Shake Up Your Brain: Think "Backwards!"

August 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

image One of the keys to keeping your brain exercised and healthy is to challenge and shake up established routines and habits.  Here’s how it works:

Each time you repeat an action or thought, that particular neural network is strengthened, and repeating it again becomes easier and more natural.  Over time, that particular neural network becomes so strong that your thoughts follow that path naturally, and trying to do things differently becomes difficult.

This process of creating deeply engrained pathways is really helpful when it comes to forming healthy habits and developing new skills…  but our brains need experiences that force growth of new neural pathways, too!

Building new neural pathways for our thoughts to travel on increases our brain’s plasticity – it’s ability to shift, change and adapt to our environment.   That old stereotype of people becoming “set in our ways” as we get older? It may, in part, be due to a loss in our brain’s plasticity – a loss that happens because so much of our life becomes habitual.

But that same loss in plasticity makes our brain less able to cope with and heal from damage – whether from diseases like Alzheimer’s, age related cognitive declines, or injury from falls and strokes.  So keeping the brain “plastic” and able to shift, grow and change is a big part of maintaining brain health as we age.

What does all of this have to do with thinking “backwards”?

And what IS thinking backwards, anyway? It’s pretty simple, really.  Pick anything that is second nature to you, and do it backwards.   Try saying the alphabet backwards. Try writing your name from right to left instead of left to right.   Use your non dominant hand to eat your breakfast cereal.  At dinner, serve a small desert first, and salad last.   Get up on the wrong side of bed.  Walk down the hallway backwards.  Back into your driveway.  Wear your slippers on the wrong feet. Put  socks on your hands. Wear a shirt backwards or inside out. Put your underwear on the outside.  Make a recording of a simple song like “Twinkle, Twinkle” then play it backwards, and try to sing along.

Or make it a family affair, and spend a week saying goodnight in the morning,  good morning at night, goodbye instead of hello, and so on.

See how creative you can be.

Yes, it sounds silly, and, well,  it is!  The whole thing will likely be awkward, frustrating, and you’ll probably  end up laughing at yourself.  Most of these ideas are best done in private, in your own home – lest someone decide you need medical attention;)

But silly or not, the exercise will make you look at your day to day tasks in a new way.  You’ll become more aware of your environment, and hopefully, more involved with it.   And most importantly, you’ll force new neural networks to branch out in your brain, increasing your brain’s plasticity, helping to protect your brain’s overall health and fitness.

So go ahead.

Declare today a backwards day.
Or maybe that should be  a” day wardsback?

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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