How to Protect Your Brain and Memory in 2021

 How to Protect Your Brain and Memory in 2021
One of the most important ways to keep our brain healthy is to use it, to surprise it and to keep it from falling asleep by not doing the same routine every day. 
We have been writing 2020 during this very strange year – never really thinking about the year as we write it, so to make that change to 2021 - we have to really stop and think.  We have to really use our brain and consciously think about today's date.  Thinking, rather than doing something absentmindedly is one of the key ways to keep our brain active and prevent cognitive decline. 
small teddy bear with plastic mug on head
When I teach brain strengthening games to people who have been diagnosed with dementia, the hardest challenge for most of them is trying to do something differently.  In one of the memory games I teach, we pick objects from a bag and make up a story using them in an adventure with a small teddy bear. We repeat the story from the beginning each time adding another object to the plot, sort of a "I went to the store to buy an apple" but with objects instead of letters. 
Many can remember the order of the story with the help of the objects, but what many cannot  remember is when the bear does something with the object that is out of the ordinary.  If, for example, we decide that the bear uses the mug as a hat, when we get to that part of the story, most will say "he drank from the mug."  Their brains are stuck in a set mode and cannot think in a different way.  This is why keeping our brain "on its toes" is so important!  The same way that we need to concentrate and really think in order to write 2021, we need to do as often as possible in order to work our brain. We need to be mindful and really think about what we are doing.  
Yesterday I listened  to a wonderful podcast by people living with dementia.  On this podcast, Mike explained how they moved to a new house and his wife tried to arrange everything as close as possible to their previous house.  Mike kept opening a kitchen cabinet and expected to see something else there.  He realized that he would not be able to remember, so he asked his wife to arrange the kitchen according to his reality, which she did. 

I moved to my house a year ago and because of the size of the drawers in this house, I had to put the silverware in the 2nd drawer, rather than the first drawer, as I had been used to.  In the beginning I constantly made a mistake opening the first drawer, but in time I learned. That was an important exercise for my brain and we should all be doing exercises like this as often as possible.   Here are some simple ways you can do this: 

Move Things 
Move things around the house so you have to think about where they are.  Move the dustbin once every couple of weeks so you have to think where it is rather than just throw out that tissue without thinking.  Change which products are stored in which bin in the fridge.  Change the order of dishes or glasses in your cupboard.  Yes - it may make you cringe, but your brain and your older self will thank you. 
Move Yourself 
This is probably the suggestion that causes the most objections in my workshops.  Remember what happens sometimes when you wake up away from home and it takes you a few minutes to realize where you are? Your brain has to think and you are exercising your brain.  You can make your brain work at home too by changing rooms or by changing the side of the bed you sleep on. Yes it may feel incredibly strange, especially if you switch places with your partner, but that uncomfortableness is what gets our brains to work.  We want our brain to be surprised.  We want to force our brain to think. 
Get Lost 
If you have a usual route that you drive to work, change part of it.  Perhaps while driving in the city, find a different way to drive rather than on your set route or with your GPS.  When you park your car, park it further away so you will have to remember how to find it.  This can be a great exercise in a large mall parking lot.  Skip finding a parking place close to the entrance and park further away so you have to trace your steps and really think about where you parked.  If you are concerned, you can take a photo of where you parked, but try to find your car on your own. 
Wishing you and your brains a very happy and healthy new year!  

Oran Aviv has been a reflexologist for 25 years and has worked with people who have dementia for the past 12.  During the last 6 years she has studied and incorporated Validation into her work.  Validation is a way of communicating with people who have cognitive decline.  Today Oran is a Certified Validation teacher and combines both the principles of hand reflexology and Validation to teach caregivers and senior facility staff around the world. Oran is also the recipient of the Geller Prize for her work helping people with who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.  
To learn more please follow us on:  email:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   
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Photo of eBook Beyond Words
Oran’s first book, Beyond Words, Using Hand Reflexology to Help Your Loved One with Dementia, is soon coming out as an eBook for family caregivers.  Please contact us at   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  if you would like to be notified when the eBook will be availalbe. 

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