Are You Optimizing Your Brain Fitness?

A week ago, I wrote about Alan’s attending the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists’ annual meeting and the tidal wave of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, and I suggested that we start learning to surf so we don’t get crushed. This week, I want to offer a few ideas from what I’ve been learning in my own quest for health.

Are you familiar with The Great Courses? I am a fan. Through audio or video, this organization can bring a world of research and learning via professors from some of America’s best universities right into your car or home. I can drive and learn, sit quietly on a couch with notebook in hand, or work out on my elliptical while absorbing information.

Granted, these college-level courses won’t keep you awake like Hollywood’s glitzy entertainment, but they are excellent resources for brightening your brain! I ordered a couple of series last fall and have been completely satisfied with the quality of their programs and what I’ve been learning. My personal favorite way to optimize both brain and body fitness is to work out while keeping a notebook right beside me for scribbling down ideas. Stopping to write notes does effect my workout stats, but I figure the mental stimulation is worth the hit to any personal pride that may be lurking behind my attempts at physical conditioning.

Simple tips from the series on Optimizing Brain Fitness that impressed me:

*In an experiment with rats, those who were fed 35% less food lived 35% longer!
*Best diet tip? Stop eating deep-fried foods.
*Walking 1 mile daily decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50%.
*Get enough sleep. The current generation is getting 45 minutes less sleep per day than the older generation, but it’s had a negative effect on learning.
*Power naps are good; they reset your energy and help process learning.
*Most important aspect of memory is learning to focus and pay attention!
*”If you can see, look. If you can look, observe…attend…study!”
*Your brain needs exercise, so take up some new hobby.
*Scientists have discerned that you improve long term retention more by repeated testing than by more study.

This last bit of research made me understand why we have tests in school and in life! The Lord is training us to learn and grow, not just have brains full of data that doesn’t stick!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Just in case you’re interested in more information about The Great Courses, I’ll include their contact information: 1-800-832-2412. For classes on Christianity, though, I’d rather refer you my son Jonathan’s Aqueduct Project [ ], or the new Center for Global Theological Education, which he’s developing at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

A Great Course from The Great Courses: Fundamentals of Photography

Cherry Blossom Time at Meijer GardenAfter 40 years of point-and-shoot photography while herding butterflies (my kids) or chasing Alan (my husband), as his frame slowly disappeared over the horizon of the photo I was trying to frame, I’ve finally reached the stage of life where I can start to think about what it is I’m trying to accomplish beyond capturing precious memories and creating chronicles of beauty. Well, that’s probably all I’ll ever try to do, but I finally have some time for study and practice. However, have you noticed how taking classes is generally the privilege of the young or else the socially unencumbered? Being neither, it seemed impossible to find a class where I wouldn’t miss at least every other session…until. Joe Sartore's Fundamentals of PhotographyUntil I discovered Great Courses through a friend who lent us a bunch of classes he’d absorbed while commuting as an E.R. doctor. Long story short, I’m now happily immersed in a video course by Joel Sartore, who’s an award-winning photographer and National Geographic fellow. His Fundamentals in Photography through “The Great Courses” is a perfect fit for me, because I can watch the half-hour sessions while working out on my elliptical, and I can read the short texts either before or after (or both, in my case, now that my memory isn’t so sharp).  If you’re not interested in photography but have wished for expertise in some other field, you might consider looking online to see what’s available. One of The Great Courses only costs a fraction of a college class, and they’re flexible enough to fit even the oddest schedules! No matter what, continuing to learn is good for the mind and soul, and I hope we’re all lifelong learners.  🙂
Lessons on the Fundamentals of Photography by Joe SartoreFor any fellow photographers, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Joe Sartore’s book:

  • “Sometimes, you’ve just got to pet the whale.” (Don’t be so intent on your photography that you miss out on life’s great experiences and don’t feel their emotional impact.)
  • “What makes a photo iconic is that it surpasses the original situation in which it was taken.”
  • “Train the eyes and the brain to look for three elements: great light, good composition, and an interesting subject.”
  • “Quite literally, light makes a photograph.”
  • “The ultimate use of photography is to tell a great story—one that moves people, perhaps simply to smile or to do something significant, such as save the planet.”

Tips on Photography from Joe Sartore's Fundamentals of Photography. The Great CoursesThere’s more, lots more! Sartore’s illustrations are all top quality, G-rated, and family friendly. I sit smiling through each session! Happy learning, ya’ll!

“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge” Proverbs 18:15.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” Proverbs 4:7.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18.The Great Courses. Fundamentals of Photography