Going Green as Brain Exercise?

April 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Recycling Saves The Earth: Image by nazreth on Stock.Xchng This week marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a worldwide effort to raise environmental awareness.   Everyone is encouraged to participate by making changes to their lifestyle, changes like recycling household trash, saving energy and water, changing habits that can negatively impact the natural world around us.

What’s this got to do with brain exercise?

Maybe not a lot, on the surface.  But changing a habit kick starts your brain by forcing new neural pathways to form – you’re literally re-wiring your brain to allow for the new habit.  Mini-exercises like brushing your teeth with the wrong hand, and taking new routes to the grocery store have been widely publicized as “neurobics”, and (at least in theory) are believed to help the brain maintain its plasticity, the ability to grow and adapt that exists even as we age.

So by changing what is possibly a lifelong habit of how you handle aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic containers? You’re offering your brain a challenge that stimulates growth.

Other green activities (like walking or biking around town, instead of driving) add physical activity to your routines, and some (like participating in community environmental projects) increase your social interactions – both things which contribute to maintaining a fit brain.  Environmental activities can help provide a sense of purpose and community involvement, another key to brain health.

How much good does going green provide your brain?

That depends on what actions you choose to take, and how involved you get.   Rinsing your aluminum cans and tossing them in a different bin won’t keep your brain challenged for long.   But combined with changing habits of energy and water, it might just give your brain a beneficial boost.  Some other options?

  • Start a compost bin for the lawn and garden – it requires another habit change, since you’ll be composting things you’ve likely tossed in the trash or disposal for years.
  • Start or join a neighborhood “green” group, that encourages recycling, composting, water-saving landscapes, and energy efficient lighting.
  • Volunteer to help maintain the city parks and landscapes, picking up litter, adding low-water landscape plants to medians and parks.
  • Give “green” educational talks and lectures to local clubs and schools.

Many of the ideas do more than just provide a little bit of a workout to the brain..  gardening and walking the parks to pick up litter can be good exercise, and working with groups is social activity, both of which help keep the brain in shape.

No, there aren’t any scientific studies to back this up (and I’d lose respect for any researcher that tried to take this one on!).  No, participating in environmental activities isn’t going to prevent Alzheimer’s.  No, it doesn’t provide the sort of ongoing mental challenges advised by the experts.

The idea here (as in many of my posts) is to look at lifestyle changes and activities, and how they can be used to keep our brains healthier — just as Earth Day encourages us to look at our lifestyles and activities, and how we can adjust them to keep the environment healthier.

Because every bit of trash we don’t add to a landfill matters, and every neural pathway we build and maintain matters, too.

So how about you? What new habits can you build this week that might both boost your brain and protect  the planet?

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active, Be Physically Active!, Be Socially 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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