Give your brain a daily workout

Being presented with the choice of early retirement was both unexpected and welcome.  Whilst I was determined to embrace this change, I was conscious that I needed to stimulate my brain now that my days were less structured and more relaxed.

I did a little research and was encouraged to discover that the Alzheimers society advises us that there are many ways to reduce the risk of this devastating disease.  They list 7 key points, one of which being the recommendation to give your brain a daily workout.  This could be reading, doing puzzles, playing cards or learning something new – such as another language.  If you can keep your mind active,  you are likely to reduce your risk of dementia.

So, during the last 18 months I have re-engaged with my second language learning.  Whilst challenging, I have maintained the momentum as it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  I am in the safe environment of a fabulous group of people, all of which have their own reason for learning.  We meet once a week and in addition to the learning experience we have a lot of fun.  Because language is complex, speaking or learning a new language gives your brain a very good workout.

I have also started to learn to play the piano.  Progress here is slow.  I tell myself that even though it is slow, it is still progress!  I have a weekly lesson and my tutor is very encouraging.  Whilst I find practising very relaxing, there are clear health benefits linked to learning to play a musical instrument.  It is acknowledged that memory and language are strengthened through the very strong cognitive stimulus.

Jigsaw puzzle
Card game

I have also tried some of the brain training apps.  These on-line games claim to improve memory, attention and problem solving.  This method of mental exercise is probably my least preferred, but everything has its place and time.  They provide a variety of stimuli and can usually be completed in 10 minutes.

Even though I find myself challenged, it is the sheer pleasure of these hobbies that keeps me going, whilst at the same time giving my brain the workout it needs and deserves.