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Your brain is not getting older, it's getting better. Maybe you think you've had "senior moments" or joke that you're beginning to get Alzheimer's. Truth is, no matter what your age, your brain wants to stay young - and it wants you to help it. There is no reason for your mental sharpness to decline, say statistics. The reason it seems to when people age is because they're putting less effort into being creative. They're not trying as many new things nor have as many dragons to slay. You've spent enough time killing brain cells with alcoholic beverages. Take time now, and every day, to rejuvenate and freshen your brain's ability. Here are several ways to do so, and they don't necessarily need to be done in order. GIMME FIVE During a meal or snack, or at least during a cup of coffee, use all five senses at once: taste, smell, hearing, seeing and feeling. Observe each sense's intake fully. "It's something we don't do often enough," says management consultant Brian Stein, who works with businesses to help their employees think more creatively. "When you do this on a regular basis, you make all of your senses keen." It's the same principal, he says, that makes blind people have extra-sharp hearing. They "tune in" so strongly to their sense of hearing (since the dominant sense, seeing, is unavailable) that the sense becomes acutely perceptive. REVISIT Take a few moments to visualize a place you enjoy. It might be a room in your home, the 18th hole at the golf course, or even your favorite watering hole. In your mind, picture each item there, as clearly as possible. Try to recall the sounds, the smells, what you feel there. This type of exercise helps your memory and imagination improve. "Don't get frustrated if you can't remember everything you want," says Stein. "Next time you're there, use your senses to experience the place, then remember it another time. The point is not to see how much you can remember, but just to go through the process." People who can see, he points out, seldom close their eyes and try to recreate a place--it's just not something we have to do. But by going through the process, we help our brain learn to process information.

DO DIFFERENT It might seem strange, but suddenly shifting to a new type of activity actually moves your brain onto a higher trek. It can be as simple as switching from doing the newspaper's word search to doing the crossword puzzle. Try an entirely different sport, even if you don't think you'll be good at it. After that, still avoid getting in a rut. "This doesn't mean to have to change every aspect of your life all the time," warns Stein. "That would be too stressful. But when you can vary your hobbies and free-time activities more, it's beneficial to sharpening your creativity." LAY LOW One great way to solve a problem, experts say, is to move it to the back burner. You might have thought "sleeping on it" is the answer, and it might be, according to specialist Stein, but an active physical/passive mental state would be better. Stop thinking about the problem or challenge. Exercise, take a shower, even have sex. Your subconscious will move into the fore on the problem, and the next time you tackle it, you'll more likely have the solution. "That's why you have good ideas when you're standing in line somewhere or when you're not trying to come up with an idea," says Stein. SHARPEN UP Today's multi-demand living might have you hopping in a hundred different directions, which is why it's a good idea to hone your mental focus. The best time to do this is at the gym, while you're exercising, particularly during aerobic exercise, suggests Stein. Pick a focal point and stare at it, concentrating on only that. If your mind wanders, gently pull your attention back to the focal point. Think about nothing--just look at the focal point. As thoughts enter your mind, gently push them aside. "It's like meditation, but you're really not meditating," says Stein. "What you are doing is sharpening your mind's ability to concentrate hard on a single thing." You might think that later you'll pick your focal point and ponder one burning issue while you stare at the point. Not so. Just doing the exercise, with the mind-blankening aspect, increases your overall ability to concentrate deeply. GO CRAZY When you're trying to think of a solution to a problem, tune in to your "inner critic" and learn to put down all of your ideas, whether they're crazy or not. "We censor a lot of ideas before they've even had the chance to form," says Stein. "Sometimes wisely so, but many times, it's the programming of parents, teachers and authority figures that told us to be quiet or that our ideas weren't good."

If you cut through that self-talk, a lot of half-formed ideas can come through, and the answer might be within them. As you learn to censor your mind less, it becomes a self-improving cycle, and you find yourself more open-minded to your own ideas! FISH AND FRIENDS Don't forget the physical side of helping your brain. Personal trainers always recommend getting regular cardio exercise and eating a diet low in saturated fat. Science confirms that both of these activities help the brain. Getting enough sleep plays a major role in maximizing brain power. And eat fish: they're rich in omega-3 oils that in many studies have shown to be brain food. If you can't stand fish, find fish-oil supplements. "It's really not hard to sharpen your thinking and improve your mind power," says Stein. "A lot of people don't try it because they think that mentally they are where they are. It's not so. You have a lot of room for improvement."

About this Author Chuck Mallory has written for several magazines, including Men's Workout, Exercise & Health, inflight magazines, and many others.

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