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Use It of Lose It--The Care and Feeding of the Brain

April 11, 2010

My mother thought that she had figured out how to stay young and not let the process of aging get in the way of living. I still remember when she turned 60 she sold her house, moved to an apartment and started a new life. She gathered friends around her, volunteered her time in various capacities, joined clubs, travelled and possibly for the first time in her life was able to do the all things she wanted to do. For a long time her strategy worked but she left out one important aspect that eventually diminished her capacity to live an independent life—novelty. For those last 25 years of her life she did the same things year in and year out.  She got so good at her routine that she could do it on automatic pilot. And therein lay the problem, because she didn’t challenge her mind she lost her capacity to think. Sadly she didn’t know that the human brain can continue to improve and you can stay mentally fit with the proper kind of exercise.
 
A Brain Exercise You Can Do Right Now
Here’s something you can do right now to begin the process of strengthening your brain.
Switch the hand you are using to control the computer mouse. Use the hand you normally do NOT use.

What do you notice? How is this different from your habit?
Does it feel awkward? Remember that children go through this all the time as they learn new skills. Watch a child learning to tie their shoe laces and you’ll see what I mean. You’re learning a new skill so there will be some awkward moments. Keep your sense of humor and enjoy the process.

Use this same technique for other activities you do on a daily basis. Use your other hand to brush your teeth or use the remote control on the TV. On a regular basis, try writing or drawing with your non-dominant hand.

Use this same technique for other activities you do on a daily basis. Use your other hand to brush your teeth or use the remote control on the TV. On a regular basis, try writing or drawing with your non-dominant hand.

It’s important to challenge your brain to learn new and novel tasks that you've never done before. Try a new activity such as square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga, or sculpture. Working with modeling clay or playdough is an especially good way to develop agility and hand-brain coordination, (like controlling the computer mouse with your opposite hand).

Above all, have fun!

 




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