A number of years ago I had the privilege of interviewing one of the world’s top neuropsychologists (currently Clinical Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine) Elkhonon Golberg. I was interviewing him for the Australian Financial Review about age-proofing the brain and staving off dementia, as well as maximising the brain’s capacity for creative thinking. His advice: ‘Novelty and diversity, and more novelty’.
This matched up very well with something I often talk about, the idea of going on little ‘creative adventures’, excursions you take with your creative side. One of the best ways to kickstart your creativity or keep it in top running order is to do something different – explore a place or a topic or a musical genre you are not familiar with, talk to someone in a different field, read a book outside your usual fare. And recent research on ‘super-agers’ (people who are biologically younger than their chronological age) suggests that doing new things that push you a bit is the best way to stay mentally young.
Why not set aside some time (ideally) every week, 30 minutes or more if you can, to do something you haven’t done before. Some suggestions follow, but once you get the hang of it, you can easily dream up your own ideas. Not only will this encourage creativity and creative thinking capacity, but it also helps build brain connections that may well assist in keeping your brain in good shape as you age, preserving brain fitness.
(Oh, and it’s fun, really fun…)
Here are some suggestions to start you off:
- Take a drive or a walk with no destination…pick a road and go exploring: Just follow a whim, drive home a different way, take a picnic. You can do this on public transport, too.
- Listen to some music from a different culture: Find a genre you’re not familiar with, tune into a new radio stations, swap music ideas with a friend, borrow music from your local library.
- Do a cooking class: Find a class in a cuisine you don’t normally cook.
- Have a poetry afternoon tea: Invite your closest friends, and a couple of new ones – ask everyone to bring a copy of their favourite poem (and some cake).
- Barefoot in the Park: Spend a whole day barefoot…whatever you have to do, do it without shoes. Indoors or out, formal or casual, no shoes allowed. If that’s too much, start with an hour.
- Go to a free public talk: Listings are in metropolitan and local papers. Pick something that sounds interesting but not your usual fare.
- Small miracles: Grab a magnifying glass and wander round your garden looking at the plants and flowers and leaves. How does it change your perspective? Are there things you have never noticed before? Maybe you’d like to be an ant in your next life?