Six tips for an agile brain

Jan Irving
Many seniors resign themselves to aging, but when it comes to the brain, don’t give up!

“Our brains are like a muscle,” said Jan Irving, RN, PhD. “If we develop a balanced brain exercise program, we strengthen the neural interconnections and help keep it fit.”

Irving suggests six ways to achieve an agile brain:

  1. Use it. The more active you keep your brain, the better shape it will be. Do something that engages you, besides watching TV.
  2. Give it variety. Your brain can benefit from memory, concentration, reasoning, word fluency, visual-spatial and math exercises. Create a shopping list. Put it away and then see how many items you can remember. Read the newspaper upside down. Write with your opposite hand. Try a puzzle or sudoku. Keep in mind that it is the thinking that is the exercise, not necessarily knowing all the answers!
  3. Challenge it. Step out of your routine. Try a new recipe, a new card game, a new park to walk in, a new radio station or a new community education class.
  4. Give it proper care. Your nutrition, stress and physical health all have an impact on your mental well-being. It is important to have blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings in a normal range for you. Attend a Know your Numbers health screening or explore a new exercise class.
  5. Pay attention. Be curious. Use a synonym instead of the first word that comes to mind. Hold your initial response and consider other ways to present your perspective and views to others. Listen to what the other person is saying rather than jumping in with a response. Slow down your thinking and be attentive to what you are doing.
  6. Be social. Have fun, laugh, think positively and connect with others to benefit your brain.

“Having an agile brain gives us the ability and flexibility to shift our thoughts to respond to various situations,” Irving said. “By developing new experiences and competencies, we are feeding our brains and contributing to a healthy lifestyle.”

Learn more about brain agility by attending a seven-week program designed to help you keep a youthful brain. The weekly class, taught by Irving, provides mental exercises designed by a psychologist to enhance your brain’s ability to remember, stay focused, be aware and be alert. The next class starts Thursday, March 31, from 10 to 11 a.m., in Building D, at the Salem Health Community Health Education Center. The cost is $35. Register online or call 503-814-CHEC (2432).

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