Happy October to All You Boomers

It’s now or never.  What I’m talking about is using our brains and minds to the fullest extent.  I just spent time with a friend who is turning 87, and she’s as sharp as they come.  She drives to LA to visit her daughter, takes road trips to San Francisco to visit her grandchildren, and she says being active helps keep her mentally fit.  Everyday I see her she is dressed impeccably and with all the style possible for her age.  Her motto:  she has to stay sharp because there’s no alternative.  We all should…

Here is a quote that has been used many times in movies, advertising, print, etc. “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste.”  I did some research to find out where this quote originated.  Do you know?  A man by the name of Gil Silberman was a founder, lawyer, investor, engineer and I’m sure a few more accomplishments to round out his impressive pedigree.  He actually put this slogan together for the United Negro College Fund back in 1972 and it has been one of the most successful public service marketing tools of all time.  

We all need to use our minds more and each day exercise them as we do the rest of our muscles.

I know you’ve heard the claim we only use 10% of our brain.  It turns out that this is a widely perpetuated myth, supposedly celebrated most notably by the likes of Albert Einstein.  By extrapolation, it is suggested that a person may harness their unused potential, however much it may be, and increase their intelligence.  The popular notion that a large part of the brain remains unused, and could subsequently be activated, rests in folklore and not science.  Though specific mechanisms regarding brain function remain to be fully described, e.g. memory, consciousness, the physiology of brain mapping suggests that all areas of the brain have a function and they are used nearly all the time.  Thank you to Wikipedia for this outstanding clarification.  Whew.  That took some heavy brain function just to get through all that.

Now that we have cleared up all these misconceptions, let’s take some steps designed to help us stay sharp and mindful.  Hey Boomers, it’s never too late to kick it up a notch or two.

  • GET PHYSICAL EVERYDAY.  No it doesn’t have to be a 5K race, but anytime you move it and do some form of exercise, you get your blood pumping and it gives your body and mind a boost.  “Blood is filled with oxygen and nutrients that feed our brains” so says Gary W. Small, M.D., Director of the UCLA Longevity Center and author of the book, “Two Weeks to a Younger Brain.”

Spend 30-40 minutes at least three times a week walking briskly, getting on the treadmill, swimming, biking, and/or strengthening and toning using bands and Pilates.  Even a short, single workout can be enough to give you an immediate cognitive boost.  

My BoomerGuy and I hop on our bikes 5-6 times a week for a 30-minute ride.  It’s not only good for the muscles and the brain, but it gives us added energy throughout the day.  It’s great for the heart and certainly helps with reducing the weight gain which we’ve all experienced during this pandemic.  Oh, one other benefit to getting outdoors for your exercise routine—let Mother Nature stimulate your brain and senses to all the majesty she unfolds every day. When you’re out there, look around.

  • TRY MONOTASKING.  I definitely need to follow this advice. I’m a great multi-tasker and maybe it’s not as helpful as I once thought.  Experts say it is actually better for the brain to focus on one task at a time and work through it until it’s complete.  I always thought I was superwoman by doing all that I could at any and all times of the day or night.  It’s been shown our brains feel more stressed when we multi-task, and it turns out we make more errors due to the fact that our short-term memory is affected by this stress.  Lesson learned—my BoomerGuy is a great mono-tasker.  He is very focused on only one project at a time until he gets it to completion.  He stays on task and I know he gets more done in less amount of time than if he were to multi-task, where his focus would be diluted.
  • TRY NOT TO GOOGLE EVERYTHING.  I’m guilty of that, and I always thought I would be smarter than the average person, until the average person began googling also.  It was cool to have your smart phone, smart watches, i-Pad available 27×7.  While technology can be a good tool, it is upon us in virtually every aspect of our lives, it’s the reason why we can’t remember the simplest of things.  Our children’s phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, doctor’s appointments, etc.  Oh, and let’s not forgot those pesky passwords—how many do you have and I bet you have to write them down and reference them just to get by on day-to-day tasks.  

The brain is a ‘use it, or lose it’ machine says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, Irvine.  When we learn new things and then try to recall them later, we activate the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex areas of the brain which are intimately involved with memory.  I find a simpler explanation: don’t rely quite so much on technology to guide us robotically through the day, your mind is an incredible computer if used wisely on stimulating, productive and meaningful things, and trust me, your memory will benefit.

  • NOW TAKE A NAP.  Quality restful sleep at our age is non-negotiable, but not everyone needs 7-to-8 hours of sleep a night; there are a few out there that can function on less, and often much less.  You know how much you need, but the key ingredient is quality sleep because it helps you function more clearly and think faster on your feet.  As we process from slow-wave sleeping the first part of the night to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in the early morning hours, our memories transform the material we learned throughout the day into actual working knowledge.  If we don’t use our brains as mentioned in the previous paragraph and we allow technology to do our thinking, then we will wake with little to no knowledge.  Not a good thing!

For most of us there is no substitute for getting those badly needed 7-8 hours.  But a strategically timed nap can come surprisingly close to fulfilling any gaps.  Dr, Mednick says “when we nap in the middle of the day, our time in each of stage of sleep is more effective and efficient.”  In a 60-to-90 minute nap, you can cycle through both slow-wave and REM sleep, and you do it in the same proportion as it occurs across the whole night of sleep.”

“The 60-90 minutes can rival what you would get overnight in terms of memory consolidation, creativity, and productivity.”  Too tricky to fit in that length of time, then try 15-30 minutes because it too can help lock in information gathering and memory acuity.  

  • TRY SOMETHING CREATIVE.  In my opinion, one of the most magical times for me is when I create something, either out of new material or something repurposed.  Drawing and painting are some of the first things that come to mind, but for those of us who aren’t quite so accomplished, try an artform that I love—flower arranging whether it be in your garden or inside your home.  It does wonders for the mind, the spirit and the fun in all of us.  You get to step back and see your creation unfold and marvel in its colors and form.  Go for it, and get those juices flowing.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for that nap right now.  Rather than overload you with too much data and information on how to improve your mind and mindfulness, I am breaking yet again and will follow up next week with comments about how diet can be life altering, and good for your brain and help to prevent cognitive decline.  

Stay sharp Boomers.  We are still relevant and thriving throughout 2020 and into the coming years.  It’s entirely up to you the choices you make.

Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie.

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