I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.Dr. Seuss
Google the words “brain training” and you will come back with over 28 million hits. A quick search of a small sample of these sites reveals a plethora of products and services aimed at keeping our grey matter from becoming prematurely gray.
It should not come as any surprise that as the Baby Boomer generation ages it is frantically searching for methods to improve the fitness of the only organ that there appears to be any hope for. Let’s be honest, our attempts to keep breasts from sagging, wrinkles from wrinkling, hair from jumping ship, etc were simply vain attempts to one-up mother nature. It makes sense that the same mentality that gave us the Stair Master (mostly known as stare master because most of us simply gazed at it as it stood gathering dust in the spare room) Ab Cruncher, Thigh Master, and Jazzercise would turn its failing attention to the final frontier of the brain.
The explosion of methods, mechanics, and measuring devices with which one can, reportedly, improve memory, concentration, focus, and attention all come with the same warning, “Use it or lose it.” The irony is that the anxiety this produces, the sense that unless we find the right app, are able to do crossword puzzles or enjoy eating blueberries we are doomed to mental decline, only increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol. As anyone who has even a few brain cells operating knows, cortisol is that brain shrinking chemical that we’re told will eventually turn us all into zombies; and not the cool kind.
Just when you thought it was safe to take up a mental fitness program, along comes the news that some of these methods may not only be the modern equivalent of snake oil, but may, in fact, produce the opposite effect on the brain than what was intended. Sort of like the person who takes up jogging in order to improve their heart health but ends up being hit by a car because he forgot to look both ways before crossing the street. On a more practical level, if Soduko only reminds you of what it felt like to be in Calculus class without a clue as to what the teacher was talking about and all the while the class clown mercilessly teased you about your acne, you have to wonder if gaining a few stronger brain cells is worth the emotional trauma.
Let’s be honest, many of us spend a great deal of time feeling tortured by our minds. From small worries to full-blown panic attacks, endless thoughts rob us of our sleep, appetites and joy. The mind often takes on the persona of a bully trying its best to muscle in on our inner-peace. Is this really something we want to make stronger? How do we know that when we pumping up our synapse we’re not breathing more life into the electrical impulses behind depressing thoughts of how much better our lives used to be when we were young?
Once again, it seems like we need to take a collective breather, jump off the train your brain train and slow down. In order to assist in that process, and hopefully score a huge contract with Apple, I’m working on an app for the iPhone called iGiveup. This is a surrender application that reads our cerebral output and converts the screen to a huge white flag while at the same time repeating the mantra “Uncle.” (For younger readers,uncle is what us old folks used to say when someone had us pinned to the ground with his knees pressed into our shoulders or when one of our older siblings was tickling us to the point of peeing ourselves.)
This app will help us understand that our fight against Father Time goes against every law of nature and that it is within the very fabric of existence to experience a returning once the expansion of development is complete. It will give us permission to stay at home if we can’t immediately find the car keys, watch the movie even if we can’t remember the actor’s name, and take a nap if we find ourselves spent from trying to think of a seven letter word for stumped. (See the bottom of this blog for the answer in case you need to know.)