21. How much mental stimulation are you getting?
While the evidence that computer brain games, crossword puzzles, making changes in overlearned habits (hold a fork in your nondominant hand), or changing your driving route to school or work do not have a major impact on preventing dementia, we believe that new challenges, activities, jobs, hobbies, or approaches to old habits can add some benefit to other brain preserving health changes. Interpersonal interactive activities, such as card games, group discussions, working with others on a project are better than reading, crossword puzzles, or other solo activities that are often not as challenging. You will want to lean toward doing things that require problem solving, thinking in new ways, and developing new skills. We want to emphasize new activities, new learning, new experiences and opportunities. “New” stretches the brain and creates new synapses, the connecting points between neurons that are the basis of your brain’s ability to grow and stay young. You want to avoid periods of inactivity or repeating familiar and overlearned activities that keep you in a mental rut. Learn a new language, play a new musical instrument, try a new approach to a problem, start a hobby, take an online or in-person course, volunteer for a community-based event or activity. You may even want to take a part-time job, especially if you can develop or use a new skill.