I repeat over and again to exercise our brains. How we do this looks different at 20, 50 or 80 years old. But the principle is the same: keep those brain cells active. When we’re young, this happens without too much effort since much of what we experience is new. But as we age, more effort is often needed.
As adults, we settle into what’s comfortable with good reason. We’ve spent our younger years learning and finding our comfort zone; what we’re meant to do with our lives. We want to stay here, polish our abilities and grow into our strengths. None of this is bad. But unless we continue to learn and stretch ourselves, at some point we’ll plateau.
This occurs more often than we think. We become increasingly more comfortable as adults. Bad habits seep in. We spend so much time finding what works, now it’s harder or we don’t want to step out of our comfort zones. Some even end up with a ‘mid-life crisis’. We look back at our lives and wonder if we’ll ever be or do what we dreamt of when younger.
I’m so inspired by many older clients and friends who continue to learn and do extraordinary and meaningful things in their 80’s and 90’s. I am firmly in the middle of my life, but I believe the solution to any midlife crisis and to stave off mental deterioration is to never stop learning.
This learning habit helps regardless of age. As we learn, we exercise our brain cells in a different way than doing something familiar. Familiar is easier. But what if we get so used to routines and the same old, same old, we never learn or do new things? Brain atrophy ensues.
Just like a muscle will shrink if not used, so will the brain. The brain is meant to be active and it’s why the adage ‘use it or lose it’ is accurate. If we use our brain in different ways now, it’ll be there when we’re older. It’s a concept called brain reserve. The more we create now, the better our functional capacity is later.
The best method to exercise the brain is to learn something new. Give it a try and make it a daily habit! What new thing can you try or learn today? It doesn’t have to be anything monumental: it could be a new recipe, a twist to a favorite sport or hobby or even reading a different type of book.
Let’s create this habit today and never, ever stop learning.