Did you set a new challenge for the new year? A few months ago, I asked my primary care physician what I could do to remain cognitively sharp as I age, He’s a young guy and the best doctor I’ve ever had. He scheduled an extended appointment to get a baseline for memory tests and other indicators of cognitive acuity. Taking these tests set my mind at ease. It’s a valuable yardstick for anyone over fifty. But he offered far more than the tests. He gave me a prescription for growing brain power. Even more important than retaining our mental capacity and creativity is to continue to grow our brains. The prescription, or more correctly, the challenge consisted of three parts. I expected the first two, but the third challenge was a complete surprise.
The First Challenge: Exercise
Did you guess this was one of the best ways to grow brain power? Much science exists to prove this and explain why, but one of the most obvious is that exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, Makes sense. But don’t take my word for it. The Cleveland Clinic posted this. I’m guessing many of you already resolved to do this in the new year. Right?
The Second Challenge: Eat Healthy
You may be saying, “Doctors tell everyone this for whatever ails them, No surprise.” Specifically though, there are foods that feed the brain and help us grow our brain power. I’m no dietician or chemist but I do know that eating a full range of the food God created for us provides a plethora of important trace minerals and vitamins. He even color-coded it. We need to eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables as close to natural as possible so all the magic is not processed out of them. Was eating better in your plan for 2023? I recently decided to up my culinary prowess and make this the year to master the cooking of fish— something I never seemed to have achieved. We subscribed to a monthly shipment of wild-caught Alaskan seafood and I’ve been studying techniques and trying new recipes. It’s been fun. If you’d like to dig deeper, an excellent article on nutrition and the brain is found here.
The Third Challenge: Shock Your Brain
This is the one that surprised me. When he said it, a mental picture of the barbaric apparatus that inhumanely treated mental illness by the use of electro Shock Therapy came to mind. I guess by the look on my face the doctor knew an explanation was needed. It involves no electricity, thankfully.We shock our brains by doing difficult, challenging tasks. “I’m learning Mandarin Chinese,” the doctor said. By the time he gets home from a day of seeing patients, he hits the internet and works for at least an hour. By the time he’s done his head hurts. “That’s the sign,” he said, “that you are shocking your brain.” You need to do something so difficult, so stretching, that it feels like a brain ache. It’s much the same as when you exercise, your muscles ache. That’s an indication you’re building strength whether it is muscles in your body or your brain.
It made sense to me but I decided to do a little scrounging around the internet to see if this was backed by science. Indeed it is. Along with a myriad other challenges for better brain health. As creatives— as writers— we need to keep our brains in tip top shape. I’m experimenting with ways to shock my brain with ever harder challenges.
What about you? Have you set any challenges for the new year?