Worried about fading brain power?
If you’re older than 27, you have good reason.
That’s the age when cognitive skills start to decline, according to new University of Virginia research. But while some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable as we age, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects — and keep many minds working sharply well into old age.
That’s reassuring, given headlines from the Alzheimer’s Association’s new annual report showing that every 70 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia). Debilitating memory loss doesn’t happen to everyone, though. Learn what you can do to preserve yours.memory .
Booster #1. Take the stairs
Exercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body, a growing number of studies indicate. Overall cardiorespiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Theories on why that’s so range from improved blood flow to the brain to less brain shrinkage.
Experts recommend making regular aerobic workouts part of your routine. Failing that, it appears that even small efforts add up. So avoid elevators. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Start by walking around your block in the evenings, and add a few minutes more each day.
Memory Booster #2: Change your wallpaper
When doing routine things, the brain runs on autopilot. Novelty, on the other hand, literally fires up the brain as new data creates and works new neural pathways.
So shake up what you see and do every day: If your computer screen background is “invisible” to you, run a program that mixes it up every day or every hour. Take a different route home from work. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. Buy, borrow, or download a book that makes you think about new ideas.
Memory Booster #3. Steal some zzz’s by daylight
It’s while you’re sleeping that your brain sorts, consolidates, and stores memories accumulated during the day — that’s why eight hours at night is so valuable. But a mere six-minute nap is as valuable as a full night’s sleep to short-term recall, according to German research. And a 90-minute nap has been shown to speed up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.
Memory Booster #4. Take a mental “photograph”
Memories aren’t just stored in one spot in the brain; bits of data are processed and stored in different areas. To help make the memory of an incident last, take a “snapshot” of it while you’re in the moment, using all your senses. Look around and think about what you see. Notice colors and textures. What do you smell? If you’re eating or drinking (or kissing), what’s the taste?
This “mental camera” trick can help you hang onto a happy memory longer. But it can also help you remember where you parked your car.
Memory Booster #5. Eat less – Eat Right
After only 12 weeks, healthy volunteers (average age 60) who reduced their daily calories by 30 percent scored 20 percent better on memory tests, University of Munster (Germany) researchers reported in January. The possible reason: decreased levels of insulin, created when the body processes food, and of the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Both factors are linked to improved memory function.
The people in the study were cautioned not to consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day. If cutting back on your diet by nearly a third seems too daunting, focus on eating less fat, meat, and dairy products. Earlier this year, Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported that in a long-term study of more than 1,300 participants, those with the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated oils (like olive oil) but low in fat, beef, and dairy — had the lowest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory Booster #6. Try a “brain-training” game — or join a “brain gym”
The science is promising, if not conclusive, as to whether so-called brain-fitness software can actually improve memory. A study in the April 2009 *Journal of the American Geriatric Society* shows that people over 65 who used a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day, over a period of eight weeks, improved memory and attention more than a control group.
Memory Booster #7. Spend some time online
Neuroscientist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory & Aging Center and author of *iBrain*, says searching the Web is a bit like using a brain-training course. His researchers used MRI to measure brain activity in Web users ages 55 to 76; the net-savvy users showed twice as much brain activity, especially regarding decision making.
Memory Booster #8. Stop and sip a cuppa
Green and black teas have a protective effect on memory, possibly by influencing enzymes in the brain. The caffeine sparks concentration, too. And people who drink moderate amounts of coffee at midlife — as many as three to five cups — have lower odds of developing dementia in late life, Finnish and French researchers say.
Another benefit: Taking a coffee or tea break in your day (or three times a day) is a good opportunity for destressing.Memory
Booster #9. See a doctor if you feel depressed
Maybe it’s “just a mood.” But untreated depression is common and can impair memory. Talk therapy and/or antidepressant medication can resolve the problem. Two red flags worth mentioning to a physician: a loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure and a persistent sense of hopelessness.
People at higher risk for depression include caregivers of older people and those who have a family history of depression.
Memory Booster #10. Take the “multi” out of your tasking
Especially when they’re trying to learn something new, people remember less well later if they were multitasking while learning, UCLA researchers have shown. If, for example, you’re studying while listening to the radio, your memory recall may be dependent on the music to help you later retrieve the information during the test — except, of course, that you can’t usually replicate the same circumstances (like music during a test).
