Caution – Mind at Work – Do We Get a Second Chance?

Watching the weather man on the late news last night I cringed every time I heard the presenter say ‚gonna‘ and ‚want to‘. What has happened to the fine art of speaking and writing? Young people sending text messages today write in a language resembling alien sketching from another galaxy. Recently, I ventured into a MacDonald’s restaurant and had to ask the young person serving me to repeat each question at least four times before I could understand what she was saying to me. She spoke so fast and without any articulation or modulation in her voice that I thought I was being hit over the head by a fast broadband internet modem. Is this a sign of where the future is taking us?

So what do I do, speed up the way I speak, think, write and everything else? I mean, is it a case of „If you can’t beat them, then you join them“? Sadly, I realize our planet has been invaded by extraterrestrials who once spoke slower, wrote in nicer penmanship and did not have an issue with time and space. The generation gap seemed narrower back then. But at this speed I think we will be causing a lot more damage to our own brain. More and more people I know are complaining about having a poor memory, being dyslexic when they write and feeling unmotivated with life in general. What is causing all this and is there a remedy, or… is it too late?

I am not sure when this metamorphosis to an altered state began, but Dr Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York, and the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry, makes a lot of sense to me. He says that people who speak and write slower and clearly demonstrate better motor skills and enjoy healthier physiological activity. He was recently interviewed on ABC1 Television (1/5/09) and talked about ‚Neuroplasticity‘ being a major factor when it comes to brain activity. What is it, I hear you ask? Or should I say, „Whotsit orl abaut, mate?“ Yes, I understood you the first time! Neuroplasticity works on the premise that if you stop using certain functions of your brain you end up losing them.

A person used to talking to many people each day and found everyday challenging in a good way felt they were therefore ‚on their toes‘ mentally for most of their waking hours. Their thinking was sharper, their memory more precise. The same person would become a different individual once they retired and their lifestyle changed to a more inactive existence. I can vouch for this as members of my own family who have retired from a more active living now seem to lead a life seemingly aimless and devoid of any meaningful mental stimulus. For me, sitting down and doing nothing watching TV for hours on end isn’t the most stimulating way of living a life.

Things they could do before, such as remember things clearly, get instant mental solutions to problems, remember times and dates, staying motivated and experiencing a higher level of personal power would be lost in their retirement years because those faculties were no longer being used. Quite simply put, if you don’t use it – you lose it! I fear that our modern lifestyle choices are herding the entire human race down that pathway and unless we do something about it now our retirement homes will soon fill up with people who won’t even be able to remember their own grandchildren’s names.

Dr Doidge also points out that to stimulate your brain and maintain a healthy level of functionality you need to do something new and tax your brain to learn more on a regular basis (caution: Mind at Work!). For example, learning a new language will promote brain cells to grow and develop more connections so that your mental activity actually improves. I don’t think anyone wants to end up in an old people’s home with their head tilted to one side feeling the saliva drip out of a corner of their mouth and lacking the mental presence to wipe it off. That is a sad picture and one to which we are gravitating towards. Only yesterday I heard Olivia Newton-John of the famed classical movie ‚Grease‘ talk during a radio interview about improving your mental awareness. She said too many people nowadays seem to be affected by some type of brain disease or malfunction. She was promoting the benefits of using the new Nintendo brain exerciser, and I think I will be getting one myself. In effect, you brain is the most sophisticated computer present on our planet, at this time. So how do we prevent it from degrading and becoming dysfunctional?

Dr Doidge further explains in his book ‚The Brain That Changes Itself‘ that the human brain is so plastic, and therefore flexible, that it has the ability to change itself, regenerate and adapt to situations and experiences even well into old age. Our belief system about the brain must change as we are discovering more and more of what it is truly capable of doing. „The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine or ‚hardwired‘ like a computer“ Says Dr Doidge. „Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.“

Where do we go to from here?

Dr Norman Doidge’s book can be purchased from any book store or on line from his official web site www.normandoidge.com

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