Radical Self-Care, Brain Power

Experts are suggesting that we keep our brains active in order to keep them healthy. It’s the “use it or lose it” theory of mental functioning. There are numerous ways to go about this; crossword and Sudoku puzzles are perhaps the most popular. I find crosswords to be terribly frustrating and number puzzles somewhat addictive, so I take a different route.

Learning a new language is said to be great for the brain. I would love to take a class to refresh the German that I studied in school decades ago. Yet there is no room in my schedule for that. A friend introduced me to Duolingo, a free app that I use on my smartphone. Every day I spend five minutes firing off neurons and spreche deutsch, often while waiting for or riding on public transit.

Just as convenient is a Scrabble-like game called Words with Friends that I play on my phone. It gets me thinking in new ways, and while I can’t say it’s really affected my vocabulary, I’m all about remembering two letter words like za, xi, and qi that make it easy to rack up big points. The neat thing about this app is that you can play against a stranger, a friend, or even the system, and you can play at your own pace.

These are things that are fun and fit easily into the organic gaps that occur throughout my day. Because, let’s face it, if it isn’t easy and fun, it’s just not going to happen. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to learn or if it’s a useful skill. All that matters is that you give your brain a challenge on a regular basis. Mental exercise to stimulate the gray matter doesn’t need to be a tedious chore. But it does need to happen if we wish to improve memory and cognitive functioning as we age. It might not seem like a priority now, but it will be someday and I have no intention on waiting for a diagnosis to urge me on.

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