By: Heather Souve
What is Plasticity?
Plasticity is essentially the brain’s adaptability; it’s ability to learn new skills and change. When we’re younger, our brain changes in a positive direction – in fact, we continue an upwards trajectory into our 30s. However, by mid-30s, our brain changes in a negative direction and begins to degrade.
However, you can prevent this by taking up complex, mentally stimulating activities. Here’s a list of 5 activities for your brain that you may not realize are good for you!
1. Learn a Language
Even though it’s easier to learn a language while you’re younger, most of us use that as an excuse. The fact is, most skills and activities come more easily as we’re younger, all we’re really saying is, “It takes more focus and time than I’d like.”
Of course, most senior living communities offer language classes and those that don’t are usually near a senior center that offers them. There’s the obvious benefit of learning a new language, but additionally, most people improve their English as well as they see how the structure of sentences differ!
If you’ve never experienced the joy of putting a puzzle together, you should get into it now! If you’ve ever enjoyed watching a plan fall into place, a puzzle should be your go-to recreational activity. Being able to process shapes, colors, and alignments will only better your brain.
Plus, shape and color recognition go hand-in-hand with hand-eye coordination – all of which are necessary for keeping your brain stimulated.
3. Practice the Arts
Whether it’s painting, picking up an instrument, or building furniture, your brain will only improve from learning new skills. These are all things offered at senior centers and communities, but many elders find them daunting.
Remember, no one is good overnight, not even prodigies, and if you don’t believe me, you can always check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers; basically, 10,000 hours at something will make you an expert and you can’t argue that Stephen King hasn’t obtained 10,000 hours, or Steve Jobs’ work with computers.
Socializing is often overlooked, but it’s a necessity. Conversation is an art form and new people bring new ideas, perspectives and even modes of talking. By regularly engaging in conversation, your brain is more actively engaged!
It can be awkward at first, because your brain is coordinating your body in a way you’re unfamiliar with, but once you master it, you’ll be better stimulated mentally (and it’s good exercise).
Become a Lifelong Student
It’s like we’ve often mentioned before, once we become enmeshed in routine, we no longer even “think” about what we’re doing; we start running on auto-pilot. It’s what leads to boredom and monotony. The goal is for us to become lifelong students.
Public education – though tiresome to children – is in place to encourage us to continue learning. It’s like Socrates once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” We need to build a desire to learn, not complete an education.