If you want to have better focus, improve your memory, and boost mental performance, you can take several steps to nurture your cognitive health.

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Certain daily habits may not only contribute to your mental acuity but also may help improve your mood, keep your body in shape, and provide a good foundation for supporting your overall well-being.

Experts point out that as you age, your cognitive abilities play an important role in quality of life and independence. And things like your capacity to learn, decision-making ability, language skills, and memory can be influenced by more than just your genes.

Here are a few key tips on how to keep your brain sharp.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the things you do for fun, including socializing with your friends, can help promote mental acuity.

Leisure activities like playing a game of cards or a musical instrument can engage your brain while you practice focus and memory recall. Even listening to your favorite music could help activate your recognition memory, one 2019 study suggests.

On top of that, having positive social relationships is associated with better cognitive performance and less memory decline as you age.

So, the next time you enjoy time with your family or friends, know that you’re also contributing to self-care for your mental and psychological health.

Read more about exercises to make your brain sharper.

Eating a well-balanced diet is important for your health for a variety of reasons, including fostering a sharper brain as you age.

Healthcare professionals often recommend the Mediterranean diet for promoting brain health. It may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This diet includes lots of:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • nuts
  • beans and legumes
  • whole grains
  • extra virgin olive oil

It has moderate amounts of:

  • eggs
  • fish
  • poultry

Plus, it limits:

  • sugar
  • refined carbohydrates
  • processed meats
  • other highly processed foods

Whether you’re at work or school or just going about your daily life, a healthy diet made up of whole foods can help you keep your brain in shape.

Read more about brain foods for studying.

Many people incorporate supplements into their daily health routine to get vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in their diet.

Popular vitamins and supplements include:

  • Omega-3s. Salmon and trout are rich sources of these fatty acids that you can include in your diet. Scientists have studied omega-3s for their role in supporting memory and other cognitive functions.
  • Vitamin D. Your skin makes this vitamin naturally when it’s exposed to the sun. Scientists have studied its potential connection to a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as people age.
  • Vitamin B12. This vitamin comes from certain animal products. Scientists have studied it for its ability to help improve your mood and memory.
  • Ginkgo biloba. People have long used this traditional herbal remedy in Chinese medicine. Some take it as a complementary approach to memory-related illness.
  • Ginseng. Researchers have studied this herbal remedy for its potential positive influence on brain functions, like memory.

Nootropics are substances that some people take to improve brain function and performance. Some are natural, like ginseng, ginkgo, and caffeine, and others are synthetic (human-made).

If you’re interested in taking supplements for brain health, make sure to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help you find the right options for you.

Read more about nootropics and “smart drugs” here.

If you exercise regularly, you’re not only improving your physical strength but also taking an important step in keeping mentally fit.

A research review from 2016 shows that consistent fitness activity is tied to an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a part of your brain that plays a crucial role in memory.

Whether you prefer to dance, ride a bike, swim, or participate in another active sport, you may be helping improve both your motor abilities and mental health. According to the 2016 review, studies suggest that regular exercise can help to reduce depression.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience the benefits of physical activity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting consistent exercise, with at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic movement each week. That could be about 30 minutes of activity per day for 5 days. The CDC also recommends muscle strengthening exercises at least twice per week.

The CDC suggests breaking up this active time into smaller chunks spread across your day, if that works better for you than one longer exercise session.

While not everyone can reach this goal, a little bit of exercise is better than none. Even a simple fitness activity, like a regular brisk walk, can make a difference.

When you don’t get enough sleep, it can be difficult to think clearly, focus, and even control your emotions.

Research from 2019 found that sleep has a critical relationship to memory, including long-term retention when it comes to learning.

The CDC recommends that adults get 7 or more hours of sleep per night. Good sleep habits are also important to help you achieve a quality night’s rest.

These include:

  • going to bed at the same time every night
  • getting exercise during the day
  • not taking in alcohol, caffeine, or large meals before bedtime
  • avoiding tobacco use
  • making your bedroom dark and a comfortable temperature

Physical and cognitive health go hand in hand. In other words, to take care of your mind, make sure you take care of your body, too.

Many self-care habits, like getting a good amount of exercise and a good sleep, help support your ability to perform mental processes and can help strengthen your current cognitive health.

You may be surprised to learn that you’re already taking some of these steps to stay sharp, and others are easy to incorporate into your daily life. So, why not give them a try?