Brain Aerobics: Start by Upgrading Your Daily Routine

How many of the United States can you name that border an ocean? Makes you think? What strategy did you use?  Maybe you took started with Maine and worked your way south on the East Coast. What if you had to name them in alphabetical order? That might take a little more brain power. Activities like these can challenge your brain which may help to slow cognitive decline. Whether you double check your answers with a map or on the computer, remember that even that requires some thinking and can be also part of the challenge.

Many of my clients with mild memory loss, once introduced to some ways to challenge their brain in new ways or upgrade their daily routine, seem to become more engaged. For those who have more difficulty, doing it with another person is a win-win for both of them.

A quote from William Cowper expresses something that is very appropriate for your brain fitness. “Variety’s the very spice of life that gives it all its flavor.”  A very simple activity is to do what you do normally but with your other hand. Doing something with your right hand stimulates the brain cells on the left side of your brain so it gets the benefit of the workout.. I have a computer game I play occasionally just to unwind. One evening I used my left hand instead of the right one to make the moves and immediately noticed how it engaged my brain in a different way.

Remember that the key to doing this is your attitude. Do not make it stressful. Have fun with it!

Think of something you do on automatic pilot and see if there is a way to change it up a bit. One gentleman shared how he kept his brain engaged when he was on the road as a salesman. When he drove by a street sign, he would practice spelling the words backwards. And he was still good at it many years later.

Here are a few ways to try and change up something in your daily routine.

1. Order something different when you go to your favorite restaurant.
2. Try shopping in a different grocery store for a few items.
3. Sit in a different place when watching television or reading a book.
4. Take a different route to a familiar place whether walking or driving.
5. Print your “to do” list with your other hand. Or switch it up when you brush your teeth, comb your hair, or turn the pages of a book.
6. Be open to reading information about another perspective on a topic of interest.

A woman who attended one of my memory fitness programs sent me an email to share her experience with some of the brain game recommendations. When she told her daughter that she was going to find one simple thing each day to do differently, her daughter liked the challenge. Each evening at dinner they shared their experiences and some of the other family members joined in. It was interesting to hear how a little friendly competition brought out their creativity which is another bonus for brain fitness!

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

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About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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