Alright, let’s put our cards, so to speak, on the table. What have you got? I’m out, let’s play again, but I deal this time.

Do you make time to play cards now and then with your friends? Do you know where your cards are? Oh, you’re not sure you have a full deck? All the more reason to start playing — cards, chess, checkers, monopoly, any board game . . . just get those playful juices going. They will help to keep your mind young.

If I was a doctor, with patients who were striving to stay youthful, I would hand them a prescription before they left my office — a prescription for playtime: At least one game session each week with friends and/or family. Side effects: extra calories that may come from yummy snacks.

I would also write a prescription for: 15 minutes of foreign language study each day. We’ve all heard that this is good for our memories, pero ¿cuántos de nosotros realmente están estudiando español, por ejemplo?
Not many. Or we might decide to tackle Japanese or Swahili, if we really want a good workout. Language is like gymnastics for our brains. And with support from the internet, we can probably practice any language on earth, with audio resources at our fingertips.

Here are some other prescriptions my patients might get:
— do three dance workouts a week
— practice daily on a musical instrument
— dedicate time toward a meaningful purpose
— read in a focused and concentrated way
— eat meals mindfully, without distraction
— work with your hands — baking, knitting, carving . . .
— spend time with friends and loved ones

All of these brain-bolstering ideas boil down to three general themes:

1.) Aerobic exercise nourishes the brain. We don’t need to worry about the type of exercise — anything is much, much better than nothing. If our bodies get lazy, our minds get lazy;

2.) The brain thrives on challenge and stimulation. Create new neural pathways by learning something new. Expose yourself to new ideas, visit new places, solve new puzzles. Keep the brain young by keeping it busy, surprised and challenged;

3) Research shows that single-pointed attention helps to keep the brain strong. It is better to wholeheartedly focus on what we are doing, and to do one thing at a time, than to broadly scatter our energies in a superficial and scattered way.

How lucky for us that our aging prompts us to do so many fun and rewarding things! Rather than feeling guilty about taking time for dance classes, guitar lessons and creative or community projects, we can get busy, knowing that we are doing what we are designed to do if we are to stay healthy and engaged with life in our later years!

(By way of )


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