6 ways to stress your mind in positive ways

October 2, 2015

If you believe that mental fatigue, forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking, and even dementia and Alzheimer's disease are unavoidable in the years ahead, the new science of aging has an update just for you: By stressing your mind in productive ways, you can lower your risk of mental decline. Simple "brain calisthenics" (one neuroscientist calls then neurobics — aerobics for your brain cells) that involve new ways of doing everyday things are all it takes. Here are some ways to stress your mind in a positive way.

6 ways to stress your mind in positive ways

When left is right

  • Become left-handed for the day — or, if you're normally a lefty, write and eat with your right hand.
  • Brain scientists say that switching hands activates a big network of brain cell connections, circuits, and even regions that normally don't get used when you write out the grocery list, stir the scrambled eggs or spoon up mushroom soup.

Other ways to stimulate new brain connections

There are many other instant ways to stimulate new brain connections in fresh, beneficial ways. For example:

  • Figure out in your head how to say the name of everyone in your family backward (Thomas becomes Samoht, for example).
  • Similarly, read a whole sentence from the newspaper or a book backward.
  • Play music? Start at the very end of a piece of sheet music and play the song backward.
  • Multiply numbers in your head. Start with two-digit numbers multiplied by a single digit (for example, 82 times 7) and work up to multiplying by two digits.
  • Do counting challenges. For example, count by 13s up to 390.

Does all of this sound silly? It's not! Challenging and even frustrating changes in thinking patterns can help strengthen brain wiring and build new networks in ways that will preserve sharp thinking for longer.

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