Although many of us are loathe to admit it, it seems the festive season is well and truly over. No more long weekends or public holidays for a while means many of us are easing back into a regular health and fitness routine.
But while you might be back pounding the pavement, have you thought much about the fitness of your brain?
- How to keep your fitness goals on track over the colder months
- The Dunedin student confronting NZ's 'massive' mental health problem
Mental decline is common, and it's one of the most feared consequences of aging.
Dr Allison Lamont and Gillian Eadie from Kiwi company Brain Fit tell Newshub that texting, social media and multitasking are all bad for our long-term brain management, preventing us from developing long-term memory.
They've shared some of their best ways to maintain a healthy brain, stressing that it's important to build "cognitive reserve" while the brain is still healthy.
Here are 10 tips from Brain Fit to help build brain fitness into your daily life.
1. Practice being positive
Find a positive aspect when bad things happen. (Yes, it takes practice!) When action-oriented positive thoughts become your default mindset, you look forward to the challenges of each new day. Too much stress and anxiety - induced by external events or by your own negative thoughts - can kill neurons and prevent the creation of new ones.
2. Thrive on learning
The point of having a brain is to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. New neurons grow every day when your brain is challenged. How long they survive depends on how you use them. "Use it or lose it" does not mean "do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567" - it means, "challenge your brain, and often, with novel activities".
Try exercises like these ones:
3. Learn more about the 'it' in 'use it or lose it'
A basic understanding of your brain will help you work in ways that support thinking and problem-solving. You have billions of neurons and synapses firing even when you're sleeping - use them to your advantage.
4. Remember that the brain is part of the body
Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain: Cardiovascular exercise enhances the creation of new neurons (neurogenesis) at any age!
5. Take care of your nutrition
Did you know that the brain only weighs 2 percent of body mass but consumes over 20 percent of the oxygen and nutrients we take in? Everything in moderation - especially food that is good for you - and about 80 percent of what you think you need is the best guideline.
6. Aim high
Once you emerge from formal training, keep learning. Your brain keeps on developing along the path you create for it. Little challenge = little development. Your brain is a reflection of your life.
7. Explore, travel, be curious
Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.
8. Don't outsource your brain
Not to media personalities, not to politicians, not to your smart neighbourâ€¦ Make your own decisions and your own mistakes. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbour's.
9. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships
Everyone needs social interaction for resilience and mutual support.
Often, and out loud. Laughing and humour helps you keep things in perspective.
And finally - Make up your mind to give your brain a fantastic new year. It all starts every morning when you decide to give your brain a great day, today.
Brain Fit is looking for more people to train as teachers, especially ex-school teachers and nurses. An increase in demand comes as New Zealand's population ages at higher rates than ever before.