Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
The Yellow Brick Road to Brain Fitness
I love the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz. My favorite scene is when Dorothy approaches a crossroad and meets the Scarecrow on her journey to find the Wizard. While contemplating which road will take her to Oz, Mr. Scarecrow attempts to give her directions. Following his incoherent ramblings, he explains to Dorothy that his thoughts are not clear because he doesn’t have a brain. Despite his dilemma, he converses, asks questions and even demonstrates problem solving skills when he tells Dorothy to bend a nail that releases him from his wooden post. After a delightful song and dance, If I Only Had a Brain, Dorothy and Mr. Scarecrow embark on their adventure to visit the Wizard. In the end, Mr. Scarecrow is bestowed with a diploma and immediately begins to articulate math formulas with ease. What happened to yield such a significant result? Some say all he needed was confidence, others say he just needed to practice. In any case, his new degree makes him feel better about himself.
How about you? Are there days when you feel like your memory isn’t quite what it used to be?
“Brain Fitness” is a newer term used for intentionally exercising the brain/mind. Research shows that with deliberate action and focus the brain can be exercised just as you would the muscles in your body. Keeping the brain limber, agile, and strong happens when thought processes are practiced and rehearsed on a regular basis. It doesn’t take much time or energy. Little things, like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or practicing simple math equations allow the neuron pathways to maintain their connections. Lifestyle changes can also increase our Brain Fitness, which in turn balances the body, mind and spirit connections:
Physical activity – A single 30 minute walk per day increases blood flow to all major organs of the body; park far away from a store door, join a gym class, participate with an exercise video, walk in place during commercials while watching TV.
Social activity – Social interaction causes us to think critically, feel emotion, laugh, listen, and learn. Also, just the presence of another person gives us mental and physical energy.
Choose a healthy diet – Our mothers all told us to eat our veggies – turns out they were right! A colorful plate will nourish not only your body; but your brain as well. Think deep green, yellow, orange, red additions to your plate.
Stay mentally active – We can’t guarantee that Alzheimer’s disease will be prevented but by keeping the brain active we lessen the risk of having the mind atrophy. With mental stimulation we engage new brain pathways and can even generate new brain cells! Here are some ideas:
- Many local colleges and school districts offer free -or almost free- senior learning opportunities engaging in new learning will expand your vocabulary and your knowledge.
- Pick your favorite kind of puzzle, crossword, Sudoku, word games, or riddles. Dedicate 10-15 minutes per day to figure out a solution. “Thinking games” are popular with all ages, so engage the grandchildren in brain challenges or competitions…Scrabble with Friends, anyone?
- Play mental games: while sitting at a stop light, pick a letter and think of as many words as you can that begin with that letter. Try to beat your record at the next stop light. Aim for more than 11 words per minute. There are also many phone or computer applications that can help with these exercises. Log on, play some games, increase your brain health!
It’s not too late to make a resolution that will be easy to keep and have the benefits of maintaining a sharp mind and clear thought processes. With a little practice you can join Mr. Scarecrow in sharing math formulas with everyone around you. You may even burst into his song:
“Oh, I would tell you why the ocean’s near the shore.
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I’d sit and think some more.”