Experiencing something new creates the ‘Novelty response’ in the brain. Our hippocampus jumps into action as soon as we engage with something novel. Our brains are activated by anything we haven’t experienced before as it is hard-wired to become alert. This is thought to be a survival mechanism which can be traced back to our evolutionary history when we had to be alert to predators.
In an experiment where lab animals were set free to enjoy a new area for the first time, their brains excreted extra acetylcholine, a ‘memory chemical’.
Having a new thought or experience stimulates the brain cells to grow so we can use this technique to ensure we have a cognitive reserve. This is the theory that the more brain volume we create the longer it will take for the shrinkage expected in normal ageing to have an effect on our thinking.
Here are 5 ideas to try:
- Learn a new language
- Learn a new instrument
- Learn a new card game
- Learn a new dance
- Learn to draw
or if you are pushed for time you can do something quick…
- Write with the opposite hand that you usually use or clean your teeth with that hand.
- Learn to balance on one leg whilst waiting at the bus stop
- Pick up something you never tasted before from the supermarket and eat it
- Draw a picture with your eyes closed or write a sentence with your eyes closed
In short; do anything you haven’t done before and then do some more. Keep it novel!