3. Get lots of Mental Exercise
If regular dialysis is a prerequisite, and regular exercise is a key contributor to keeping your brain sharp, then constant mental exercise is the main event. Much research has shown that like every other part of your body, you’ve got to use it or you will lose it. And I’m not talking about doing more of what you do now (though by all means stay at work and absorb the stimulation, do crosswords and Sodukos, jigsaws and puzzles – it all helps to hold off the decay).
No, the absolute best way to keep your brain sparking is to take on something NEW. Something that involves new learning, ideally for your head and your hands.
A few years ago, Professor (Baroness) Susan Greenfield talked about brain plasticity, the ability of our brain to both grow and repair itself for our entire lives. She showed brain scans of two groups: the first group fiddled with a piano off and on for five days, with no change to their brain size; the second trained to play five finger piano for five days after which she found a significant change in brain size, with a thick knot of entirely new links and neurons created over that period to “wire” them for piano playing. (A third group imagined that they played five finger piano for five days, with an even more remarkable result, which you can read for yourself).
Put simply, mental exercise keeps your brain growing and healthy. Play piano or guitar, learn some card tricks, start public speaking, learn to fly. It doesn’t really matter what, as long as it’s new. For my new thing, I decided that I would learn a language: Mandarin. Speaking, listening, and writing the characters exercises all of me, especially when I’m in a group! I’m not great at it, but I enjoy it and I’m sure it is keeping my brain fit.
Another thing I have found over this last year that really keeps my brain buzzing: listening to smart people talk about the newest, latest discoveries and ideas. We are so lucky today, with the Internet. There are several sites that collect and rebroadcast just this kind of thing. Here are some I like: SlowTV, FORA.tv and TED. Give them a try, sign up and get involved in the commentary. One especially good one, that may well become the landmark speech for the next generation, is President Obama’s Address to the National Academy of Sciences. If you know of others, please share them here.
Well, we’ve covered three ways to keep your brain sharp on the Big D. I know of one more: the use of various substances, which will be the subject of my next post.