The ability of our brains to adapt and rewire itself, growing new neurons, will continue even into old age by constant mental and physical stimulation. The old adage, ‘use it or lose it’ applies as much in the case of our brains as with anything else.
Article by Sylvia Behnish
It is important to retain a lifelong curiosity and to accept challenges such as learning an instrument, a new language or any other new skill. To force our brains to think differently and therefore to create new neurons, do activities such as switching hands to do things like dialing the phone, using your computer mouse, eating, brushing your hair or teeth, applying face cream and setting the table.
Working with modeling clay encourages our brains to grow new connections by promoting agility and hand-brain coordination. Learning to play Scrabble, chess or a complex card game such as bridge where strategy is involved, will help too. Travel also helps to expand the brain because we are learning new things with every new experience. Everything new we expose ourselves to and learn not only protects us against cognitive decline but helps to strengthen our memories as well.
Using both our physical and emotional senses at the same time in unexpected ways is another technique that will help to strengthen and grow new brain cells. An example of this could be doing familiar things such as getting dressed, doing physical exercises or eating with your eyes closed. Or perhaps listen to classical music and write poetry.
Other things that will help stimulate the brain and assist with memory are to watch less television and read more, especially on a daily basis. Physical exercise also stimulates the brain. Walking is extremely good for the brain because it increases blood circulation and the flow of oxygen causing cerebral blood vessels to expand. This improves memory skills, learning abilities and concentration. Studies indicate that walkers are less likely to experience age-related memory loss. Running is also an extremely good brain boosting activity but may not be particularly suited to most seniors.
Other techniques to boost memory is to memorize a series of numbers and then repeat them backwards, increase your speed with each repetition. Or make lists of things and memorize, i.e.: shopping lists and things to do lists. It is important when memorizing, or in everyday situations, to involve all of your senses. The more senses involved, the more likely it is to remember. Studies indicate that the brain will become stagnant if it doesn’t continue to learn new things. There is no threshold for what the brain can learn as it can keep rewiring itself with each additional piece of information it learns.
Additionally, studies show that those who are socially active have slower rates of decline in memory and cognitive performance. Connections with others opens up avenues for learning.
To keep our brains agile, the techniques of continuous lifelong learning along with mental stimulation and physical activity will help prevent cognitive decline as well as memory loss.
Ms. Behnish has published ‘Rollercoaster Ride With Brain Injury (For Loved Ones)’, a non-fiction book detailing the difficult first year following a brain injury; ‘His Sins’, a three generation family saga about how the actions of one person can affect future generations, and ‘Life’s Challenges, A Short Story Collection’.
She has also written numerous articles for newspapers, magazines and online on subjects relating to brain injuries, family issues, motivational topics and travel.
For more information go to: http://www.progressofabraininjury.blogspot.com
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