In the weeks that follow, starting now we are going to guide you in taking simple steps to improve your mind’s agility, as well as your mood and social interaction.
While optimum nutrition can give you the essential ingredients for the ‘hardware’ of your brain, it is a living, ever-changing network of connections. New connections can be made, and old connections can be lost.
Having an inactive mind is much like having a car in the garage. Even if you eat the right food, or have serviced your car, it’s not going to work if it’s parked up.
Also, where you put your mind’s activity is critical. A guru was once asked ‘Does your mind think?’ The guru replied, ‘Only when I want it to.” Research at Stanford University found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts.
If the thoughts you have generate negative feelings such as anxiety, depression, or stress, you now have adrenal hormones pumping around your brain, which also ages you.
There is a balance to be struck between not being under-stimulated, as in bored and lonely, and over-stimulated as in wired and unable to calm down.
Activity that engages your mind and get you thinking, is generally good, while ‘mindless’ mental activity, such as watching endless relatively meaningless TV shows, can just be a way of ‘numbing out’ – a way of occupying your attention with no real meaning or learning.
In the next four weeks we are going to encourage you to engage your mind in ways that activate your brain, build connections, and reduce future risk of cognitive decline. There is no reason for your mental faculties to slow down with age other than neglect.
Also, we are not just intellectual beings. We are emotional, physical, and spiritual. Even atheists have a ‘spiritual’ domain which contemplates the deeper meaning and purpose of life. We are also social. We need connection with others and nature. When you learn something physical, such as dance or yoga, you are rewiring the brain. When you are touched by something emotional, learning is hard-wired. When you contemplate the deeper meaning of something the learning goes deep. When you socialise and share ideas, question, and have your ideas questioned, this activates your mind and builds new connections.
Be open, enquiring, exploratory, imaginative and try new things, new activities. Take a risk. Think different. Remember, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.