[Article] Keeping your brain active

During lockdown, I’ve been chatting to my Mum on the phone more regularly than usual. Being over 70, she’s even more restricted than me in her daily activities. We’ve discussed a lot of different topics in the last three months and there is one subject that keeps recurring:

How do you keep your brain active if you can’t go out and get some exercise? We know that physical exercise is one of the best ways to protect your cognitive health, but when it’s been pouring with rain for a week and you can’t even go and push a trolley round the supermarket, what can you do?

It’s a serious question for many people. Isolation is putting a strain on mental health, we don’t want to add cognitive decline due to inactivity to our list of woes. Doing the crossword or logic puzzles can help, but we know that what really stimulates the brain is new experience and movement.

Which took me back to some work I did with my friend Jane Battenberg (www.changewithin.com)…

If you’ve been reading my newsletters for a long time you may remember some years ago Jane ran a couple of workshops for me around the subject of neural plasticity and its uses in coaching. She devised some wonderful exercises, many involving activities done with the non-preferred hand.

So, discussing this with Mum, we came to the conclusion that simply doing normal everyday tasks with the non-preferred hand could be good exercise for the brain. Mum’s somewhat ambidextrous – she’s always been able to write legibly with either hand, so we assumed that some tasks would be more challenging than others.

The next day, she reported that she’d washed up with the ‘wrong’ hand without any damage to the china or glassware. She’d also attempted to brush her teeth with her left hand and found that much more difficult. However, she did say that it made her laugh so much that she had to stop even trying to brush her teeth for a few minutes and I figured that had to be a good thing.

Now, I’m left-handed and also somewhat ambidextrous, so I thought that brushing my teeth with my right hand wouldn’t be a big deal. But I had to have a go! It wasn’t really difficult and I thought I was doing quite well, until I noticed that my left hand wouldn’t keep still. Every movement I made with my right hand was being mirrored by my left. It was almost as if my left hand was saying ‘oh, give it to me!’

This reduced me to fits of giggles. Again, I figured that had to be a good thing. We can all do with something to laugh about just now.

I’m still practising brushing my teeth with my right hand AND keeping my left hand still at the same time. Not easy, but if it’s giving my brain a workout and making me laugh (not to mention sparkling teeth!) then it’s got to be a good thing.

Over to you – are you up for the challenge? Can you brush your teeth with your non-preferred hand? Does it make you laugh?

I’d love to hear how you get on.

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