In a brain fog? Brush your teeth with your left hand


There’s been a mountain of material written on how to keep our wits about us as we age. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rushed outside to do something really, really important then when I’m out the door, I don’t have a clue what it was.

Now, there’s help: Exercises for the brain, and they can actually be fun. Drive home via a different route; brush your teeth with your opposite hand (let me warn you, this is HARD!) I’ve even been attempting to eat with my left hand, and sometimes I stick it in my nose.

The brain works through associations (which is why it’s easier to memorize lyrics to a song than it is to try and remember the same words without music), so the more senses you involve the better.” I still sing the alphabet song when I’m looking up a name in the phone book.

Your morning newspaper is a great place to start. “Simple games like Sudoku and word games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next,” says John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and author of The Science of Staying Young. In addition to word games, Dr. Morley recommends the following exercises to sharpen your mental skills:

  • Test your recall. Make a list — of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
  • Draw a map from memory. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
  • Do math in your head. Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult by walking at the same time. (I’m sorry, I’ll NEVER be able to do this one – I still count on my fingers.)
  • Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
  • Take a cooking class. Learn a new way to cook. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all use different parts of the brain.
  • Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
  • Learn a foreign language. The listening and hearing involved stimulates the brain. (Does pig Latin count?)
  • Let the music play. Learn to play a musical instrument or study music.
  • Refine your hand-eye abilities. Learn a new skill that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc. (How bout drawing on eyeliner?)
  • Engage your senses. Try activities that involve as many of your senses as possible, such as gardening.
  • Learn a new sport. Take up an athletic exercise that utilizes the mind and body, like golf or basketball.

Soon people will realize that they can take steps to keep their brains healthy, just as they know they can prevent heart disease by taking certain actions, says Bender. “In the coming decade, I predict brain wellness to be right up there with heart health — now that there’s proof that living a brain-healthy lifestyle works!”

2 thoughts on “In a brain fog? Brush your teeth with your left hand

  1. This entire article reminds me of the day that I went downstairs to check on some clothes that were drying, and I opened the refrigerator. Go figure. And that was several years ago. And I’m ONLY 64 3/4 now. Maybe Medicare will help.
    By the way, “simple games like Sudoku”? Simple? Puh-leeze, Dr. Morley.

  2. Emily,

    I’ve recently read that physical exercise is actually one of the most beneficial things we can do for our brains according to research.

    Probably a NEW sport would be better, but I’m just trying to learn to swim a more educated way than I did growing up. I’m afraid of falling with the osteoporosis, but will have to learn some new and probably complicated (for me, that is) exercises for resistance and weight training, just for that. Perhaps some of them will help with both the swimming and the osteoporosis, but swimming’s not really recommended for the bones — too much bouyancy, I guess.

    I have recently fallen in love with the oboe. I’ve never played a wood wind instrument, so this would be something new for my brain. I can read music already, but I’m sure that I could stir up some old memories to mix with my new ones. Hmm, wonder what a good one of those costs these days? I wouldn’t want to learn on one that someone else had already salivated on! Ooooeeeee!

    In terms of languages, I’m not sure which one would be totally different from the ones I already know — perhaps something in the Slavic category.
    Which one of those is easiest or most basic to learn — perhaps the oldest living Slavic language. Anyone know which one that would be? There are certainly lots of Russians in my neighborhood, and some of them used to teach classes to the gringos in the area — perhaps they still do that.

    May take me til I’m in the nursing home to have time to do all this, so for now, I’m just going to swim.

    Great article. I needed that!

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