Earlier this year, I heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air about his most recent book Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

In the interview, he spoke about these four important activities for better brain health:

  • Exercising
  • Eating well for heart health
  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Learning new skills

I have published numerous posts on eating well and exercising, including a post last summer called Eating Well for Better Brain Health.

My goal for sleep has long been to get 7½ hours per night. The problem with having a goal like that is I rarely exceed it, and I often get less sleep than that. During the pandemic, I often found myself up for prolonged periods in the middle of the night and, as a result, I began tracking how much I was sleeping, making a note every night so I could make sure I was making sleep a priority. I started going to sleep even earlier than usual on evenings when I hadn’t gotten enough sleep that week, and taking weekend naps.

Unlike the people who spent a lot of the early weeks of the pandemic posting about new skills they were going to learn, such as playing the guitar, I didn’t go out of my way to learn any new skills – but, I did make significant progress with New York Times crossword puzzles. The puzzle is easiest on Monday, and generally gets progressively harder each day through Saturday. (Sunday is somewhere between Wednesday and Thursday in difficulty, but is much larger than the other days, so it takes longer than most.)

My sister and I often compare notes about our puzzling results and, midway through 2020, she told me she had been having Thursday successes. Prior to that, I would occasionally work on Thursday puzzles. Since then, I have done them regularly. Then, late in 2020 she told me to try Fridays, and I’ve been having good success with them as well. Finally, early this year I started doing Saturdays and I’m truly amazed. I had given up long ago on the idea of getting past Thursdays.

Are you learning new skills? Sleeping enough? Eating well? Exercising? I hope so.

Be well,