Monday, July 12, 2010

Instant Brain: Just add water

Many complain of their looks, few of their brains.

Everyday, we are bombarded with images promising us wealth, youth and beauty. There are pills that would turn us into Snow White clones; creams that would reverse the aging process; and power drinks that would help us achieve that coveted stick thin figure.

As we try to enhance our physical selves, something gets neglected in the process.

Our mental health.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe that we should continuously try to better ourselves physically. But what's missing is that much needed balance. After all, too much of a good thing may turn out for the worse.

Cognitive Fitness, as Gilkey and Kilts explained in their article, is mental exercise. As much as our physical bodies need a constant workout, so do our brains. They explain that this can be achieved through four steps.

Step One: Experience

My dad is a traveler. That is one passion that he was able to pass down to me and my brother. Unfortunately for him, we didn't get the business gene. He is a big believer of experiencing the world. If you wanted to taste real pasta, you go to Italy. If you wanted to witness what real theater is, you go to London. All our summer vacations were spent exploring and charting unknown territory. He refused to go on tour groups. As what he would tell us: "Pick up the map. It's time for an adventure."

Even at 69, and as busy as he is with work, he still finds the time to stop, step out of his environment and experience adventures in every part of the world.

The article mentions the importance of going on a walkabout. I suppose the reason why my dad has always succeeded in any business that he delves into is precisely because of this. His love for travel translates into how he handles his business ventures. He doesn't stay inside a comfy executive office. He doesn't even have a permanent office. Everyday, he would check on all his business establishments, driving from Manila to Cabanatuan to Pampanga, paying attention to every detail.

Step Two: Work Hard at Play

A few meetings ago, we discussed how the brain can generate ideas when it is at rest. I thought that was pretty interesting. I remembered I had this idea of inventing a water proof notebook because I seem to always get my best story ideas while in the shower. The moment I step out and try to remember what it was, the idea has long gone down the drain. It's amazing how much the brain can achieve when it is not thriving on stress or caffeine. Once we reach a certain age, we are forced into an environment where looking busy and harassed meant you were using your brain. Relaxing and playing are then attributed to sloth-like behavior. As a result, we develop a one track mind, bent on achieving a certain goal and forging on a certain road.

What the article is trying to say is that there are other ways of thinking. There are other ways to get results. Play therapy for example, can be synonymous to adults as much as they already are to children.

Color stimulates the brain. But as we grow older, the rainbow slowly fades into shades of black, gray and white.

Step Three: Search for Patterns

This step basically supports what "The Medici Effect" says. Bringing together ideas and experiences to create something new. This just proves just how important it is to pay close attention to intersections.

Step Four: Seek Novelty

Gardner mentioned that for someone to succeed in the future, being an expert on something is tantamount. Apart from that, venturing outside our expertise is just as important. Developing new skills will oil our brains, preventing it from getting rusty.

I have always tried to update myself with good literature and the latest in theater. I always believed that staying with things that I found interesting or that I was good at were enough to exercise my brain. It didn't occur to me that venturing out of the world I built for myself would prove to be a more enriching experience.

A friend recently tried to teach me how to play chess. I was hesitant, judging that I would be bad at it. Insecurity got the best of me. The usual phrases like "I'm not too good at this" combined with nervous laughter were my weapons.

Being more aware now of how this could benefit me, I should go try again.

Although we live in a world of instant noodles, there is no instant brain.

As with physical beauty, there is no one pill that will magically transform us into geniuses. It will need work and constant exercise.

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