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I think it’s safe to assume that you would like to have a well functioning brain into old age, no? We hear a lot of information about food and exercise for brain health. You can probably recite some brain healthy foods: salmon, avocado, nuts, berries, olive oil. And exercise is a given for longevity for both mind and body. It helps to clean out our system and signals vitality to our cells.
Learning as a tool
But there’s another leg of longevity that is really just being explored: life long learning.
We used to have the notion that once the brain reached maturity, that was it. No more changing or growing. We were stuck with what we got.
We now know that is not true, and that the brain is capable of change, growth, and regeneration, even as we age. And it’s been discovered that the more brain we build, the more brain we have to rely on as back up if some things start to go wrong.
An inspirational example of this is Ron Robert. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 78, the now 81 year old Robert is back in college to earn a degree.
"I certainly didn't want to sit on my butt and let my brain turn to mush"
Creating more reserve
As you learn, even in adult years, you build more brain. You build additional neurons and accompanying brain cells, that create new neural networks.
If you think about it, these cells have not be subject to long term use, and thus likely have a better capacity to function. And having these cells in your brain provide a backup of sorts.
A long-term study conducted on a group of nuns found something interesting. The nuns that participated gave researchers permission to autopsy their brains. The markers for dementia and Alzheimer’s was found in more than one nun’s brain, but while alive they didn’t display any symptoms of these neuro-degenerative diseases.
One conclusion was that due to their cognitive reserve from a life of learning, their brains weren’t affected as profoundly by the buildup of misfolded proteins that cause these diseases.
Novelty is key
In order for your brain to create new cells, a novel demand must be placed on it. In other words, the demand must be new and different than what it’s used to.
This can be very simple to do. Brushing your teeth, or eating, with the opposite hand you normally use creates novelty. Doing a task with your eyes closed, like showering or getting dressed creates novelty.
When performing your normal, daily tasks, ask yourself: How can I do this differently?
Be warned, this can cause your mind/body to create the feeling of frustration while you’re getting a handle on the new way of doing a task. This is just a signal your body uses to ensure that you really want to expend precious energy on this new task.
For your brain’s sake, you most certainly do.
Work With me
One way to introduce novelty is to challenge yourself to recognize ingrained thinking, and then build new thought that creates a different life experience.
This is what I specialize in. Click here to schedule one free coaching session with me.