Use it or lose it…Grey Matter

Muscle versus brawn

Becoming a parent and responsible-ish adult has been a game-changer for my life in general and it has also affected my mind a lot too. I still get anxious at times, and now for more valid reasons.

Will my daughter develop and learn well? Is she safe when she goes to pre-school and I’m not there? Is her home life giving her a stable up-bringing?

These are all concerns that whizz about my mind as well as all the other daily and short-to-mid term events that are going on in the back-ground. The problem is, our brains can only handle so much information at a time. Too much to think about inevitably makes us forget. Hopefully it’s only trivialities like putting the washing machine on before we leave the house in the morning, or missing the bread from the quick shopping trip.

The forgetful treadmill

I do feel though, that with the distractions from electronic devices and some degree of a lack of self-control, I get caught up in a cycle of not using my brain enough. The saying  ‘use is or lose it,’ and the Cockney Rhyming slang ‘Use your loaf,’ serve as important reminders to exercise our mental muscles. Whether that be memory or increasing our intelligence, both are important. A healthy mind, moreover, means a healthier body. I do not wish to age prematurely. The greys in my hair spring up and nag me that I’m not getting any younger. Aches and pains bleat out that my body needs strengthening and better suppleness.

We work out at the gym, or do exercise classes. For those who prefer team sports, there’s football, hockey. netball. Solo work-outs include running, cycling and swimming. I must admit, I’m not a fitness fanatic. I do enjoy my aerobics classes and Pilates. Walking is enjoyable too, in the right weather. But pounding a treadmill, or pavements is not me. I do not own a bicycle. But as long as I do some exercise at least several days a week I feel better. My mood lifts. I’m not as cranky, and I sleep well enough, providing I’m not too awake to sleep.

Brain Training

In terms of general memory, I’ve usually got a pretty good recall, particularly for numerical things like phone numbers. On occasion I have temporarily forgotten PIN numbers though; not helpful when standing at the point of sale at the services! This temporary lapse though seems to go hand-in-hand with anxiety, and in some ways its a useful marker telling me to take a step back and breathe.

 

Now, I’m half-way through this year (my first year blogging). My good intentions to stay ‘on top of the game’ have somewhat been absent-mindedly misplaced. I need to shake myself up, and give my brain a boost. One way of doing this is to take up cross-words. Not ‘damn!’ and ‘blast!’, but you know, those boxes that have clues to fill in with greyed out bits. I used to like doing ones in certain broadsheet papers. Not the cryptic… but the quick one. That is enough for my brain at present. Having left my ‘professional’ career as a scientist behind me 5 years ago, the brain of a part-time (was) housekeeper / sales advisor / full-time mum is currently feeling more colander-like than merely sieve-like.

Brain draining in progress…

Other productive past-times to boost the grey cells include learning languages. I did do a French course after leaving my science role, and I took some creative drawing classes. Both were enjoyable at the time. Drawing to some degree now is possible, though I don’t have the attention span and neither does my daughter, for me to be able to sit and produce anything artistically merit-worthy. It’d be more like doodling. I can teach my daughter basic French. It’s not very challenging for me, mentally though.

An alternative is re-teaching myself to play guitar. A recent Twitter chat reminded me how I used to like rocking out some riffs. Despite my plucking being a bit shoddy, I liked learning the chord shapes and trying out scales and arpeggios. Since I don’t read music I can get tabulature off the internet. Plenty of sites offer ‘tabs’ for free. Some are better than others, depending on the ability of the person who writes them (and their musical talent). It doesn’t have to necessarily be note perfect for playing along at home.

So between cross-words and re-learning guitar, I have a couple of options to build up my grey matter. My daughter’s brain is like a sponge, so I hope I can re-train mine to be less sieve-like and more sponge-like. If only I had remembered to buy the blasted paper to get the cross-words!

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