We’re Getting Smarter, People!

Crossword puzzles, sudoko, aerobic exercise, fish oil…for years, baby boomers and seniors have been hearing about the benefits of these things in helping us avoid dementia, Alzheimer’s and the general memory loss that accompanies aging.

In her cover article for a recent issue of Newsweek, Sharon Begley has even better news. She writes of 31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012, ways we can not only improve our memory, but boost our overall IQ as much as 20 points.

The really good news about these findings? Nearly all the methods of getting smarter are easy, enjoyable, and cheap. How often do you see those three words in a sentence to describe anything these days??

Of the 31 ways, I was happy to note that many of them are things I already do (drink coffee, eat dark chocolate, play musical instruments, get a good amount of sleep, eat yogurt, drink lots of water) or things I’d like to do (learn a language, visit art museums, go to literary festivals, join a knitting circle, dance). One of the recommendations I know I’ll never do (play violent videos games- but hey, that’s good news for my son, and maybe why he’s a genius. And I thought it was because of my stellar parenting techniques!) These things all look like so much fun, I’m only half surprised they didn’t list sports betting as a way to get smarter.

Begley says one of the biggest detriments to becoming smarter is lack of attention. And one the major reasons we’ve all become a little attention deficit – you guessed it. Technology drains our focus in a hundred ways.  Hence another way to get smarter – toss the Smartphone in the garbage, and get outside and play  games like soccer.

The article accompanying Begley’s list is well worth reading, as she delves into some of the neuropsychological reasons the brain either gets smarter (or not) over time. Because just as brain power and intelligence can increase during our lifespan, so can they decrease without the proper care and feeding.

And none of us wants that to happen.

Last week at bell rehearsal I was talking with my stand partner about the article. We’ve been working on some particularly difficult music, requiring us to come up with some very creative bell changing options. As we discussed ways to get through a particularly difficult passage, we sipped coffee and nibbled on some of the ever-present chocolate squares. ”

“Look at this,” I told Darcie. “We’re getting smarter every minute!”

That’s the way to play it.

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20 thoughts on “We’re Getting Smarter, People!

  1. You had me at easy, enjoyable and cheap….and then you say dark chocolate and coffee, OH MY GOODNESS, I am Hooked!! Now as to this whole attention thing and tossing our iThingys away, I must say… oh, hold on, my iThingy just beeped,…..

  2. My sweet mother could feel her mind slipping and tried doing puzzles, changing diet and did so many of those things in the article, but to no avail. The heartbreak for me is that she KNEW she was slipping and losing the battle. No easy solution to dementia….sad.

  3. I quit Facebook. I’m not as frequent in Blogworld as I might be. I write in my journal rather than here on my laptop. I try to disconnect, to the point of watching little or no TV. There is SO MUCH to be attuned to; I am grateful to hear about this article and will find it.

    I was looking at and dusting the piano yesterday and wondering why I don’t play more. I know it’s a bit out of tune but it’s not like there’s an audience if I were to sit down and limber up. And I believe the house loves to be filled with music. I just pulled sheet music out of the bench.
    Wanna join me and we’ll do a duet?

  4. I feel that everything in the world is conspiring to tell me something because this topic of ‘getting smarter as you age’ has come up at least 6 times this past week. As in ‘don’t worry, Melissa, you may be old but you can still learn somethin’!’ 😉

  5. My mother did many of these things and still got Alzheimer’s, but I believe she may have delayed the onset. While other members of her family developed the disease in their late sixties or early seventies, she kept her mental clarity until she was past eighty. Eventually, as you say, genes and bodily frailty have their way with us, but in the meantime, playing music, exercising and yes, eating chocolate, make life more enjoyable. What have we got to lose?

  6. You know I’m going to read that article immediately. This short-term memory thing is a bit scary. I’m always using little tricks to remember things, particularly names and lists. Raising my IQ 20 points? That’s probably a little ambitious. 🙂

  7. Very interesting, in a suspicions-confirmed sort of way. Two points also in the article: passion counts – if we’re not interested in something, we’re less likely to retain it. And there was an interesting definition of creativity as “seeing connections others miss”. Again, the prescription for enhancing creativity is to give the brain more idle time – and to throw away the Blackberry.

    There’s no question that getting rid of the television, quitting facebook, refusing to text and living with a dumb phone has given me less stress and more time. I’m just glad I was smart enough to do those things in the first place!

    • If you think about it, a lot of the things they talk about make perfect sense, because they exercise the brain and the intellect. It’s like anything else – if you don’t use it, you lose it.

  8. I just read in an essay by Donald Hall that his mother, who lived to be almost 91 and was bright till the end, smoked two packs a day to keep away dementia! First unfiltered Chesterfields and then filtered Kents. :<) There's just no telling'!

  9. That sounds worthy a purchase of Newsweek! I think I fall into the tech trap too much. I spend a lot of time on this machine! Of course, I also spend time doing other stuff, but still… thanks for a good post!

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