4.) Learn. New skills help you do more than just say merci in French. Learning strengthens the whole brain. Start by simply trying new things: visit a new place, learn a song, and rearrange the furniture-they all stimulate your neurons. Or do normal things in odd ways, such as brushing your teeth with your left (non-dominant) hand, taking a new route home, or sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. At first you might feel a little awkward or silly, but then you will begin to enjoy the challenge. Learn something new like quilting or bridge, or take a community class in engine repair or gourmet cooking. You can also try a new or harder Sudoku or a crossword puzzle. As a reward, you'll come away with new skills and possibly give your brain a better chance against Alzheimer's.
5.) Create. For years, scientists believed the right side of the brain was responsible for creativity. However, recent functional brain scans show that the whole brain engages in creative thinking. You can stoke your creativity by getting bored (reducing time spent watching TV and movies, turning off the computer and video games, or not reading). Your brain will turn to itself for inspiration. You can also build time for creative experience: try a new craft, put a sketch pad on your desk, or make a date to spend a half hour each week writing, painting, knitting, or building a bird house. Pump the creative well, and you'll inspire yourself while building new neural connections.
Remember, your brain is flexible and alive regardless of your age, and no matter how many keys or words you misplace. By reducing stimulation and making little changes, you'll appreciate your wonderful brain. Start big or small, and you'll find your brain coming back to life.
Sondra Kornblatt is the author of "A Better Brain at Any Age: The Holistic Way to Improve Your Memory, Reduce Stress, and Sharpen Your Wits" (Conari Press, 2008). Learn more at www.redwheelweiser.com