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The mystery of the mind: 5 creative ways to stay sharp as a tack

From solving a murder mystery to sharing tall tales with your grandchildren – these five creative activities not only challenge your mind, but also have a lasting impact on your brain as you age.

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Murder mystery parties. Escape rooms. Mr. Green in the living room with the candlestick. 

It seems like our culture loves a good mystery. From podcasts to TV shows to immersive mystery experiences, we fancy ourselves to be amateur detectives, searching out the truth at all costs.

We dive into the clues, sort through the seemingly insignificant details to find common threads and piece together the narrative. We stretch our minds and hone our deductive reasoning. 

With the ultimate goal being bragging rights, these are all skills we need to solve the mystery first. However, they’re also beneficial to improving brain health and function. 

As we age, we need activities to help boost mental agility and sharpen our focus. Think of it like the need for physical activity. The more we exercise our brains, the more they are able to take on a new challenge and withstand the test of time.

This doesn’t have to be hard. Here are five creative ways you can stay sharp as a tack, even as you age.

Storytelling

This holiday season (and all year long), take the time to share stories with those you love. 

Ask your parents how they first met or your kids what they want to be when they grow up. As you cook a holiday meal, tell the story behind your favorite dish.

You can even take it a step further and create your own tale. Bedtime stories aren’t just for little kids. Draw out characters, incorporate historical events and even use props. Make it a game with your family around the dinner table.

Storytelling boosts the brain by allowing you to focus on the details and cultivate sustained attention. Plus, sharing past experiences boosts working memory and information retention. 

Puzzles and games

Games can be more than just a source of fun and competition. Puzzle activities make you hone in on specific images or clues for prolonged periods of time, strengthening selective attention. Immersive storytelling games, like Clue or an escape room, put your divided attention span to the test. Jigsaw puzzles promote visual stimulation, crossword puzzles exercise logic and anagrams build concentration. 

So, buy a new jigsaw puzzle or break out a board game. Host a murder mystery dinner party. Do the Sunday crossword.

Use your imagination and get creative

By taking a few moments to tap into our imagination and turn on our creative mindset, we not only make ourselves slow down and appreciate the world around us, but also keep our brains mentally strong and engaged. 

You could:

  • Take a painting class
  • Participate in a photo-a-day challenge
  • Draw a picture of something you love 
  • Journal about your day, concentrating on the details

Visual and auditory processing are key to boosting brain health. Plus, visual representations support working memory and make you focus on the details of your experiences. 

Embrace “get togethers” 

Find ways to do activities together as a family or with friends. Have a family game tournament. Go on a photo scavenger hunt and tell the story behind each image. With the holidays around the corner, consider giving the gift of mystery through an immersive mystery-solving experience or tickets to a murder mystery party so you can play the part.

Group interaction and socialization allows you to process things collectively, share ideas and work toward common goals. Plus, you’ll be making memories that will last a lifetime. 

Give the gift of time

Moments of reflection can quiet our minds and be vital to staying mentally fit. 

Here are a few simple ways to make time for reflection:  

  • Take 5 minutes each day to write down what you’re grateful for.
  • Schedule a standing coffee date to connect with a friend. 
  • Go for a walk each morning and document it with pictures. 

Exercising your mind can have lasting results

Keeping your mind active takes practice. Small, creative steps can help move you forward and boost your brain health. By taking the time to make your mental fitness a priority, you can stay sharp as a tack as you age.

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