Abundant Optimism

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Explore Ideas to Keep the Mind Active

By Tamara Martfeld

If you are like most people, you are exposed to the same types of ideas on a daily basis. At your job, you are exposed to the same co-workers and activity related to the job. You watch the same thing on television every day or week, depending on the programming. You obtain your news from the same sources every time you want to know what is happening in the world. You read the same books, and you listen to the same music. Human beings like routines, and having routines are good for several purposes. In many cases you can go through an entire day without thinking by following your routines. However, one needs to shake up the routines once in a while to keep the brain active and growing.

Shaking up the routine may require stepping out of your comfort zone, and this is good for you. Start with something easy. Watch a show on television you have never seen or change the radio station and listen to music other than that to which you usually listen. These actions are relatively simple and not too far from what you are used to. They should make the brain just a little more active.

Next, move into actions which may be more of a challenge for you, especially if you are someone who does not like change. One idea is to get on the internet and search for something random or unusual. Then follow every link on a page you choose from the many results, using your usual care to avoid sites likely to have viruses and other such junk. Follow every link on the linked pages. Keep following links until you run out of links, then start again. It can lead to all sorts of interesting information. For example, I was researching a given religion several years ago and in following the links eventually ended up on pages with information opposite in beliefs of the original religion being researched. This exercise does two things: 1) it exposes the mind to new ideas – you do not have to agree with the ideas to know they are out there, and 2) it can illustrate connections between different ideas or topics which one would never expect.

Another idea is to have a long conversation with someone you just met, especially someone you know may have ideas different form your own. For example, find someone with a different religion from yours and explore how the two religions are the same or different. Find someone who is interested in a different activity than any in which you are active. Speak to someone who has a job you have never heard of or about which you know nothing. If you are really brave this year, speak to a Democrat or Republican about their candidate, and make sure it is not the candidate of your choice – a conversation, not a fight.

Your mind can also be activated by attending a lecture or one-day class on a topic about which you know nothing. You do not have to agree with the topic or learn the details, just be exposed to the new ideas. You may find something new that excites you.

A solo exercise to activate your mind is to just sit or stand in a safe location and observe your surroundings through your senses. Close your eyes. How does the area feel? Is it too hot, too cold, or just right? Is there a breeze? What do you smell? Is it pleasant, or do you wish the smell gone? Is there more than one smell? Stick out your tongue. Is there a taste? If so, what is it? What do you hear? Is the noise in the room or outside? Do you hear trees rustling or birds singing? Do you hear the refrigerator or central air unit? Open your eyes. What do you see? Is the room familiar, or is there something different about the room? What colors are present? This exercise can make you more aware of your surroundings.

My last suggestion is to obtain your news from a different source, ideally one which does not think like you do. It is difficult to find a non-partisan news source, so it should be easy to find one with a different slant on the news than what you are used to. Look at the top stories from this alternate source and see the different slant on the information. At the very least you will be aware of what the other side is thinking. Ideally, you will see things from the other side even if you do not change your position. This exercise, practiced frequently enough, will help to open your mind.

Another benefit to these exercises is that a more active mind is supposed to help prevent or put off Alzheimer’s and dementia. I am not the expert on that angle, however, that is the information being put out there by the experts.

Keep your mind active and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

If you are an American veteran, I thank you for serving your country. I fly each of the eight service flags in your honor. I thank you for my freedom.