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5 Reasons You Need A Bucket List for Your Brain Health (Plus 10 Must-Have Items to Add to Yours Today!)

aging brain health Sep 20, 2022
mental health in aging

Do you have a bucket list?

Or at least a mental list of things you’d like to do this month? This year? In this lifetime?

If you answered yes, keep reading to learn how your bucket list is helping your brain. 

If you answered no, consider these five brain healthy reasons you need a bucket list (or a list of life goals by any other name).

... plus some fabulous items you may never have thought to add to yours!

The Top 5 Brain Healthy Benefits of a Bucket List

  1. Purpose

As you get older, your life changes alongside your age. You may retire and have more time in your day-to-day life. At first that may feel refreshing and restorative. However, over time, lacking a clear purpose to each day can be bothersome.

Creating a bucket list is a positive way to set intentional goals. It gives you something to strive toward, plan for and look forward to, all of which can be a welcome experience when you’re used to being busy.

Additionally, having a purpose can improve your mental health in aging and reduce your risk of impairment in memory or memory loss disease. Retirement depression is very real, impacting approximately 40% of retired people with the main cause cited as, ‘lacking purpose.’

Declining mental health in aging greatly increases your risk of impairment in memory and other diseases. Therefore, having a sense of greater purpose and life goals can be extremely helpful for your mindset, mood and longevity.

  1. Creativity

When you’re crafting your bucket list, the sky is the limit. Creating a bucket list allows you to dream bigger, nurture your inner child and stay inspired.

Creativity sharpens the brain, which can stave off impairment in memory, depression and other factors that impact your mental health in aging.

  1. New learning

Want to the know the key ingredient to a healthy, sharp, and vibrant brain as you age?

It’s lifelong learning. Cognitively stimulating activities like reading, traveling, taking up a new hobby or learning something new promotes brain growth, at any age. New and novel learning is your best tool to combat brain degeneration that is typical with age.

New learning can also improve your focus and memory, reduce your risk of dementia, and increase your ability to problem solve challenges.

  1. Memories

What kind of memory health coach would I be if I didn’t mention the importance of creating new memories?

The best exercise for memory, is using your memory. Creating positive and enlightening experiences will give you something to talk about for years to come, leading to more socialization and activation of your memory pathways. All of which strengthen your mind as you age.

  1. Optimism

In her book, Remember, Neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova says, “You find what you look for. If you look for magic every day, if you pay attention to the moments of joy and awe, you can then capture these moments and consolidate them into memory. Over time, your life’s narrative will be populated with memories that make you smile.”

Optimism helps you hold on to the good and navigate the not-so-great. It helps to reinforce your purpose, your identity, and your hope as you continue to plan for your future.

And a bucket list is a great way to stay optimistic in the face of aging.

These years are golden and well-earned, use them well!

 Here are 10 gratifying, brain-healthy items to add to your bucket list today:

  • Explore your own town. You know those museums down the street that you’ve driven past 1,000 times without ever stopping? Get curious and be a tourist in your own community or a neighboring town or city.
  • Work your way through a cookbook. Channel your inner Julia Child and commit to cooking at least 1 recipe a day (or a week) through your favorite cookbook. Need recommendations? Check out my list of the 3 best brain healthy cookbooks on the market.
  • Set a book goal. Reading is a fabulous way to continue new learning and improve your memory. Commit to a monthly or annual goal that excites you. Bonus: try a new genre or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to learn more about.
  • Visit a National Park. There are 423 National Parks in the United States. Make a list of the ones you’d like to visit the most and create a plan to get yourself there.
  • Try a new kind of exercise. If you’re an avid walker, consider a yoga class or a pickleball lesson. Spicing up your workout routine can not only help you stay motivated and fit but it’s also a great way to continue new learning and to exercise your mental agility. And who knows... you may find another type of movement that you love!
  • Learn how to meditate. Meditation has powerful brain boosting benefits that can improve mental health in aging and reduce impairment in memory. It’s also a great way to get in touch with yourself, your feelings and your personal goals and desires!
  • Explore a new city. Traveling boasts many brain benefits, it’s also refreshing to get a change of scenery. Bonus: Book a walking tour in a new city. You can usually select a haunted tour, a foodie trip, or another themed adventure to add to the fun.
  • Enroll in a class. Sign yourself up to learn something new. It can be as intense as a college course or as light as a local cooking class.
  • Start a small business. You know that talent you’ve always had, like crafting handmade greeting cards or writing witty one-liners, put it to good use by setting up shop online, at craft fairs or out of your home.
  • Volunteer at 3 different kinds of places. Dog shelter? Nursing home? Food pantry? Lending your help is not only much needed but it can also be very gratifying and purposeful.

Now that we’ve discussed all the amazing benefits of a bucket list and some practical, yet fun items to add to yours, let’s chat about making your list a reality.

While crafting your bucket list alone may be a lot of fun, keep in mind that the goal is to actually check items off this list from time to time.

Here are some tips to ensure you act on your bucket list:

  • Keep it practical. Not every item needs to require a trip across the world. Though, some could and totally should be wildly exciting, be sure to select a variety of experiences that allow you to continue reaching goals.
  • Make a commitment to yourself and document it. Writing your goals down can help you achieve them. Even better, share these goals with a supportive friend.
  • Celebrate each small victory. Rather than only looking ahead to the next item, take a few moments to enjoy what you’ve achieved and to reminisce on the experiences you’ve created for yourself.

Let’s recap.

Here are the five brain healthy benefits of having a bucket list:

  1. It reinforces your sense of purpose.
  2. It fuels creativity.
  3. It leads to new learning.
  4. It helps you make new memories (and protect you from an impairment in memory)
  5. It supports your optimism.

It’s not enough to know this information, you must act on it! Take out a pen and paper and begin crafting (or editing) your bucket list! Which item would you like to add the most?

If you enjoyed this article, share it with a friend. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Meet your memory health coach

Francine Waskavitz, owner and lead coach at Longevity Coaching, LLC. is a memory health expert dedicated to helping you get your memory back, strengthen it and keep it healthy for a lifetime.

Her mission is to empower you to take early action to support your brain health so you can thrive in the life you’ve worked so hard to create, without memory loss interrupting your plans.

Francine has her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) from the University of South Florida. She also attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) where she became an Integrative Health and Nutrition Coach.

Leveraging her expertise in memory from her 10 years as an SLP with her passion for health and wellness, Francine is dismantling the myth that memory loss is inevitable with age. 

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