Sudoku and improving your golf swing: build your brain brawn

Sudoku and improving your golf swing: build your brain brawn

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Build your brain brawn

Your brain will thank you for a healthy daily workout, and so will your family and friends. Better still, its about indulging in doing or learning something new, often.

Neuroplasticity means unlocking possibility

Only a few decades ago we’d been held hostage to an idea that the human brain was quite static throughout adulthood, and would then deteriorate as we aged. There was also a belief that brain related damage was not repairable.

Advances in neuroscience research over the past few decades and the discipline referred to as neuroplasticity, now tells us that this isn’t always true. The human brain is malleable. The complex wiring of our brain constantly changes as a result of experiences. New experiences fire up new networks and connections in our brain. As we learn new skills we strengthen and extend these new pathways. This is an empowering finding for all of us.

Unfortunately, it is true that some physiological changes brought about by diseases and conditions associated with ageing can have negatively impact on cognition and memory. While not necessarily repairable, we now know that we may be able to potentially compensate by firing up and strengthening new neural pathways.

Time to switch from autopilot

You’re probably familiar with the ‘autopilot’ driving experience. This is where you’ve driven to a familiar destination safely, but don’t recall any of the experience of driving there. You don’t even remember making a decision about any of the sets of traffic light intersections that you passed through. This is neuroplasticity in action. You’ve exercised that same neural pathway many times, such that the wiring (let’s think about it like a muscle) has strengthened to such a degree that autopilot kicks in. Try driving via a less familiar route, and you’re intensely aware of the driving experience from start to finish. You’re firing up new neural connections, and your awareness and overall experience is heightened.

Get those pathways firing, you’ve plenty to gain!

Here are some activities to add to your bucket list over the coming years to keep those mature thinking cogs turning over efficiently:

  • next time you walk or drive to a destination you’re really familiar with, plan a new route - find a more scenic way to get there (but try to leave the Global Positioning System (GPS) at home!)
  • plan a whole week of eating from recipes you’ve never tried before. Shop somewhere new for the ingredients.
  • start collecting word puzzles, crosswords and sudokus from the newspaper, or find some apps available online. Instead of struggling to find something worthwhile to watch on television, put the remote control away and nut out a puzzle.
  • enrol in a short course that appeals to you - learn to cook a new cuisine; improve your golf swing; make a metal sculpture!
  • get some friends together and bring out some board games that you haven’t played for a while.
  • plan 6 months worth of interesting walks in scenic locations, and invite your friends to join you.
  • get involved with your grandchildren’s homework. I’ve recently reignited an old passion for algebra and number sequence challenges by helping my 10 year old with a couple of math challenges.
  • take a look at the free online courses offered by Khan Academy.  Khan Academy is an online learning institution with a philosophy that everyone, regardless of age, socioeconomic or cultural background should have the opportunity to learn. The method Khan Academy uses is powerful for learning.
  • do you have a skill that others are in awe of. Start teaching others and pass your skills and knowledge on.

Start your list today!

Helpful resources

Free, online learning courses - Khan Academy

Online puzzle challenges - Lovatt’s Crossword Puzzles and More

Virtual university - U3A Online

Distance education provider - Open Universities

Melbourne Walks - That’s Melbourne / Melbourne Walks

Classic Games, Card Games and Puzzles

 

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