Engage in game playing to effectively train your brain

Louie Radovanovic engages in that old game of brain exercise, chess.
Louie Radovanovic engages in that old game of brain exercise, chess. Christopher Chan

WHETHER it's the Melbourne Cup, the US Presidential election or the cake-icing competition at the Woop Woop East Show: what seemed at the time like a big deal soon becomes background noise.

People usually remember the winner, maybe the runner-up, and only others that are different in some ways.

Followers of horse-racing, for example, will probably be able to tell you the name of the horse that won the cup, maybe the second-placed runner, and another one that was different in some way - perhaps the one they backed.

US thinker and author Seth Godin refers to this differentiation, or standing-out from the crowd, as the Purple Cow (brown, white, black and brown cows don't rate a second-look, but a purple one would be a guaranteed attention-getter).

Give this memory-jogging tip a try. Select an event. Who was the winner? Can you recall the runner-up? Can you recall any other competitor? Why? How come?

So what's this got to do with ageing and living a longer, better life, you may ask? For most people, so-called memory loss has zip to do with ageing.

Golden oldies such as: "A diplomat is a man who always remembers his wife's birthday, but never remembers her age" (Robert Frost) and "I'm growing old by myself. My wife hasn't had a birthday in years" (Milton Berle) are smile-generators - that's all.

While ageing is often blamed for failure to remember certain events, that cause of blame is difficult to substantiate. For the 85% of us who are mentally sound, research continues to show that not one IQ point is lost to ageing.

An energetic mind needn't be held back by the body's shortcomings.

This, however, does not mean doing nothing. All living things demand regular and constant attention of some kind.

More than 2000 years ago, Cicero recommended a lifestyle involving sound nutrition, exercise, sensual moderation, an active mental life and reflection.

A study by US writer and researcher Richard Leviton, involving 1300 men and women in their mid-70s, gave a clear idea of what it takes to maintain brain power as we age.

The three standouts were:

  • Stay in good physical health. Our brains need all the oxygen and nutrients our circulatory systems can send them.
  • Keep intellectual interests and activities alive. There's no such thing as retirement for the brain cells that control our intelligence.
  • Train the brain. Targeted training, such as playing chess, bridge or reading upside down a selected chunk from the paper are some examples.

I'm not suggesting that brain power and memory loss are the same things. Sustained mental fitness, however, requires rejuvenation.

And this can occur any time. There isn't a time when the brain is not working for us.

Even when we're engaged in some seemingly mindless activity, a solution to a vexing problem can present itself.

"Sleep on it" can be pretty good problem-solving advice.

A good starting point could be meditation. Not only will this rejuvenate brain cells but also help to retard the ageing process.

Find out more about how to add years to your life and life to your years with Dr Flanagan's bestseller BLINK! The Speed of Life at


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Topics:  brain chess education games lifestyle mental health

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