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Everyday life: stretch your mind….

July 10, 2010

Timothy Salthouse, Director of the Cognitive Aging Lab., has devised a questionnaire to find out how people think about the cognitive demands of their everyday activities: 3000 participants over several years were involved. In the table of activities, higher numbers mean that people found the activity to be more cognitively demanding…they had to think a bit harder…

Leisure activities

As you can see leisure activities such as gardening and watching television are rated pretty low. They apparently don’t make us think too hard. However,  to grow successful vegetables in the heat of Western Australian summers with very low rainfall and without chemicals, needs a bit of careful thought and some expertise…so, for me,  it depends what you mean by “gardening”.

Handling your finances and reading non-fiction are rated at the highest level. I would agree.  Also I like using the computer and often find that reading the manual as I learn new software is a real cognitive challenge.

An easy life

But who wants to spend time handling finances when you can just watch TV ?  Habitual things to do like shopping or cooking or chatting don’t rate too high either….

Remember Michael Merzenich said “Older people just want an easy life, but they don’t know how bad it is for them”.

Be curious

So again, develop the capacity to be curious….become an expert, search for the elusive or the different, develop your hobby, teach others about it, write about your passions, think deeply…. Challenge yourself and increase your own cognitive demands! (It’s strange that music is not on the list?)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 7:44 am

    Great article. I have derived incredible enjoyment from doing things that challenge me to use more of my mental resources. In the book “Flow, the psychology of optimal experience,” the author discusses how these kinds of things induce peak states in human beings. My work revolves around the fact that if you think differently, and literally use your brain more, you’ll feel differently and as a result, you’ll do things differently. If you do things differently consistently, you’ll have a different life. Thanks for this!!

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