“A new challenge keeps the brain kicking and the heart ticking.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri,
What was it you were going to say? Why did you call me? Does it happen to you, too? It was just on the tip of your tongue, so where did it go? If you’re worried that at 30 or 80 you just don’t have the mind you used to have, you’re right. The possibilities for our brains are great. Just ask Google: “How Physical Exercise Makes Your Brain Better,” “9 Ways to Improve Your Brain Function,” “This is your Brain on Nature,”You Can Increase Your Intelligence,” and “How Music Affects the Brain for the Better.” What kinds of challenges are you willing to try to get your brain kicking and heart ticking?
Since I was a kid and met a lady who didn’t seem to remember the people she had known or where she was, I have been fascinated by how the brain works. At different times in my life, I have found myself researching ways to help my brain function better, and I’ve looked for tricks and tips to help my children and my parents. One thing has remained a certainty — if we want brains that help us, we have to do our part to help them. There are diseases of the brain that it seems no amount of brain games or mnemonics will help, but for the vast majority of us, these are the things that will make a difference.
When my children were born, we were learning all about a thing called The Mozart Effect, which left me wanting to be sure my boys were exposed to great music. As it turns out, even today science continues to prove the difference between the brain of a musician, someone who listens to music, and those who choose to not have music in their lives. Music shapes the brain, literally — they are more symmetrical and have stronger nerve fibers connecting the hemispheres. Why not turn on some good tunes while you finish reading?
Looking through the list of titles in the search for ‘bettering the brain,’ I learn from The Guardian, “Scientists are showing that the runner’s high and the yogi’s tranquility have profound effects on your brain.” Our brains respond to physical activity much the way other parts of our body do. Walking or biking while learning a new language seems to be a winner, as does breaking up the classroom day with 20-minutes of aerobic activities for school children. If memory and concentration are better for it, maybe I should work these two ideas into my day, too.
Of all the other titles in my search, my favorite was “This is Your Brain on Nature,” and I encourage you to read it for yourself, here. The difference being in nature has on our brains is measurable and amazing. Just 15 minutes walking in your backyard begins the process, and three days in nature without electronics should be all you need to see a rewiring of your brain. South Korea has embraced this more than any other country, it seems, as they have 3 and are working to have more than 30 ‘Healing Forests’ to allow and encourage wellness in their citizens.
We just celebrated Brain Awareness Week recently, and the puzzles and challenges offered by many organizations are geared to increase brain fitness.
- Say the days of the week backwards, then in alphabetical order.
- Name two objects for every letter in your first name. Work up to five objects, trying to use different items each time.
- Find the sum of your date of birth, mm/dd/yyyy.
Work with your friends to exercise your brains. Whether it’s listening to music, taking a walk in the park, or working a few brain puzzles, you have the opportunity to give yourself a better brain. Challenge yourself to get your brain kicking and your heart ticking.