Q: My husband and I (both in our early 70's) have heard that the risk of developing Alzheimer's might be decreased by keeping our brains active. Can you help me find activities that help us do this without adding to the normal stressors of just getting through each day?

A: First of all, I operate on the premise, "If it isn't fun, don't do it." You and your husband have enough stress in any normal day without adding another chore to your to do lists. We are all individuals, so there is no single right activity, but here are three fun ways to keep your brain active:

1) Get your daily "Ha-ha's." When you laugh, you are literally bringing oxygen to your brain to "freshen" your thinking. What do you and husband find funny? Reading jokes or cartoons, playing with grandchildren or pets, watching Candid Camera? Whatever it is, spend some time doing it every day. You both need the oxygen?and you can also benefit from the altered perspective.

Our funny bones are tickled when something unexpectedly delightful happens. Comedians make us laugh because they see life differently. For example, when Robin Williams jokingly asks, "Why do they call it 'rush hour' when nothing moves?" he is in effect saying, "Isn't life absurd?" Continue to exercise your humor perspective by laughing.

2) Get your daily "Aaahhh's." Do something that gives you pleasure. For example, do you love gardening, baseball, or Broadway musicals? Putting pleasurable activities into your daily life, even in 10-minute increments, reduces stress. Not only do relaxed learners retain more, but they also have more stamina.

3) Get your daily "Ah-ha's." Pleasurable activities also tend to naturally arouse your curiosity, and aroused curiosity is key to gaining new knowledge?to saying, "Ah-ha, I didn't know that!" or "Let's try this!" Take gardening for example. If you like gardening, you are likely to enjoy planning what you will plant. The skills involved may be:

  • Mathematical (figuring out how much space to devote to various plants)
  • Botanical (what grows well in the region)
  • Creativity (color combinations, varying heights)

When you start with something you love doing, you almost always tap into skills you might not otherwise use. Keeping an active mind happens painlessly.

The bottom line is that any time you are exposed to something new, whether it's a joke, a song or your first time planting beans, you are exercising your brain. As often as possible, practice what gives you feelings of Ha-ha, Aaahhh, or Ah-ha.

Kathy Laurenhue is the author of the downloadable, printable, subscription-based Brain Aerobics Weekly which provides many specific exercises for keeping brains active. For information, call 800-999-0795 (9 - 5 ET) or visit www.brainaerobicsweekly.com. © 2008 Wiser Now, Inc.