Do you always sleep on the same side of the bed? Do you still sport the same hairstyle you had when you were in high school? Have you worn the same perfume or cologne for as long as you can remember?
Many of us find ourselves living on autopilot doing the same routine day after day — which fades into year after year. Don’t get me wrong, some habits are good: going for that morning run, meeting friends at your favorite watering hole for Friday night happy hour, even buckling your seat belt.
Although some routines are good, it’s always nice to “shake the rug” every now and then and try something completely different. Try a new hairstyle or switch up your perfume or cologne. How about instead of binge-watching Stranger Things over the weekend, volunteer to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer as a hospital baby cuddler for those parents who can’t visit their newborns every day. Hey, why not run for a local office!
There are many benefits to trying something new. When we get out of our “zones” we meet new people and create new friendships. That may lead to new business opportunities, new relationships, new ways of thinking.
Our brain is an incredible machine. It can process about 11 million bits of information every second.
It has to immediately filter all this incoming information. It’s no wonder our brains have placed all those mindless (yep, pun intended) routines we do repeatedly into the do-that-without-thinking category. Our brain has enough to do already.
One of the greatest benefits to trying something new, especially as we age, is that we actually change the makeup of our brains. When the brain is bombarded with new stimuli — new sounds, smells, tastes, experiences, ideas — it physically changes!
Scientists used to think our brains stopped growing once we reached a certain age. Recent data, however, shows that our brains continue to change all through our lives. They grow new cells and form new connections.
Our brains are made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons. These neurons communicate with one another through chemicals that are emitted at the ends of the nerve fibers. These chemicals, or neurotransmitters, leap across the gap between the fibers which then triggers that cell to fire. The “wiring” in our brain restructures with every new thing we learn.
I have to admit that this concept of restructuring the brain hits home for me. My grandfather suffered from some form of dementia, but we don’t know for sure if it was Alzheimer’s because he was never tested. My sister and I found we each have one variant of late-onset Alzheimer’s in our genetic makeup, but that doesn’t mean we will present with the disease. Nevertheless, I am very aware of how that may be in my future.
That’s why I want to do everything I can to exercise my brain by trying new things. I want to learn new languages, travel and meet new people, learn to play the flute when I’m eighty, take up ballroom dancing, rent a Tuscan Villa and take cooking lessons.
I want to take every opportunity to do something out of my routine so I can continue to grow my brain. I want to encourage you all to do the same. Try something new, not just to prevent a potential disease, but because it enriches your life in so many ways. And it’s fun.
Feel free to reach out to me and tell me something new you’ve tried. I’d love to hear from you.
I wish you all peace!