Sharpbrains is a good site/blog for those who are interested in keeping up with the latest in making sure that their brains are honed to perfection with puzzles, tips and challenges for developing cutting edge clarity. For others (like me), the following are important bits of information culled from one of their postings on how we keep ourselves mentally alert... (Note: Italicized words are not mine - from the Sharpbrains website)
Guaranteed brain cell killers:
- High-levels of anxiety and stress, that are guaranteed to distract us from our main goals and waste our limited mental energies.
- A very repetitive and routine-driven life, lacking in novelty and stimulation. We have brains to be able to learn and to adapt to new environments
3 mental exercises that everyone should be doing daily...
- For stress management: a 5-minute visualization, combining deep and regular breathings with seeing in our mind's eye beautiful landscapes and/ or remembering times in our past when we have been successful at a tough task
- For short-term memory: try a series subtracting 7 from 200 (200 193 186 179...), or a series involving multiplication (2,3 4,6 6,9 8,12...) or exponential series (2 4 8 16 32 64...) the goal is not to be a math genius, simply to train and improve our short-term memory. Another way is to try and remember our friends telephone numbers.
- In general: try something different every day, no matter how little. Take a different route to work. Talk to a different colleague. Ask an unexpected question. Approach every day as a living experiment, a learning opportunity.
On the excessive use of use-it-or-lose-it philosophy or how good is doing something like Sudoku in keeping our brains sharp?
- "Use it or lose it" may be misleading if we think that "It" is just one thing. The brain is composed of many different areas that focus on different things. Doing a crossword puzzle only activates a small part of the brain. The 3 key principles for good brain exercises are: novelty, variety and constant challenge. Not that different from cross-training our bodies.
- The first time we do a crossword, or sudoku or knitting, that is great, because it forces us to learn. But when doing it is completely routine, the marginal benefit is very limited. Nowadays neuropsychologists do not recommend paper-based activities but computer-based brain exercise software programs, since they can provide a variety of new activities all the time, always tailored with a proper increasing level of challenge.