It happens to the best of us – you drive home from work and don’t even remember making the trip. You leave home and forget if you locked the door. It’s human nature to go on autopilot. You fall into a daily routine and follow the same steps when performing everyday activities, such as driving to work or making breakfast.
As we age, sticking with the same daily routine can be hazardous to our mental health. When we perform a new task, or learn something new it stimulates our hippocampus —the part of our brain that is responsible for memory. When we do the same thing day in and day out, we’re essentially putting our memory on pause.
This explains why so many of us can’t remember what we wore yesterday!
Routines are easy to follow because they’re comfortable, but it’s time for you and your aging loved ones to mix it up to keep your memory in top shape.
Follow these tips to remember
Wake up earlier
If you like to sleep in, try waking up an hour or two earlier. Early-risers tend to feel more productive since they have extra time to organize and plan their day. This also prevents you from getting frazzled and tense.
Change your breakfast fare
Vary what you eat for breakfast to keep things more interesting. Are you reaching for the oatmeal every morning? Try a vegetable omelet or hearty bran muffin, instead. This small change can pull you out of your routine and get your brain moving earlier in the morning.
Take a different route
Take the backroad home from work or a new route to the grocery store. Driving on unfamiliar roads will help your brain stay more alert as you take in new scenery and learn new streets.
Have dinner earlier
Do you always eat dinner at 6 p.m.? Try eating a little earlier and go for a walk after you clean up the dishes. Not only will you change your routine, but you’ll also get in some heart-pumping exercise!
Go on an adventure
Rather than staying in on the weekend and doing chores, explore. Try a new restaurant or visit a new town. Taking in new sights is a great way to engage your mind and lift your mood!
Making even the smallest change, will put your brain to work and can help improve your memory. Whether you choose to completely revamp your routine, or vow to make a small change, your mind and spirit will benefit greatly.
Christina Chartrand serves as Vice President of Training for Senior Helpers Franchising. With over 25 years of experience, she has created numerous training programs for families, employees, managers, and business owners. Recently she developed training and materials for the Senior Gems® program and produced a DVD for families receiving Alzheimer’s and dementia care. This program has received positive feedback from caregivers, clinicians and families and is endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.