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Mental Agility Made Easy

Updated on October 17, 2012

Minding Your Mind

"Use it or lose it." That slogan applies to just about anything for every human being, but recently I stumbled across an application for 'exercise' that I'd never before considered: exercising your brain.

Oh, I've read ads that propose systems to improve your reading speed, ads that make learning a foreign language sound simple, and ads for maintaining mental agility in what's usually called 'old age.' (My wife and I say the word "elderly" shouldn't apply until you reach 100, by the way).

But this fall I discovered a new way to stay mentally sharp, and I came across it quite by accident. I have two computers, with lots of pictures in each of my photo programs. At the moment I have 12,765 photos in the computer I'm using to write this article, and until recently almost none of them bore captions. Earlier this year my wife said, "You really should label them, so other people will know what in the world they're looking at."

That got me to thinking (a boost to mental agility all on its own), and so I began to title each and every photo. At the moment I'm about two-thirds of the way through this gargantuan exercise. It was about three days ago, however, when it suddenly dawned on me: trying to remember the names of people and places in each photo is a great way to improve my ability to think! That's especially true, since some of my pictures date back 40 to 45 years and cover a variety of locations around the world [Europe, Africa, Canada and 48 of these 50 United States.

Some places I've visited a half-dozen times, but I've only been to others once, so recalling the name of a certain trail at Glacier National Park or the description of a particular monument in St. Augustine, FL, or the names of those three people in that shot in front of a pavilion at the 1964-65 NY World's Fair really taxes my mind. Which is just the point! How much more fun could one have than studying pictures you've taken and recalling the 'who, what, where, when and why' of each photo?

I'd highly recommend this little (or big, in some cases) exercise. And if you don't have lots of photos in your computer or in for-real photo albums, by all means try a different approach. For instance, one of our grandsons (age 9) was here yesterday after school, and I helped him with homework. Once we finished the assigned pages and required reading book, he wanted to try his hand at two "for fun" sheets. The first was a Halloween acrostic - one of those puzzles that consist of a bunch of letters in columns inside a big square box. Hidden in those columns (left-right-or straight down) were 14 words that deal with Halloween [like "witch" and "ghost" and "monster" and "vampire," etc.

Now, I'm not great with that kind of puzzle, but he was a whiz at it: he found each word in less than 5 seconds! And, wouldn't you know, before long I was spotting them too. Then, on to the next exercise - unscrambling mixed-up letters to spell out even more Halloween words.

You get my point. It doesn't much matter what the mental exercise is. What matters is that you get busy using your mind. And if that involves doing something you really love (for me, going through my collection of photos over and over again, or writing creatively by searching for just the right word or phrase to use), then you've struck it rich . . . not a gold mine this time, but a gold mind!

Enjoy thinking more! It's worth it.

Hummingbird on our upper deck
Hummingbird on our upper deck
Mennonite tourists at Grand Canyon
Mennonite tourists at Grand Canyon
Peacock in Tucson, AZ zoo
Peacock in Tucson, AZ zoo


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