The brain is a marvelous organ. It literally makes us who we are. Through its fundamental memory processes, the brain maintains the information that we need in order to know who we are. Without an adequately functioning brain we can have no sense of self. Without an adequately functioning brain, we would be limited in what we could learn and do. Every experience would be a new experience. We see this cases of amnesia and in cases of profound Alzheimer’s disease.
As we noted in our featured page on brain exercises, it appears that intellectual stimulation helps preserve the biological structure of the brain and its basic mental processes. Hence, many people recommend special programs of training to improve memory and enhance the power of mind. Challenging yourself and learning new things seem to help. But, we should also note that overall lifestyle is likely to have a profound effect on memory and cognition.
Several years ago a study of aged Catholic nuns was conducted. That study found that many of the nuns showed no clinical signs of Alzheimer’s disease while they were living. Yet, later brain autopsies showed the tell-tale signs of the disease. It appears that the nun’s lifestyle helped preserve their intellectual functioning. So, if you want to develop (or preserve) your thinking skills, take a lesson from the nuns. Yes, continue studying and learning, just as the nuns had done. But, pay attention to other aspects of your life.
The human brain developed in a social context. Much of its processing is devoted to social forms of cognition. Social ties and interactions with others were important to the nuns. You should maintain your social connections, as well. And take some time to meditate. Meditation helps reduce stress. As we know, stress has a negative impact on the body and interferes with memory and optimal mental processes. Finally, watch your diet and keep physically active. The non-intellectual aspects of your lifestyle are as important to the power of mind as formal brain exercises.