Scientists all over the world agree that memory disorders and age-related brain decline is not an inevitable part of aging. Brain power can be “boosted.” The phrase “Use it or lose it” applies to muscles in our bodies as well as to neural pathways and connections in our brains. This proves to be true at any age.
Dr. Cynthia Green, Ph.D, one of the country’s most-renowned experts on brain health, has published a booklet called the 14-Day Brain Workout (published by National Geographic). She says, “The science shows that there are many different activities that can benefit our brains.” This article will touch on some (but not all) of Dr. Green’s comments of each of the 14 days.
Day 1: Aerobic Exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise several days a week. Even brisk walking has been proven to be beneficial to brain health. Make it easier to stick to your exercise plan by penciling in time to work out and finding an exercise buddy.
Day 2: Tapping a Tune. Tap your fingers on your table (like you’re sending Morse code). Your tune can be short or long, simple or complex. Tapping a tune will challenge your brain to think about the world in a slightly different way and help with memory skills.
Day 3: Color Your World. New or different activities such as coloring, even if we do them just briefly, refresh our attention, get us to try new (or rarely used) skills and challenge us to see the world in a different way.
Day 4: Learn About Memory Loss. The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) covers everything from memory changes that come with age, early symptoms to look for, as well as the hows and whys of evaluation for memory loss.
Day 5: Jump Some Jacks. You DO remember jumping jacks, don’t you? Jumping jacks are a simple calisthenics exercise you can do standing in place that can quickly get your blood pumping. Simply stand up and do a set of 10 or 20. Do several sets over the course of the day.
Day 6: The Honorable Opposition. We often listen to information and opinions that reaffirm the beliefs we already hold. Listening to the opposite point of view gives us a chance to engage our minds in a way we may not have done in quite a while.
Day 7: Write a Haiku. Writing a haiku is a wonderful way to get out of your “boxed-in” brain and challenge yourself to think differently and creatively. Haiku is known for its simple form: 17 syllables in three lines — five, seven and five syllables, respectively.
Day 8: Take a Yoga Break. In many ways, yoga is the perfect brain health exercise. As a physical activity, yoga supports your more vigorous aerobic workouts by building strength and stamina. In addition, yoga can be used to reduce stress, anxiety and a depressed mood.
Day 9: Reorganize Your Desk. Get rid of what is nonessential. Can you think of a better way to put it all together? Organizational strategies are the best way we can remind ourselves of things we have to do or places we have to be.
Day 10: Do Something Kind. Volunteering our time gives us an opportunity to do good and a chance to stay intellectually and socially engaged. Pay an extra compliment to a friend or family member, talk with someone who looks a bit lonely — not only is it good for your brain, but it’s also good for you.
Day 11: Learn the Symptoms of a Stroke. If you suspect a stroke, try the following three things — if the person fails any of them, get to the ER as quickly as possible for an evaluation: (1) Smile. Look for unevenness in his/her facial expression; (2) Raise Both Arms. Look for unevenness in the height he/she can raise them; and (3) Repeat a Simple Sentence. Such as “no ifs, ands or buts.” Check for slurring or other disruption of speech.
Day 12: Doodle. A recent study found that subjects assigned a doodling task did 29 percent better than their nondoodling counterparts on a surprise memory test. Doodling, which improves attention, makes it more likely that you will acquire things that you want to recall.
Day 13: Hug Five People. Studies have shown that folks who are more socially engaged have an associated reduced risk of memory impairment. Just keep in mind that those hugs aren’t only good for your soul, they’re good for your brain, too.
Day 14: List 10 Ways Your Brain Is Great. As we grow older and worry about memory loss, we tend to lose sight of all the really amazing things our brains do on a daily basis. So, it’s important to take the time and think about what our brains do well.
To see the entire booklet by Dr. Green, visit www.totalbrainhealth.com. If you would like a copy of the “14-day Brain Workout” booklet by Dr. Green, please contact my office at (310) 348-2995, and we would be happy to send you one free of charge.
Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or JACL. The information presented does not constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.