There are many ways to get old and retain the power of the mind. Most of us know already about the benefits of exercise, socialisation, healthy eating and engagement. What we are all unfamiliar with is the deleterious effects of distraction. The world has undergone rapid transformation with the ubiquitous spread of digital communication. We are now being challenged to adapt to this new era regardless of our age. There is no map to guide us forward in this transformation- but it is clear that entirely new adaptive strategies are required. People are enthralled with the benefits of meditation and without doubt this is very helpful. Yet it is not a golden bullet and particularly for people who have never experienced such methods- it can be frightening and counter productive.
Not for everyone the classes with lycra clad gym bunnies….nor rooms full of swami dressed yogis…the social context of these activities is possibly offputting. Visualisation and focus however can be transposed to other environments which are less threatening. Many people derive countless hours of escape and peace by listening to music. Dancing is another means of shutting out the noise of media. Attaining flow of consciousness is key and there are different ways to achieve this.
As people get older, neural pathways may become more rigid and habits of thought become entrenched. For different people there are different areas of decline. A life long habit of choosing not to move or exercise, transposes to a complete inability to move as time goes by. The loss of a loved one can lead to irreconcilable grief and social isolation due to inability to process the stages of emotional repair. Social isolation and lack of engagement can lead to complete loss of identity particularly after retirement…but this is also seen with younger people who have never been employed. Since employment is being increasingly affected by the digital economy we are seeing people becoming socially disengaged by working from home alone. Relationships are moving from the real to the virtual world. This all means that people are getting more limited in their range of experiences and less flexible in their responses. Hence the increasing reports of mental issues in all age groups- both elderly and young people.
So premature aging is something that should concern all demographics. The constant noise of digital interactions to the neglect of real world experiences is having a huge impact on our society. Without doubt there will be medical technologies come along that can improve our lives- both in quality and duration. It is very likely though that we must rely on the adaptive flexibility that has always been inherent in the human brain. We need to foster neuroplastic changes to create new nerve pathways in our brain. Studies have shown that visualisation, creative and intellectual stimulation and social interaction all support brain changes for the good. If you would like to learn more- contact me at this website.
Dr Jean Yarrow is a practicing drug safety physician interested in positive adaptive strategies for well being