Holidays are all about forming good memories. Engaging in long-held traditions and forming new ones; gathering with family and friends; and sharing stories, hugs, and laughter are all hallmarks of holidays well spent. Because this time of year is so special, you want to make sure your cognitive health is in top shape so you can remember all the special moments. Happy news: There are steps you can take to treasure every special detail of this Thanksgiving for years to come. Check out these quirky, simple tips for sharpening your brain health at every stage of the Thanksgiving holiday.
While You Plan
Grab a pen: Simply jotting down your Thanksgiving shopping list using a pen and paper locks it into your memory. Japanese scientists say writing by hand triggers significantly more activity in the memory-storing regions of the brain than using a smartphone. Bonus: Handwriting a list took folks less time than tapping it out on a device. And don’t skip out on the coffee shop stop while you’re grabbing groceries: Sipping a pumpkin spice latte boosts memory for 24 hours, thanks to its energizing java, suggests Johns Hopkins University research.
While You Cook
It sounds silly, but zig-zagging your eyes has benefits for your memory. Blanking on the baking instructions for Grandma’s stuffing? Sweep your eyes from left to right four times. Canadian research suggests doing so helps you remember things. It boosts communication between the two hemispheres of the brain to retrieve memories that are just out of reach.
Dig into sides. Whether you tuck into green bean casserole or honeyed carrots, you’ll boost creative thinking with every bite. Researchers in New Zealand credit veggies’ polyphenols with energizing thought centers in the brain that control creativity and curiosity. The payoff: You’ll improve your ability to come up with fun anecdotes, ask interesting questions, and keep the conversation lively.
After You Eat
Chew gum. Everything from a carb-triggered “food coma” to the rush of holiday activities can leave your mind foggy. To keep your mental energy high and strengthen your brain health as you relax after the meal, chew cinnamon gum. British scientists say doing so signals brain cells to boost energy production, sharpening thinking. And related, Rush University research suggests that flavor compounds in cinnamon reboot your brain, speeding up thinking.
The Next Day
Share your favorite moment. Recall a funny event from this holiday — like when the dog tried to steal the turkey — then tell it to a friend who wasn’t there. Canadian scientists say retelling helps you “relive” the event. This flags the day as important, locking it into longterm memory.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.