That old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is damaging our brains. Once believed to be fairly rigid, the brain has much more flexibility than previously thought. This flexibility or plasticity may be the key to making the most of your golden years and keeping the dreaded cognitive decline at bay for as long as possible.
There are also great short-term benefits to training your brain to be more flexible. You’ll be less phased by new challenges, have more confidence, and be less set in your ways of thinking. Doing this training isn’t boring, either, with these five pleasant ways to expand your brain’s flexibility.
1. Take a Daily Walk
From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, many of us are sitting. We sit during our work commute, while at our computers, and while watching television at night. All that sitting is as bad for our brains as it is for our bodies, as I discuss in my book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation.
Sitting can contribute to dementia and memory loss, while movement can stave off those issues. You don’t have to do strenuous exercise to ward off this risk—even a daily walk will do.
2. Give Yourself Vitamin H
What is Vitamin H, you might be wondering? It’s hope. Find something to hope for, to get excited about, a goal to take on.
What a fun exercise it will be to think of something you would like to do and accomplish it. Hope isn’t only for those who believe they can achieve something great—it’s for anybody. Anybody can choose hope and watch their brains prosper.
3. Reframe Stress
Stress is bad news for the body and mind. We can’t eliminate all the stress from our lives. But we can come up with a plan that can minimize how it affects us.
The next time you are feeling stressed, consider if there is anything you can do in the moment to eliminate the source of the stress. If there isn’t, try to reframe the situation as an opportunity. If your car breaks down on the way to work, think of it as an opportunity to learn something new about your car or a chance to welcome a new person into your life.
Make it a game to reframe as many stressful situations as possible each day. By thinking of negatives as positives, we can retrain our brains to be more flexible.
4. Alternate Uses
Alternate uses is a great brain exercise that requires no special equipment. To get started, take a look at the things you have in your home. You’ll see many objects and tools that are made for one specific function, like scissors, forks, and pens.
Looking at these objects, try to think creatively about other uses these things could have, such as using a fork as a comb or a DVD case as a picture frame. Come up with as many uses for one item as you can, and then ask your spouse, child, or a friend if they can think up more uses than you did.
5. Learn One New Thing
When we get older, we sometimes stop trying to learn, figuring we’re too old for new information. That’s not true, and more than that, that line of thinking is aging our brains. What can keep our brains flexible and healthy is taking in new information and trying new things.
If that sounds scary to you, start small. Take a new path on your daily walk instead of going to your ordinary spot. You’ll see new sights and run into different people. You’ll shake up the routine your brain is used to—and that’s one of the healthiest things you can do for your mind.
About the Author
Ilchi Lee is a New York Times bestselling author who penned more than 40 books including I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation. You can learn more about the book at www.Live120YearsBook.com.