©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

Obtain at least thirty minutes of challenging brain stimulation every day. Engage active mental picturing, the opposite of passive mental picturing. The sky is the limit here. Just engage in stimulating activities that require active thinking. Here are some suggestions:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Board and card games
  • Read or listen to audio books
  • Read aloud at least ten minutes each day
  • Write stories, prose, poetry, and journals
  • Travel, near and far
  • Make or repair things as a hobby
  • Paint
  • Play Sudoku
  • Learn to play a new instrument
  • Learn to play or sing a new song
  • Compose a new piece of music
  • Arrange or transcribe a selection
  • Create a free harmonization
  • Develop and write out modulations
  • Learn to play a song in two different keys
  • Study a foreign language
  • Learn to sing in sign language

According to Katz and Rubin, learning American Sign Language is especially stimulating to the brain because it requires your hands, and the parts of the cortex that control them, to do something new.

Listen to a selection of music with your eyes closed. Pay attention to what happens in your mind’s eye. Restak reported that listening to music with your eyes closed fires up your temporal lobes, frontal lobes, and areas in the cerebellum (located near the brain stem).

Andy Clark recommended using brain-boosting technology to not only challenge the brain but to help it organize and/or keep track of data. There are a plethora of external props and aids such as laptops, iPhones, iPods, Blackberries, and so on. Utilized appropriately, these external props can help, as Clark put it, “to offset cognitive limitations built into the biological system” of the brain. They can serve as technological extensions of your brain.

Use these external props to not only stimulate your brain, but also to enhance your brain’s performance. As someone once said, today’s laptop is the refined and electronic version of yesterday’s paper and pencil. Yesterday’s paper and pencil represent a refined version of hieroglyphics carved in stone. Keep up with technology! Allow it to stimulate your brain and assist it at the same time.

The internet provides a vast source of at-your-fingertips information. Some advise that in this 21st century it is most important simply to know where to go to access needed information, as compared to trying to rote memorize it.

In general, overall performance and mental capacity begins to decline when people stop learning. This occurs due to a weakening and eventual loss of brain networks. Conversely, whenever you learn something new, you increase the number and connections among neurons.The more synaptic connections in your brain, the more likely you are to realize an increase in brain power and the less likely you are to exhibit signs and symptoms of dementia due to lack of brain stimulation.