Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO/Do something hard

Marjorie Spitz RentoComment

Dementia. Alzheimer’s. Lethargy. Sharpness. Mood. Depression. Fogginess. Focus. Forgetfulness.

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Your brain health impacts all of these conditions and more. The world feels hard right now, so it’s common to want to zone out. But what your brain really needs is for you to zone IN.

Unsurprisingly, having a healthy and fit brain leads to a thriving mind and body. The good news is that research shows there are methods to strengthen your brain, and combat the conditions previously noted above. Bottom line: you can actually slow the onset of age-related brain disease, improve your memory, mood, and focus by stepping away from your standard routine and doing something hard, forcing your brain to fire and be active.

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According to a segment on NPR, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says that “Learning a new skill wards off dementia by strengthening the connections between parts of your brain…While brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory, challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain…It really is strengthening the connectivity between these team players of these large-scale brain networks.”

Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, likens it to an orchestra. "Players come in and players go out…Sometimes when something is really demanding, the whole orchestra is playing, but they're not playing harmoniously. The goal is to keep each individual player in best form, and make sure there's coordination.”

All of this suggests that improving your own orchestra’s coordination through learning something new is a way to keep your memory healthy.

Most people only address health issues as symptoms arise, but a there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, so the time to prevent it is now. Do something hard!

Diet also contributes, so eat anti-inflammatory foods like nuts and fatty fish, and integrate spices like curry (did you know that India has a much lower incidence of Alzheimer’s than the U.S. and curry is being cited as one of the reasons?!). As Dr. Gary Small says, “Oxidative stress is a part of aging. Combat it by spicing up your food.”

Regular moderate exercise and stress relief methods like meditation will help too.

For fun, take this brain quiz, and consider areas where you can make adjustments. Perhaps in the amount of exercise or sleep you get, the level of stress in your life, how long you sit or “zone out,” what you read, watch, or the hobbies you embrace. Small changes make big differences, and your brain will thank you!

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Brain MD Health offers a wonderful list of 12 ways to strengthen your brain, including things like short-term job switching “This benefits the business and employees alike, as both workers will develop new skills and better brain function;” pushing yourself to learn new techniques such as a painter learning a new painting method or a softball player learning to play tennis; and getting “uncomfortable,” like a righty using his/her left hand for the day, or having sex a different way. Fun, right?

Open your mind and do at least one new thing per year. I am taking a certification class on hormone health, and my husband is going to learn a language using an audio app. What will you do to strengthen your brain today? Sprinkle it with a little cumin or oregano and you’ll feel sharper fast!

Smarty pants,

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™