BrainStorm: A Workout for the Mind

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mental decline as we age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells.  But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brains cells and connections – maybe even enough to generate new brain cells!  You don’t have to turn your life upside down or make extreme changes to see the results.  Just ask the folks at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology who recently presented their Brainstorm! Program for nearly 100 Center clients and guests! 

Brainstorm! is a research-based wellness program developed by the Institute that addresses multiple facets of brain health, as well as physical, emotional and spiritual health.  The presentations were filled with hands-on activities, humor, and social interaction designed to target key cognitive skills. 

Four Key Tips from BrainStorm:

  1. No Strain, No Train. Activities must be challenging if you want the brain to grow new cells and make new connections. Concentrate, focus and pay attention. If crossword puzzles are easy for you, try math problems or vice versa. Force your brain to stay awake with daily surprises like brushing your teeth or eating dinner with your non-dominant hand or placing framed photos upside down. The brain responds to novelty, but will get lazy and fall into ruts if you let it.
  2. Gather with Others. Socializing is a major brain stimulant. We talk, listen, interpret social cues and sometimes share an activity - all at the same time -- quite a positive brain challenge! Regular social activity also deepens friendships, calms anxiety and lifts our mood. Depression and loneliness take a tough toll on memory, so open your door (and heart) to others for a healthier, happier brain.
  3. Sleep Deep. At least four consecutive hours of deep sleep a night lets us organize the thousands of thoughts and experiences we have every day. Without deep sleep, our brains start to look like a hoarder's house with clutter piled everywhere. When this happens, we can't find the mental information we're looking for (like the name of the neighbor who is now at the door). Sleep well and let your brain get organized. Aim for seven to eight hours a night and make four of those uninterrupted.
  4. Move. A healthy brain needs a strong oxygen supply for all its cells - it uses 20% of all the oxygen we breathe in. Keep arteries open and flowing freely with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. Aerobic means you're breathing more heavily and your heart is beating a little faster. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. Your physician can tell you what's safe, but most folks are fine with a brisk walk. A healthy brain needs a healthy body to sustain it.

Our job is to make sure that financial resources support you for your lifetime and that you have a strong financial partner to guide you along the way.  Helping you to achieve an excellent quality of life (including great brain health) to allow you to enjoy those years and meet all of your life goals is something else we would like to accomplish.  All it takes is a little help from you! 

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Raymond James is not affiliated with Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology.