Aging is a natural part of life, but losing your mental sharpness doesn't have to be.

Just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, an active mind gathers no dust. The secret to keep your mind sharp and vivid means keeping it active, challenged, and well fed. It is a muscle after all, and just like any muscle, your brain needs practice and the right nutrients.

Here are some surprisingly simple things that can keep your mind working in top gear into your golden years:

  1. Spend some time with friends: That banter you have with your friends is healthier than you know. Actively participating in conversation involves multiple parts of the brain. Listening, interpreting information, and forming a response actively work your mind. So call a friend or visit with one. Telling jokes and laughing it up also help beat stress, a big hindrance to brain function.
  2. Exercise: Research shows that exercising often improves brain function by stimulating it with endorphins and other chemicals. Some research shows that exercising throughout life can protect against age-related brain functioning. Exercise time is also a great time to clear your mind of stress, or concentrate solely on something that is troubling you.
  3. Learn something new: Don't let anyone tell you old dogs can't learn new tricks. While older adults may take a little longer to learn a new task than their youthful counterparts, a healthy mind is capable of learning new tasks at any age. Whether it be taking up a new hobby or learning Cantonese, the more you test your brain to learn, the more it will be up to the challenge.
  4. Eat: Your brain won't fire right if you're starving. Great brain foods include nuts, blueberries, and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fresh-water fish and avocados. Drinking green tea and coffee can also boost your brain's power.
  5. Daydream: While teachers told us not to do it, letting your mind wander allows several parts of your brain to function at once, including the section involved in complex problem solving.