I’m thinking of learning to play the ukulele. Believe it or not, it’s part of my success plan. When it comes to your brain: Use it or lose it!

Your brain can either grow as you get older (“brain plasticity”) or you can get totally lost as you try to make your way down memory lane. I’m choosing the former. But to do that, you need to constantly work to learn something new. It might be a new language, a new creative outlet or a new workout routine-like learning to snowboard.

Plenty of studies confirm that physical exercise helps to keep you mentally sharp, but it’s more than just the exercise. It’s not just about moving your body, you have to actually move your brain.  You need to put yourself in new situations, face new challenges, improve your skill sets.

Choose One Thing. My problem is I want to try so many new things. I’m tempted by shiny objects and easily distracted. I think focusing on one new activity, preferably something a bit challenging but not impossible, is easier for my brain to handle.

Make a Date.  We all have the time of day when we learn best.  For some, it’s first thing in the morning. For others, it’s in the quiet hours of the night. Choose your time and stick to it.

Stick to It!  The idea is practice practice practice. That’s how you help your brain build connections between neurons and replace some of those connections that we’ve lost along the way.

If I’m honest, much of my new focus on the connections in the brain comes from watching my Mom lose hers. Dementia is a cruel disease. It’s heartbreaking. I want to do whatever I can to strengthen the networks in my brain.

Just Do it.  So far, I’ve learned to juggle, moonwalk, cool ways to fold napkins, and now… the ukulele.

Let me know what you’re planning to learn this year, and I’ll let you know what my husband thinks about my new musical talents.

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