By John Tamiazzo, PhD
(September 28, 2018)
Janet Sherman, PhD, Chief Neuropsychologist and Clinical Director of the Psychology Assessment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital states, “Mentally challenging games and puzzles provide benefit by adding to an individual’s cognitive reserve, thereby helping to fortify the brain against cognitive decline.”
Current research shows that individuals who regularly participate in mentally stimulating activities, whether it is a book club, card playing group, writing group, or who simply play with puzzles or board games that require thinking and analytical skills, score higher on tests of memory, learning and information processing. If we want to guard against brain decline as we age, we need to actively participate in activities that force us to create solutions, consider options, expand perception, and explore possibilities. In other words, you need to regularly do things that require greater use of your brain power.
According to Nielsen research, Americans spend 34 hours a week watching TV. If you add the time you spend clicking and scrolling your way through the internet looking for stuff to buy and playing on Facebook, the number of hours more passively spent is growing.
Watching TV drama and comedy shows are not mentally challenging activities. In a Psychology Today study, it was found that, “Watching television over 2 hours per day and eating while watching television are associated with obesity. In the USA, 60 percent of people are overweight and this is a leading cause of a lower life expectancy, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. It has been shown that each extra daily hour of television that kids watch may lead to an 8 percent increase in developing depressive symptoms by young adulthood.”
Many of us do have a fear of brain and cognitive decline as we get older. We have been told that brain cells die with age and that our mental acuity will diminish. In some ways this is true and in some ways it is not true. It really depends on a variety of factors including genetics, beliefs, environment, diet, lifestyle, head injuries sustained throughout our lifetime, exercise, and thinking habits. We have the ability and opportunity to positively impact our brain health, but we have to be committed to it, steadfast about what we eat, what we think, what we do, and the daily habits that either promote brain health or contribute to its decline.
In his book Grain Brain, Neurologist David Perlmutter MD writes, “The fate of your brain is not in your genes. It is in the food you eat. The cornerstone of all brain degenerative conditions is inflammation, which can be triggered by carbs, especially those containing gluten or high in sugar. Brain dysfunction starts in your daily bread.”
Like your arms, legs, and heart, your brain needs exercise to keep it fit; to keep it operating at an optimal level of performance. Do your own research. There are dozens of articles on the internet every day that are focused on helping you learn the simple things that you can do to maintain your brain power, stay healthy, and live an optimal lifestyle. Your brain needs stimulation. Reading books and articles is a healthy use of your time and will transform you from being a passive TV robot to an informed and proactive superstar.
John Tamiazzo, PhD is the author of two self-help books: Love & be Loved: 8 Steps to Creating Intimacy and Finding the Love You Want and Returning to the Land of Oz: Finding Hope, Love, and Courage on Your Yellow Brick Road. His dynamic Counseling work and Workshops integrate solution focused therapy, transpersonal psychology, neuroscience, imagery processes, and dream interpretation.
Visit his website www.johntamiazzo.com to learn more about his counseling work, consulting, public speaking, endorsements, and his upcoming workshops and classes at OLLI Sedona beginning this fall. John is the former Executive Director of the Sedona Community Center.