I do not want to get old. In fact, I refuse. However, I am apparently aging at least one day every day, despite my best intentions. Since I have yet to find the elusive fountain of youth, I’ll focus instead on drinking up as much life as I can in my years, living with intention and purpose, and remaining mentally clear and physically well. For me, this means a steady dose of brain fitness training.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term brain fitness get tossed around, but what does it really mean?
Brain fitness, at its essence, is how fit your brain is – how well your brain can handle the daily cognitive demands that are placed upon it. Brain fitness training is all that you do to keep your brain healthy, active, and working as well as it can for as long as it can. Your mental quickness, flexibility in thinking, ability to problem-solve, and overall brain function are vital to living a long and fulfilling life. And yet, we don’t put a whole lot of thought into maintaining the most complex organ in our body! Not until something starts to go wrong and we wish we’d done more.
June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – a great time to pat your brain on the back for all that it’s done for you, and to figure out what you can do to keep it functioning at an optimal level.
There are aspects of growing older that most of us look forward to – having more wealth, perhaps, or more wisdom, holding grandchildren (and handing them back), or having more free time to pursue travel or leisure. No one is hoping for the day their brain begins to fail them, and Alzheimer’s and dementia are both terrifying. In fact, a recent survey notes that,
“Americans fear developing Alzheimer’s disease more than any other major life-threatening disease, including cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.”
Perhaps we are most frightened of brain disease because we don’t want to lose who we are, and the reality is that everyone with a brain is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. So unless you’re a jellyfish, you are probably at risk.
However, this month of Brain Awareness is not simply about exposing our fears about brain disease. It’s is also about celebrating our brains and all they do for us, then taking that a step further to make a commitment to keep our brains as healthy as we can. For lifelong health and mental acuity, we need to cultivate a life that promotes brain fitness.
So what can we do to strengthen this most amazing organ? Can we do mental laps, brain sprints, cerebral push-ups? Essentially, yes! Thanks to new findings in neuroscience, we now understand that our brains have astounding neuroplasticity and are constantly changing, and we can impact and change our neural pathways and synapses throughout our lives!
We can stimulate growth and new neural connections by our experiences, behavior, and environment. Therefore, we can develop our brain fitness – our ability to handle all the tasks our brain is charged with – by actively participating mentally in life, developing habits of lifelong learning, managing our stress, exercising, getting enough sleep, and engaging in exercises designed to improve our cognitive skills. We can impact our brain fitness daily!
But that astounding plasticity, the ability to change? Well, it works both ways. If you are taking action to develop new neural networks, your brain will see positive changes! But if you aren’t utilizing connections you’ve already made, they will diminish. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it scenario.
Brain fitness training is a way to take action; to use it rather than lose it. Its cognitive training with vast benefits. You can see an improvement in your attention, memory, visual processing, motor coordination, and executive functioning (such as your reasoning, problem solving, and planning skills). Basically, it improves the quality of your days and your years.
This June, I invite you to go purple for #BrainAwarenessMonth and encourage you to make a commitment to keep your brain as healthy as possible.
Sign up here to receive a free copy of my Keeping Brain Fit checklist and start taking steps today toward brain fitness and cognitive well-being. May you live WELL all the days of your life!
Alli Berman is a Brain Fitness expert and the Eye Brain Fitness Guru. She has been an artist, author, educator, creativity consultant, workshop leader, perceptual and sensory products and programs developer, and motivational speaker for the past 30+ years. Berman has served as an educational advisor to the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine for over 30 years, and she is the founder of The Art of Rehabilitation and Anti-Aging Art. She created the PuzzleArt Therapy System in collaboration with behavioral optometrist, Susan Fisher, OD, and through consultation with neuroscientists around the world. Berman uses the system herself on a daily basis to keep her own brain as healthy, engaged, and challenged as possible!