Try to learn something new — reading a contract or directions, copying a skill — when you can give it your full concentration. Cut out distractions like the TV in the background or pausing every few seconds when you hear the “ding” of your e-mail or text-message inbox.
The day is approaching in which we will be GMOs. Kurzweil AI recently reported:
European regulators have approved the first therapy in the western world that can correct errors in a person’s genetic code, according to Amsterdam-based uniQure.
Europe has approved Glybera for treatment of Lipoprotein Lipase Deficiency, a rare, inherited disease. Patients with LPLD are unable to metabolize the fat particles carried in their blood, which leads to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Glybera introduces a normal, healthy LPL gene into the body so that it can make functional LPL protein.
Glybera will be available in the second half of 2013, according Glybera will be available in the second half of 2013, according to uniQure, which is preparing to apply for regulatory approval in the U.S., Canada, and other markets.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,
it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
There will be good times and bad in life. This is a fact you will learn only through living. It is up to you whether the bad will be bad or if you will find light in the dark. There are things that happen everyday which can be taken in different ways. If i was going to the beach and it began storming I could either throw a fit or decide to go outside in my bathing suit and embrace the rain.
We are made of whatever we choose to allow. If I should choose to bring out life and laughter despite surrounding circumstances then that is what I will have. Life is about the struggle itself and what we make of that. There will be things beyond our control that happen to us but there are lessons to be learned and we can still have peace of mind despite what we are dealing with.
We must deal with things that come into our life. This is simply how life works. The way we choose to deal with our struggles creates who we are. Let life affect you in building strength for yourself and your future. Decide who you are through your struggles and stay true to that. You are unique in your strengths compared to others and that is what you should try to bring out of yourself in times where you struggle.
Do not let the rain bring you down but instead realize that it is as beautiful as the sun and meant to be cherished. So dance. Dance your own unique dance under the sky and feel the freedom to be you. Be one with the struggle and the reward.
Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991)
In this article, we collect some grownup advice on writing from Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to children and adults as Dr. Seuss.
It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.
So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.
That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.
In the spring of 1984, Ted Geisel was startled to find out that he’d been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. “It comes right out of left field, particularly after all these years,” the then 80-year-old author said. “I’m a writer who has to eat with the children before the adults eat” (quoted in Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography, by Judith and Neil Morgan, Da Capo Press, 1996).
Known to readers everywhere as Dr. Seuss, Geisel hadn’t always been a writer of children’s stories. Early in his career he published satirical articles, wrote advertising copy, and drew political cartoons. But even after gaining fame with books about Horton, the Grinch, and other comic characters, he kept his older readers in mind as well. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) may have a reading level of ages four to eight, but it’s most popular as a graduation gift for high school and college students.
Geisel’s thoughts on writing may also be more appropriate for grownups than for kids. After all, the key to good writing, he once said, is “meticulosity”–a peculiarly Seussian quality that takes years to learn.
You can fool an adult into thinking he’s reading profundities by sprinkling your prose with purple passages. But with a kid you can’t get away with that. Two sentences in a children’s book is the equivalent of two chapters in an adult book.
For a 60-page book I’ll probably write 500 pages. I think that’s why it works. (quoted in “Dr. Seuss’s Green-Eggs-and-Ham World,” by Judith Frutig, The Christian Science Monitor, May 12, 1978)
Keep It Alive!
We throw in as many fresh words as we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don’t always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it alive and vital. Virtually every page is a cliff-hanger–you’ve got to force them to turn it. (quoted in A Writer Teaches Writing, by Donald Murray, Houghton Mifflin, 1984)
Learn by Yourself!
I tend to basically exaggerate in life, and in writing, it’s fine to exaggerate. I really enjoy overstating for the purpose of getting a laugh. It’s very flattering, that laugh, and at the same time it gives pleasure to the audience and accomplishes more than writing very serious things. For another thing, writing is easier than digging ditches. Well, actually that’s an exaggeration. It isn’t.
