brain activity which will help with the recall of the experieinces later. Being mindful of your surroundings will help in using your senses intentionally.
- Close your eyes and listen to the sound of the waves and wind, the birds in the trees or the bustling crowds.
- Notice the colors and textures of the sand, plants, textiles and clouds.
- Reach out an touch the water, the blankets, the fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market.
- Be intentional when you’re eating, to taste each bite and savor the local flavors.
- Smell the mountain air, the spices in the market or the citrus growing along the side of the road.
3. ENGAGING THE BRAIN
They say an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. Well, it’s the same with the brain. The more you use your brain, the more it is accustomed to being used. Easy, right? The great thing is that travel lends itself nicely to the increased use of the brain for processing, learning and socializing.
- Take some classes to learn some key phrases in a new language.
- Talk to the locals and make some friends. Socializing is great for improving memory and boosting brain function!
- Plan your daily activities by reading about your destination, mapping your routes and learning about local traditions.
- Take a tour and learn about the history of different peoples and locales.
- Visit a museum, take a class, or read a book on the beach. Studies show that reading fiction increases brain power.
4. BELIEVING YOU CAN
Break the rules and defy the stereotypes of midlife as a time of decline and loss! Travel breeds adventure and adventure breeds confidence. No one says you have to settle down and just sit on your couch while your grandkids play around you. Get out there and do the things you’ve been dreaming of. As you engage in travel, practice self-confidence and positive self-talk, you prove the critics wrong and that’s a powerful way to keep your mind sharp.
- Remind yourself of all the ways you’re growing, not declining.
- Affirm your adventurous, travel-loving spirit.
- Create memory albums to remind you of all you CAN do!
- Share your stories with friends. Recalling your travels over time will improve memory retention.
Now, we all know that travel can be exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. By keeping to your regular sleep schedule, even when traveling, you give your brain time to rest and rejuvenate. Be sure to continue with your normal 7 – 8 hours of sleep, even on vacation.
Yes, there are travel related activities that can be counterproductive in the brain function department. By practicing moderation and refraining from these few things, you will optimize your brain function and memory retention. These include: not smoking, limit alcohol to one drink a day and limit sugary treats and trans fats.
All in all, the science is clear: you do not have to lose brain function with advancing age. Menopause doesn’t have to leave you in a fog for the rest of your life. Your brain is able to regenerate and grow throughout your lifetime, and travel is a really great way to employ scientifically proven strategies to help your brain rejuvenate with each passing year.
P.S. Get a jump on travel memories with our FREE Grace Over 50 Travel Journal Page.