For years, we believed that we are born with a certain number of brain cells that die off as we age, with no hope of ever getting them back. Today, scientists are proving that not only can we generate new brain cells, we can also branch them out and make new pathways in our thought and learning processes.

What does this mean to the average person? It means that anyone at any age can continue to build brain strength, and being mentally “sharp” isn’t something reserved for the young anymore.

The act of building brain power is called “neurobics.” Just as the name implies, it’s all about exercising your brain. Neurobics is something anyone can do anywhere in just minutes a day. Consider making the following neurobics principles a part of your daily routine to help your brain branch out.

Act Happy

Whether you are an actor or not, everyone’s life is a stage. Bring a bit of the theater onto the stage of your daily life and purposefully act happy. Get your brain’s act together.

Actors who play happy roles have a chemistry that keeps them more active and more involved in life. Scientifically, acting happy has a chemistry that is measurable by the level of T-cells, gamma globulins, serotonins, endorphins, melatonin and cortisol, to name just a few. We can do a PET scan of the brain and see what the emotional map of the brain looks like, because there is a physiology that goes with the emotions. This means we can actually see what anger, sadness or happiness looks like.

Acting happy, whether through deep belly laughter or a simple smile, activates positive chemicals in the brain that keep us alert and physically healthy. Act happy to keep your brain more alive and functional.

Sharpen Your Senses

In our modern society, with its technological breakthroughs, we have to some extent abandoned the use of our senses. For example, when you go to the grocery store, you don’t feel your food anymore. You don’t smell the meat. You don’t feel the grains. Everything is boxed, wrapped and covered. Such modern conveniences dull our senses, which in turn shrinks and ages our brains.

Here are some simple exercises that can help refresh your senses and keep your memory strong:

While these activities may seem simple or even silly, they actually help your brain make new pathways. When you use both the left and right hemispheres of your brain, you add little twigs onto the branches of the brain cells, which are called axons. The more of these little twigs you get on the axon branches, the more they start connecting with neighboring cells. The more growth of this underbrush, the more chances you have to make new brain connections.

Keeping the brain alive is all about making new connections and branching out. If you’re right-handed, you use your left brain a lot. If you can bring some of that brain activity over to the right side by using your left hand for the same task, you’re exercising your brain and developing new pathways. Later in life, should one of your brain’s pathways get destroyed, you’ll now have another small pathway already formed and ready to be built up that can take over the lost function.

Make Physical Connections

One of the worst things for the brain is for its host to become a loner. When you’re alone, you always do things the same old way. That means you’ll rarely exercise your brain and make new neural connections.

You can connect with others through a network, association, church or any other type of group activity. Simply being in a crowd, such as a sporting event, enables you to connect. Any celebration or ritual can bring connection into your life.

Growing plants is a way to connect, as it brings you closer to nature and brings something living into your life.

Pets, especially dogs, are another wonderful way to connect. People talk to their dogs. They pet their dogs. As they walk their dogs, they associate with others who are walking dogs. In fact, studies have shown that people who are over age sixty-five who have a dog and live alone visit the doctor 16 percent less often than their counterparts who don’t have a dog.

As you become skilled at something, consider teaching as a way to connect. The act or ritual of teaching and mentoring is a powerful one that fosters long lasting connections and enables you to impact many generations.

Healthy Actions for a Youthful Mind

Exercising your brain doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity that causes you to sweat. In fact, practicing neurobics can be a fun and enjoyable experience that adds brain power every day. Commit to making these neurobic activities a part of your daily routine. Give your brain the tools to feel young and vital. It’ll pay off for years to come.

DR. DALE ANDERSON practiced medicine for nearly fifty years
as a family doctor, board-certified surgeon and board-certified
emergency physician. As a speaker, Dale travels the country
prescribing METHOD acting techniques and happiness as
good medicine. He also coordinates the ACT NOW project, a coalition
of dramatic artists who think medically. Dale is the author
of an award-winning book
Never Act Your Age.