(interview in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, 1976)
In late 1990, Ted’s biographers asked if, after all that he had said in his books, there was anything left unsaid. Several days later, Ted handed them a sheet of paper on which he had written: “Any message or slogan? Whenever things go a bit sour in a job I’m doing, I always tell myself, ‘You can do better than this.’
“The best slogan I can think of to leave with the U.S.A. would be: ‘We can . . . and we’ve got to . . . do better than this.'”
Have you ever been so engaged in an activity that you lost track of time or even your surroundings? A bomb could have gone off (figuratively) and you wouldn’t have noticed?
That’s called “flow” – a state of consciousness where we experience a task so deeply that it truly becomes enjoyable and satisfying. For me this usually happens while I’m reading, writing, or developing software. For you, it could happen during any number of tasks — golfing, cooking, hiking, etc.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the architect of Flow and he wrote Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience. A guide that shows us how to add more enjoyment in our lives by increasing the time we spend in Flow.
The Conditions of Flow
Flow can be achieved by anyone with any task, as long as the conditions are right. I usually get into a state of Flow while writing. I listen to music through my headphones and after a few minutes I really get into my work I’m oblivious to my surroundings.
Sometimes I can’t type fast enough. Other times I type so s-l-o-w-l-y and the words don’t come easily. But, either way, I’m in a state of Flow. According to Mihaly there are eight characteristics to an optimal experience:
- You’re challenged by the task at hand. This seems to be the ‘prime directive’ to achieving Flow and can actually prevent you from being in a state of Flow. The difficulty of your task has to be “just right”. If the task is to easy, you’ll get bored and eventually stop. If the task is to difficult, you’ll get frustrated and eventually stop. Either way, you loose.
- The ability to concentrate is key. If there are to many interruptions or it’s noisy, you won’t be able to concentrate on your task. No concentration, no Flow.
- You have clear goals to achieve. Goals establish a mechanism to measure your progress and provide a sense of achievement. People in Flow achieve their goals.
- You receive immediate feedback. Either your ball landed in the cup or it didn’t. You know immediately if your goal was reached or not.
- Your worries and frustrations of everyday life recede into the background. This perhaps is one of the greatest benefit of Flow. You’re busy concentrating on your task and the rest of your world just “goes away” for a short while. Even though you’re challenged, you end up relaxed, satisfied and you achieved something meaningful (all this, and it’s legal too).
- Your sense of self disappears (only for a while). When it re-appears, you’re refreshed with an even stronger sense of self.
- You have a level of control over your actions while performing your task.
- You loose track of time and feel great when you’re done with your task.
With all the “modern conveniences” available today, we have more free time than ever before. But, with all this free time, people rarely reported being in a Flow state.
What is the largest single pastime for Americans? Watching TV. It’s a national obsession – sports, soaps, reality TV, it doesn’t matter, we’ll watch anything. The interesting thing is this – Flow is rarely achieved while watching TV!
I wonder if it has anything to do with your brain being more active while you’re sleeping than when you’re watching TV? Even though we have plenty of free time, our single most leisure activity is producing the poorest quality of enjoyment. If you’re looking to take one small step to improve the quality of your life – then turn off your TV.
The State of Flow at Work
Engaging in a challenging activity is a primary condition to achieve Flow and for many of us, this occurs while at work. You’re given a task or you volunteer for a project that’s just beyond your current skill level. Deep down you know you can do it and maybe it’s a stretch. But it’s the challenge that intrigues you and ultimately expands your knowledge.
This is how one grows – expanding your skills by continuously challenging oneself and moving to that “next level”. It’s at work where the opportunity to grow occurs most frequently. There is nothing wrong with this. My point is that we need to find activities outside of work where we can achieve Flow.
Your Personal Plan for Flow
- Find a challenging activity. This could be anything. Reading, suduko, learning a language, cooking, or even playing a video game. Whatever you decide to do, just do it.
- Commit to yourself. Remember, you’re doing this for one person and one person only. Yourself. This is your chance to finally get on the road to happiness and accomplishment.
- Set a series of realistic goals. By setting goals you automatically know the level of skills needed to accomplish those goals and you provide yourself a framework for achieving a sense of accomplishment. Just as a video game has levels that you try to achieve, so should your activity. Define the levels, work to achieve them and realize your goals.
