Here's how to get four more stealthy brain boosters off the endangered species list and back into your life:
- Less noise, more silence. Noise ages even 19-year-old brains. Loud noises during the night (planes, trucks, trains, the party next door) can disturb deep, restorative sleep enough to make your reaction times "old" in the morning. Try running a white noise machine to muffle disruptive noises at night. Exposure to high-decibels causes surges in blood pressure and stress hormones, and both can be major brain-agers. If you work in a noisy environment (factories, construction), wear a protective headset (hey, they even look cool). Cover your ears if a loud noise erupts near you (jackhammer, siren, low-flying jet, vuvuzelas). And when you've got to focus, turn off the radio and shut the door. Your brain is less able to screen out distracting sounds with age, making sharp thinking and recall more of a challenge if you're trying to balance the checkbook while listening to the ball game. Learn how to care for your ears.
- Less artificial light, more natural light. Sun
salutations aren't just for yoga class. When your prehistoric ancestors
peeked out of their caves each morning to check for saber-toothed
tigers, that first burst of natural light woke up the sweet spot deep in
their brains that was responsible for daytime alertness. Same thing
happens now: Greeting the day gets your brain in gear, boosting your
ability to concentrate and turn out stellar work. The lightbulb over
your bathroom mirror can't do this. It takes intense blue light, a
wavelength so far found only in Mother Nature's homemade morning light.
Scientists are working on artificial versions; there's early evidence that exposure to extremely bright blue-white light may reverse dementia and depression. For most, a few minutes of natural morning light may be all that is needed to feel bright eyed and bushy tailed.
- Less stuffy, smelly air . . . more fresh breaths. You spend 90% of your time indoors, where stale air causes mental fatigue and even some diseases. The cause? Anything from mold or mildew to substances released by fresh paint, new carpet, cleaning products, and artificial smells, including, disturbingly, some air fresheners. The fix? Choose scent-free products. Open your windows regularly; open vents on air conditioners; and ventilate well when using cleaning products or scented sprays (even fragrances) and, of course, when you're painting anything or replacing carpeting.
- Less clutter, more wide-open spaces. Visual clutter slows down your brain. That's why clusters of road signs double the chances that you'll miss the one you're looking for and why designers of Websites and hospitals aim for simplicity. We instinctively look at something uncomplicated while wrestling with tricky problems (which is why you'd rather gaze at a blank wall than a Jackson Pollock painting when you're doing your taxes). Clearing up the clutter in your files or on your desk, bureau, or shelves could do wonders for your bookkeeping, not to mention help your brain stay closer to age 18. Is there a hoarder in your life?