The Best Hobbies to Establish Now for Improved Brain and Memory Health Down the Road
Like the rest of your organs, your brain ages and changes over time. Some of these shifts are invisible (the human brain actually shrinks in size as we age), but others—like a failing memory—can be more obvious as time goes on. That's why it is so important to take steps to keep your brain (and your memory) sharp, starting right now. Fortunately, picking up a new hobby might be the easiest way to do so. Ahead, some of the best memory-boosting skills to learn today, and why remaining mentally engaged and active is so critical to brain health.
Hobbies absolutely matter to brain health.
The brain needs to be challenged to thrive, says Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin, a professor at Bradley University. "Most hobbies will activate the sensory motor cortex, involving sensory motor integration and attentional and motivational ideas," she explains. "This strip is located in the middle of the head, going from ear to ear."
Different hobbies activate different areas of your brain.
Dr. Russell-Chapin notes that most hobbies require memorization. Some, like Taekwondo, even use the entire brain. "Quilting and other creative activities utilize major brain networks, such as the Default Fault Mode Network (DMN), which generates ideas, the executive control network (ECN), which evaluates ideas, and the salience network (SN), which helps decide which ideas to implement," she explains, adding that some experts believe that the "Big Three Brain Networks" assist us in divergent thinking across all creative activities.
Pick up the right ones.
In addition to using major brain networks, hobbies often generate neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, both of which keep brain neurons growing and thriving, says Dr. Russell-Chapin. "Hebb's Rule states that 'Neurons that fire together, wire together,'" she explains. "Hobbies keep our brains fluid and adaptable." Attempting to master an instrument, playing chess, and learning a new language are excellent ways to keep your brain thriving. But, as with any hobby, practice makes perfect: Dr. Russell-Chapin says you'll need to keep challenging yourself and sharpening your skills in order for your hobbies to promote brain health.
If you're worried about your brain, but haven't picked up any new hobbies over the years that might help keep those neurons growing and thriving, Dr. Russell-Chapin says not to worry—and to start now. "People can pick up hobbies at any age," she explains. "We can build new neuronal pathways until we die." And don't forget about the other components of your overall wellness that contribute to brain health, she says. "Every day we all need to get up in the morning and say, 'What do I need to do today for my brain health?'" she says, which should involve exercising, eating well, and sleeping soundly.