- Turn off the T.V. “Everything in moderation” is what my father used to tell me – so it goes for TV. Some is good, a lot is bad. Give yourself a chance to get into a Flow state by turning off the TV.
- Remove any interruptions. It nearly impossible to be engrossed in an activity when you’re bombarded with interruptions. I tell my kids “Please don’t interrupt me unless you’re bleeding or a dinosaur is crashing through our house”. They usually giggle and give me the time I need.
- Track your progress. Create a simple way to track your daily progress. Place a mark on a calendar, write a short entry in a journal or scratch a line in your bedroom wall.
- Enjoy your experience. Achieving flow takes determination. But remember to enjoy your experience along the way. As they say “it’s the journey that’s important”.
Trying to please everyone will water down your efforts, frustrate your forward motion and ultimately fail.
The balancing act is to work to please precisely the right people, and just enough of them, to get your best work out the door.
Shun the non-believers.
Often times people live with the “if I would have only done this or that” attitude, while others allow it to consume them. In allowing time to tear oneself down from the past, the world seems to get by on them.
Consider that life is like driving a car. What is behind you is the past and the future is ahead. Driving into the unknown can be a struggle but will surely take you to places you have never been. No one guarantees that what’s in front of you will always be bliss, but what is for certain is that if you continue driving in reverse, you will inevitably crash. This wreck can, and will, ruin what could have been, leaving yourself one more, “what if”. Looking in the rear view, once in a while, is acceptable, as revisiting the past can be a wonderful way to compare to what you are seeing ahead. Don’t allow your eyes to linger there too long, because you don’t wish to miss the curves ahead.
Throw the car in drive, my friend, and drive with all your might.
If you drive in reverse too long, you’ll surely lose your sight.
Remember when you’ve seen the world, to turn and drive again
It never hurts to see the changes, between the now and then.
EDITORS COMMENT: Sometimes the greatest blessings come from the most unexpected places. What I am about to share is one of those unexpected blessings for me. This Op/Ed piece was written by my nephew Paul Timmins. Since Paul was young he has often looked up to me and I proudly mentored him. I consider him a fine example of a Husband, Father, and Friend. If the world had more people like Paul we could all sleep a lot better at night. Paul, I am PROUD of you!
Today, while eating at one of my favorite restaurants, Idle Hour in Spring Lake, MI (I’ve literally been eating there since I was able to eat solid food) I found some printouts on the lazy susan on the middle of the table.
Naturally, I picked them up, and one set of them was filled with a printed email containing a racist “joke” about painting a golf caddy robot black and having it fail to show up for work, apply for welfare, or become president, or something along those lines. Someone has reproduced this “joke” here.
It was prefaced with the words:
“IT MAY NOT BE POLITICALLY INCORRECT
BUT IT’S TRUE!”
I corrected this with my sharpie to then read:
NOT BE POLITICALLY INCORRECT RACIST BUT ITS TRUE! FIXED THAT FOR YOU”
I think it’s important to call a spade a spade, and let other people figure it out. You can’t hide behind blatant racism with wimpy claims of “political correctness”. This isn’t someone saying “A black man” rather than “A man of African American decent”. It’s a straight up racist joke. If you think it’s funny, that’s fine, as long as you realize it’s actually racist, not just some stupid jab in the culture wars.
I then set it back in its place. Found another email printout, this time some email forward talking about how Obama is screwing old people by putting a 3.8% sales tax on all home sales. I got the correct information from factcheck.org stating that there is such a tax, but you have to have more than $200k a year in income, and it taxed the sale in excess of $250k for single people, and $500k for married filing jointly, and only to the extent that it exceeded those values would it be taxed (a sale of a home for $501k would only have $38 in additional taxes, as long as the person had $200k in income that year, otherwise it’d still be not taxed). So I made massive corrections to that email and put it back as well.
I don’t think the owners were involved, or possibly even aware. But I won’t allow racism or disinformation to go unchallenged.
[warning]EDITOR NOTE: Visit Paul’s website at http://www.timmins.net[/warning]