Mild memory loss is quite common as we grow older. But there are many strategies you can use to preserve your memory and keep your brain functioning at full speed, even as you age. A new study provides another addition to this toolbox of memory improvement tips: researchers have found that people who do art, craft, and social activities in mid and late life have a reduced risk for developing mild cognitive impairment in old age.
Published in the journal Neurology in April 2015, the study followed 256 participants over the age of 85 who had normal cognition at enrollment. Self-reported questionnaires kept track of lifestyle factors, such as which activities the participants engaged in, as well as whether they had medical issues like depressive symptoms or hypertension. After an average four-year follow up, 121 of the participants had developed mild cognitive impairment. But the participants who engaged in art, craft, or social activities in mid and late life were significantly less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment during the course of the study. Using a computer in late life was also associated with a reduced risk.
The study also found that factors like current depressive symptoms, genetic factors, and hypertension beginning in midlife increased the risk for mild cognitive impairment.
Creativity, socialization, and aging
The results of the study aren’t surprising. Making art can result in observable changes in your brain, helping to make connections between various brain regions and enhancing cognitive performance. Various studies have found that artistic activities help people perform better on memory tests, showing that stimulating the brain in a creative way is important in keeping it healthy. The brain loves variety, and creative activities are a great way to give your brain a healthy workout.
Social engagement is also essential for good health. Studies show that meaningful relationships and diverse social networks are major protective factors against cognitive decline in old age. Research also shows that social connections help people to live longer, too.[3,4]
Tips for incorporating brain-boosting activities into your daily life
If you don’t currently engage in any of these activities, here’s how to get started.
- Join a club. What interests you? Painting? Knitting? Hiking? Reading? Writing? Joining a club and getting together with a group of people with similar interests will make you regularly engage in a hobby, while at the same time introducing you to new people and offering a stable social outlet. Try using Meetup.com to find local groups.
- Take a class. Look at the schedules at your local community center, community college, or craft store. Find a class in some art or craft activity that sounds fun to you. It could be as simple as learning how to knit, to as advanced as fine-tuning your brush technique in oil painting.
- Schedule “hobby time” each week. Intentionally setting aside time each week to do something artistic or crafty might be the only way to make yourself get around to it. I personally love to make jewelry, but it wasn’t until I scheduled a weekly craft night with a few close friends and family that I actually made time for it on a regular basis. Now, I spend at least a few hours each Wednesday evening being creative. Schedule time, either for yourself or for a group, to sit down and get to work on whatever project inspires you.
- Try something new. Look up directions on the internet, buy an instructive book, or experiment with a new art or craft. You might learn that you love woodworking, or perhaps block printing, jewelry making, sewing, or creating mosaics. Visit your local craft or hobby store to brainstorm ideas, and experiment with different types of projects until you get hooked. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself to be good at art – you don’t have to be an artist to take advantage of the health benefits of making it.
For more memory improvement tips, check out these resources:
- Prevent Memory Loss with This Simple Strategy
- Vitamins for Memory Loss and Stroke Prevention
- Best Exercise Type to Prevent Memory Loss and Mild Cognitive Impairment
Share your experience
Do you enjoy any arts or crafts? What ideas do you have for making them a regular activity? Share any other of your favorite memory improvement tips in the comments section below.