We have known for a long time that the best way to stay mentally sharp is to keep thinking. The “use it or lose it” principle is pretty sound – firing the electrical and chemical connections in your brain helps keep:
- brains healthy and
- functioning at a higher level.
The oldest and most common method to keep mental sharpness and improve memory is practice, and there is little question that practice may not make perfect but sure beats the alternative. The hotly debated topic right now is what to practice. Are crossword puzzles and Sudoku enough or should we be doing more?
The simple answer is practice what you need.
If you are having trouble finding everything you need to start your day successfully – your keys, your cell phone, wallet – practice focusing your attention on one thing and looking for it. Focused attention is not just blocking out sounds, smells, and other images. Sometimes focused attention means seeing things through the clutter of everyday things. Give yourself time, every day, and test strategies (ie. scan the room in a systematic way or try to isolate things of the same shape or color, or look for things out of place) to find what you need. Pay attention to what works and repeat it. Pay attention to what doesn’t work and think about why.
Practice what you need.
If you find yourself searching for a word or the right thing to call something, take the time you spend waiting — on hold on the phone, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your next appointment — to practice. Look around you, find things — a window, a painting, a shirt, a bus — and try to think of three (3) names or terms for each thing. Say them out loud, say them in your head or, better yet, write them down. Practice digging for the right word and fighting until you get the perfect word. The best way to keep the words coming is to fire those electrical and chemical connections and keep them active.
Practice what you need and make it PLAY.
Every day is a new puzzle – same basic picture with some slight variations. The challenge each morning is to:
- Pay attention to the details.
- Look for anomalies.
- Restore order.
- Start the day off in cognitive balance!
Now where are my keys…?