Take a new route to work or brush your teeth with the opposite hand, and you'll give your brain a workout. Stimulation is the key to mental fitness.
Taking the side streets to work is like step aerobics for the brain. Getting dressed with your eyes closed are the jumping jacks. Learning classical guitar is a lifetime membership to Gold's Gym.
Working your brain in new ways helps to preserve memory, according to a number of recent books and studies. This is because neural connections between brain cells disappear when they aren't needed. You build these synapses simply by doing different things.
Watch this video on how to improve your memory:
In The Memory Solution, Julian Whitaker, M.D., writes that memory decline is often attributed to aging when it shouldn't be. The real problem is understimulation and confining habits.
The pattern is all too familiar. Depression following the death of a spouse leads to withdrawal. Chronic illness leads to fewer excursions to new places. Retirement can mean a trip to the post office is the day's big event.
Like muscles that get soft and shrink if you stop working out, the brain needs stimulation to stay strong and healthy. "The brain is able to store an almost infinite amount of new information," writes Whitaker. "It just depends on how much you stimulate it."
In their book, Keep Your Brain Alive, Lawrence Katz, Ph.D., and Manning Rubin have developed a series of brain-pumping exercises called neurobics, designed to keep you mentally fit for life.
No pain, no gain? Hardly. Unexpected stimulation doesn't have to mean learning computer programming in your spare time. Novelty can be as simple as closing your eyes and smelling the roses.
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