Posts Tagged ‘exercising your brain’

Or exercising your brain for fun and profit


We humans are prone to falling into habits, especially us older ones.  We get up in the morning or afternoon or whenever we are in the habit of getting up. For me, because I’m a morning person, this happens around 3:15 AM. Day after day we perform our little routines. Makes no difference what it is, we do our thing or things in somewhat of an automatic fashion. We have done the same dreary thing for so long it has become such a habit that if we miss a step somewhere, we are off kilter for the whole day, and when we place our weary head on our pillow after stumbling about all day in befuddlement, it comes to us what we had missed. Oh well, we think, we’ll make up for it tomorrow and do it twice, and then we drop off to pleasant dreams of yesterday when we were young and not  so forgetful or ‘set in our ways’.

The point is, we get set in routines that requires little conscious thoutht. Habits, depending on your perspective, are easy to acquire and hard to get shed of. This is not about setting or getting rid of our habits. It’s more about being aware of them. Once ingrained we usually go about our set routines without thought. This is where the bugaboo comes in. we are so set in our routines like eating, exercising or whatever; we forget to exercise our noggin. Our mental health is as, if not more, important than our physical health; makes one think of Steven Hawking.

What would happen if, when we started our mornings, we did our little routine in reverse? Oh heaven forbids. Why I couldn’t do that. I might get lost and forget something. I’d have to stop and think what I was doing. Well, hello! That’s the whole idea. We need to get our brain out of neutral and back into gear, get its cogs lubricated. We’ve been coasting for so long, we kind of got rusty and in a rut.  We need to think about what we are doing, look, observe and evaluate what is around us.

This may be only a slight anoince for some youngsters but for us older folk, well, you know how we are. We like to take things easy. We would rather go without our morning coffee rather than stopping to think about doing it a different way. We don’t like being jolted from our comfortable rut; after all, it took us a long time getting there. Anyway, this is about walking not making coffee. I use the coffee analogy because that’s where I found out I had become a programmed robot. Give it a try in the morning. Change the order of things. Instead of going to the bathroom first, go to the kitchen first. If nothing else, it puts a few more steps in your routine.

I’ve been walking as a form of exercise for over fifteen years seldom missing a day. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fanatic, i.e., I don’t walk when it’s too cold or too hot or when it’s raining or if the wind is blowing too strong from the north. And sometimes, I don’t walk just for the hell of it. And you know what? My system doesn’t have a mental crash just because I interrupted my routine.

I’m an old fuddy-duddy

I don’t like things that take the pleasure out of walking. Nor do I like walking with anyone. I dislike being interrupted from my thoughts or matching my pace to someone else’s, or by other walkers with strained smiles and huffed greetings, or passing vehicles with grumpy faces peering over steering wheels with various fingers waving at me. I don’t know these people. Why are they waving at me? Then you get in the habit of waving to every passing car, and when someone doesn’t wave back, you get your knickers in a wad and want to flip them your own finger. Oh, here comes that sourpuss woman in the little blue car, she never waves. I’m not waving at her anymore. Then she waves but you only have time to drop your jaw. It’s all a big mess. Over three years ago I started walking at three o’clock in the morning just to get shed of it all.

Changing habits:

What a difference, no traffic, no other walkers showing me up by streaking by me as though I was standing still. No more waving, putting a grin on my puss until it felt like my cheeks were getting more exercise than my legs. I no longer have to keep an eye out for that stupid dog that jumped the fence and charged my backside waiting till the last second to bark franticly. He always managed to startle the hell out of me. Then, he dashed ahead about forty feet, turned and charged straight at me barking like a savage beast , dodging my threatening foot at the last instant. I screamed evictions at him as he clambered to safety back over the fence.

It’s so quiet and peaceful that the slightest noise shocks me so I have to check out what’s making it. Someone left their garbage can lid open and the wind made it thump-thump against its side. Or it’s a cat hugging the ground trying to hide in the shadows, two eerie specks of reflected streetlight glowing from its eyes revealing its hiding place. It took awhile to quit seeing things moving about in the dark shadows, but it was well worth the change.  It surly brought diversity to my moonlight walks.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, doing things by habit. Well, walking at night put the old brain to work, sometimes in the wrong direction. I began putting it to some constructive use. I started counting. How many steps down this street and that street, how many houses in this subdivision, how many homes actually shelter a car in their garage? There are surprisingly few, an average of about 5%. This kept me busy until I ran out of things to count.

I heard somewhere, probably the TV; I watch those dumb doctor shows in the afternoon, that it’s good to keep you mind active while walking. One suggestion was to walk a different route each time. So I gave it a try because I walked the same path each day. I wasn’t sure I had accomplishing anything until one dark morning I went down this long cul de sac street in the center of my subdivision. I had walked down it the same way in the dark for three years whether I was going in one direction or the other. I was in the habit of walking in the center of the street, mainly to keep from turning my ankle on the rough edge of the road, and I had always walked counter clockwise on this street. One morning I decided to go clockwise walking on the left side of the road. To my surprise, I found this strange to the point of instilling a feeling of fear in me. Everything was different, the shadows were all wrong, the mailboxes felt strange going by on my left instead of my right. It took me several weeks to get used to this.

Realizing it makes a difference:

Then, one bright moonlit morning, I decided to walk my route on the right edge of the road. Again I got that strange feeling. It may seem like something small but there is a difference. You get a different perspective of the road and landscape. Maybe it’s because of doing it at night verses daylight. Maybe it’s me. Whatever, if nothing else, it got my brain going and I had something else to think about other than getting back to have my morning coffee. So now I alternate right, left, middle or left, right, middle, left or middle, left, right. I got lost again.

I now have many ways to make my early morning walks seem like a new experience. I walk three different subdivisions going six different ways in each or combining any two or, depending on how energetic I feel, all three of them. I usually cuss myself afterword because it ends up being one subdivision too many. So now, I can go for over a month without repeating the same walk twice. What’s going to happen when this all becomes one big thoughtless routine?

Get out of those dreary routines and put a little spice in them, exercise your mind as well as your muscles. You may find it fun. You’ll be thankful and may gain a profit by living till you’re 102. Oh, that’s scary. I’ll have to think of another career to get into.


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