You don’t have to be a crossword puzzle junkie or Sudoku master to build your brainpower. Just be social.
The best way to stay mentally fit and grow your mind is to be social, according to leading surgeons and neurologists. Dr. Michael Roizen, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the YOU series of health and wellness books, says that calling a friend can be just as beneficial as solving the toughest brain teaser. According to articles posted on Dr. Amen’s website Realage (www.realage.com), staying in touch with friends and loved ones could slow the pace at which your memory dwindles with age.
Strong Connections In a study of 16,638 older adults, people whowere married, active in volunteer groups, and in regular contact with friends, family, and neighbors had slower declines in memory than their less social counterparts. In fact, declines in the most socially active types were about half of those in the least social group.
Nurture Your Ties
How do social ties bolster a waning memory? Researchers aren’t exactly sure, but it’s possible the greater sense of meaning and emotional acceptance that social connections foster may support healthy brain chemistry. Here are a few tips for staying sharp:
• Join a book or movie club. Not only does it ensure that you get out more, but you’ll be held accountable for “doing your homework”, whether it’s reading the latest NY Times bestseller or seeing the hot new techno- thriller at the multiplex. Sharing opinions increases your perspective, grows your brain by fostering new neuronal connections and gives you fresh insight into others’ likes, dislikes and worldview.
• Start or join a Conversation Cafe. These are informal discussion groups first developed in coffee shops in Seattle and are proliferating throughout the US. The structure is simple. A question or topic is offered, then each person comments briefly so that several views are aired in a short period. In the second round, individuals can add to another person’s earlier statement or go deeper with their own. The key here is that everyone receives equal time, everyone must contribute, and the conversation is fueled by a spirit of openness and mutual respect. No wonder they’re so popular! My wife Christine began a cafe and was concerned that no one would show up or that it would fizzle after a month or two. That was ten years ago and the cafe is still going strong. To find a local conversation cafe or start your own, go to www.conversationcafe.org.