16 Jun Brain Fitness
I find it very reassuring that positive changes to the brain are possible even as we age. The potential for real change is within our grasp, due to the plasticity of the brain.
We can slow and even reverse cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Michael Merzenitch, author of Soft-Wired. You may have heard of the value of life-long learning. Here are Merzenitch’s findings for the type of learning that is required for real brain change.
New experiences and learning
– acquire or improve a new ability every month or two or three, with something that has purpose and meaning for you
– aim for successive days of learning, or no more than a gap of three days, for whatever you’re trying to improve
– make steady, measurable progress
– count every little sign of progress as success
– reward yourself for the progress you’re making
– work at a level that is demanding for you, that is a challenge which takes you a little way out of your comfort zone and usual way of doing
– create new learning that requires attention to detail, such as complex learning or challenging performance
– try to consciously advance at speed
– aim to rise above mediocre performance
Ideas for brain change
What are some examples of things to do to implement the above learning strategies for a fitter brain? Merzenitch makes the following suggestions.
– close, careful learning in a positive, social environment (e.g. note-taking during a lecture)
– listening to music for themes, words, sentiments
– careful, conversational listening, to follow which people are saying what
– talk with others about things that matter to you
play a musical instrument, and/or sing; keep learning – and memorizing – new songs
– volunteer in activities that require you to interact (in a positive way!) with other people
– learn new games, do jigsaw puzzles that become progressively more difficult
– do ball-in-motion games and challenges, such as ping-pong, badminton, or throwing a rubber ball against a wall and catching it
– review in your mind what you’ve done that day or what you saw in a visit somewhere
– make a conscious effort to learn names and faces of new people you meet
– play with mental models, such as touring a building in your mind, or creating a floor plan
– use your brain rather than a gadget to plan travel routes; be alert to routes when you’re being driven by someone else or travelling on a bus
– learn new dances
– try every day to be a better person who is stronger, kinder, more generous, and more focused on other people
– look for and spread as much joy and happiness as you can.
These suggestions seem to me to be about engaging in life as fully as we are able. Even as we may decline physically, we can work to keep the brain as active and engaged as possible.