Looking to make a change in 2020? A local neuropsychologist shares why that’s a good idea – for you, and for your brain.
By Karen Lindgren, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, Bancroft
It’s January: the start of a new year; a chance to make a change in your life – those good old New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you’ve committed to a new exercise regimen, or decided to find a new job. Maybe you’re looking to do something else entirely. But whatever you’ve decided to do for yourself in 2020: It will be good for you.That’s right. Because change – almost any positive change, in fact – is good for your brain. Change is one of the keys to keeping your mind healthy and active; it stimulates the brain and prompts it to stay sharp, which is always important… but becomes especially vital as we age. When you learn to do something new, it forces the brain to develop new pathways and processes to help you remember how to do that thing. And once that becomes routine, your brain starts to rest again. After a while… just like your physical health, it’s good to get it moving again to ensure it stays in shape!Here are some ways — both big and small — you can make a change in your life, and boost your brain in the process.
- Find a new job – or change careers entirely. This is a big one, I know. Maybe you’re in a rut or unhappy with your current job. If you’ve been looking, what better time is there than now? Explore job sites to see what’s out there. The process of simply evaluating your options — weighing the pros and cons — can be beneficial. There are added benefits, as well, for people who are unhappy or stressed in their current position — removing those stressors and improving mental health is always a good thing.
- Not looking to make such a big change? Talk to your boss or colleagues. Is there a promotion or a new position you might apply for? A committee you can join? Some new responsibilities you might be able to tack on to your current workload? An event to help plan? Anything “new” will get those juices flowing — stretching your mind and, hopefully, allowing you to feel more creative and invigorated.
- Continue your education! Maybe it’s work-related — think a webinar or conference — and maybe it’s not. Many colleges now offer the option to audit classes online, and others offer certificate programs in a particular field of study. But learning doesn’t have to happen in the context of school or formal academics, either. Perhaps it means developing a new skill, such as learning how to ride a bike, speak a new language or play a new instrument — or you could try a new type of cooking, travel somewhere new, or start a new hobby.
- Start an exercise regimen. This one is a resolution cliche, to be sure, but there’s no denying the impact exercise can have on the brain. Studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week can positively affect your health. Cardio is especially beneficial, because it feeds and strengthens the blood vessels in your brain. This doesn’t mean you need to go join a fancy gym, or invest in a lot of equipment. A brisk walk – one where your heart rate is elevated, but you can still hold a conversation – is a great place to start. If your mobility is limited, try a modified exercise that works your upper body, like Chair Yoga. And YouTube is a great resource for free workout videos if you can’t make it to the gym. The important thing is to develop a routine, and stick to it. (Always consult a physician before beginning or changing workout routines.)
When it comes to brain health – use it, or you’ll lose it. The key is stimulation, and the benefit lies in the simple act of processing and thinking about the new information or challenge you’re facing. What better way to start than by changing it up right now? A new year, a new you… and a new challenge for your mind.