The Fifth Pillar of Brain Fitness-Novel Learning Experiences
Hopefully you have begun to get a feel for what the concept of brain fitness is about, and a feel for how you can facilitate the daily growth of new neurons in your own noggin by attending to the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, good nutrition including omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, good sleep, stress managment, and novel learning experiences.
Novel learning experiences are required by your brain to form new connections between neurons, which can happen within minutes, by the way.
I always thought that connections between neurons were built only after I had memorized something, and my brain had reached some kind of overflow state which became a long term memory, but that is not true.
Memorization means that fragment of knowledge is now in long term memory, but connections between neurons happens sometimes in minutes when something new is learned, so if you read an interesting blog post somewhere about PTSD for example, there may be a new connection happening rapidly.
Consolidation of that memory will take review, though, and if there is no review, your brain may dismantle that new connection.
Another important concept in our discussion is the idea of 'novel' learning experience.
That means that you must be working on something new for the best neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Since my brain already knows how to do counseling, I cannot maximize neuroplasticity and neurogenesis by reading another counseling book, but I can be learning how to cook, for example.
The most commonly recommended novel learning experiences for brain fitness are learning a new language or a new instrument because they require regular practice and provide increasing levels of challenge.
Remember, your brain fitness does not require that you become a natural at a second language or a new instrument, only that you practice, which cements the new circuitry.
Can Recovery Be a Novel Experience?
I sure think learning about myself and the Steps, if you are a 12 Step person, is an incredibly novel experience.
I know my using involved all my attention every day, and learning how to be sober requires lots of repetition of information like the Serenity Prayer, and helpful tidbits like 'Gratitude is the Atttitude' all day every day, so there is regular practice involved, and there has certainly been an increasing level of challenge as I have moved through my sober life, like a graduate degree, a professional career, children, marriage, retirement, and divorce.
Some days I long for less complicated relationships, but no matter what challenge life decides to present to me, if I remember that so many have much more serious issues than I, I can slow down and live in a way that generates new neurons.