Hi, SEers! Gwen with you today. After learning that March is Brain Injury Month, I thought it might be interesting to share some medical benefits of reading and writing. Before we begin that discussion, though, I’ll digress with a personal story.
In December 2018 I had neurosurgery and in February 2020, just as COVID reared its ugly head, I had my second surgery. Because of an unusual spine disorder, I developed multiple leaks along the spinal dura which ultimately caused my brain to sink into the cervical area of my neck. I know that sounds strange, but it happened. Fortunately, I had one of the best neurosurgeons in the world and a very positive outcome. Prior to the surgeries, I had severe narcolepsy. I could fall asleep midsentence and not remember a thing. I had limited use of my fingers and could only raise my arms slightly. I glimpsed dementia and suffered debilitating headaches. All of this scared me and my family mightily.
After the second surgery, I miraculously could use a fork again. I could speak in sentences. I could stay awake. I could write and feverishly started doing so. I also began researching how I could help my brain recover from the injuries it sustained. And that is what I want to share with you today.
Most of us know that diet and exercise have a positive effect on our well-being. We eat our blueberries and dark chocolate, use turmeric freely and might even drink green tea. Most of us also exercise. These are all well-known gold standards. But what you may not be aware of is that reading and writing surpass these gold standards when it comes to neurogenesis. Reading and writing help keep our brain cells alive.
Studies at Harvard Medical School and other notable institutions underscore the importance of both reading and writing. It turns out that these two practices reduce the rate of memory decline by 32%. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?
When we read or write, several regions of the brain are involved in the processing of information to create connections. These connections are what give life to the brain cells and generate more.
Here are a few of the top recommended practices.
- Enhance your Mental Stimulation through reading, writing, studying, and researching. What weightlifting achieves for bodybuilders, these mental practices do for the brain by increasing and fortifying the cells. New skills that push us beyond our comfort zone do the same. As we learn, by stretching ourselves with one project or another, we create connections between nerve cells and generate new ones. So when we struggle with a poem or post or a particular chapter in our latest and greatest, we need to remind ourselves that we’re making connections, the really important kind.
- Engage in Social Networking: According to researchers, a large network of family and friends and participation in social activities through blogs, zoom, or in person, stimulate the brain and support cognitive activities. In other words, they reduce the risk of dementia. Who knew that keeping an active blog could be so important? Right? But through that simple medium, we establish friendships, learn new skills, and share information. We create a family of sorts.
- Free your Inner Child: A favorite expression of author D. L. Finn is to embrace your inner child, and as it happens, researchers have recently studied the benefits of doing just that. They first watched children play in their imaginary worlds and tracked the brain activity. Then they studied adults and encouraged them to let their minds wander freely. What they discovered was an increase in the brain waves coming from the frontal lobe, the area that is associated with creative thinking. With that in mind, if you find yourself dreaming when you’re trying to complete a task, be encouraged. Creative thinking just might follow!
Before we jump into our camper and head out to write our next best seller, I have a closing thought. When asked if there was anything a person could do to slow down cognitive decline, The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation responded as follows:
“Yes … read more books, write more, and do activities that keep your brain busy irrespective of your age.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the urge to focus on my WIP. With the medical profession nudging all of us to get busy and write, how can we resist? After all, our brains deserve our attention.
I’d be honored if you’d share your thoughts below. Happy writing and reading everyone!