A New Book Reveals the Path to Mental Clarity
Gerontology experts Sandra Cusack and Wendy Thompson explain how to keep your mind and spirit young and intact no matter how many candles are on your cake.
If you’re like most people, you think about retirement in terms of financial power, not brain power. You work hard for forty-plus years, saving your pennies for the day you can finally slow down and smell the roses. But when you finally get to your Golden Years, will they really be a time of serenity and enjoyment? Or will they be marred by senility, dementia, or even Alzheimer’s Disease? According to Sandra Cusack, PhD, and Wendy Thompson, you don’t have to surrender your mental clarity as the years advance – just spend as much time enriching your mind as you do your bank account.
Cusack and Thompson, the authors of Mental Fitness for Life: 7 Steps to Healthy Aging (Bull Publishing Company, March 2006, ISBN: 092352195X), say that the breakdown of memory and thought is not inevitable. The gerontology experts are part of a worldwide movement that aims to debunk the established myths about aging. Their book combines years of research with innovative mental dexterity techniques to create a new outlook on the competency, creativity, and usefulness of society’s most underappreciated members.
“When you think about it, the way we think is the only thing we have control over, and the only thing we need to have control over,” Cusack and Thompson assert. “That’s why working on your mental fitness is so important to healthy aging.”
The authors insist that by establishing and continually pursuing mental clarity throughout life, you can actually help prevent degenerative brain diseases further down the road: “Evidence is accumulating that the brain works a lot like a muscle – the harder you use it, the more it grows – and Mental Fitness for Life provides people of all ages with the perfect workout plan!”
Here are a few insights from the book that will help you develop your own mental fitness-starting right now:
Set goals that reflect your purpose and passion. Because goals provide a foundation for the things you later accomplish in life, nothing can motivate you to achieve better than setting goals. They will lead to projects that will, in turn, give you a firm sense of purpose in life. “They create a sense of purpose; they create a sense of self-worth and a willingness to explore opportunities to become excellent,” say Cusack and Thompson. Utilize the tool of power thinking. “Our beliefs have tremendous power, more power than most of us realize,” write the authors. Power thinking is the process of actively replacing your negative beliefs with positive ones. It is hard work at first, but once you identify your negative thoughts and make an effort to change them, you no longer need another person to empower you. You can now empower yourself! You also can create a new sense of possibility and replace “Never” with “Perhaps” and then “Perhaps” with “Yes, definitely!” Through power thinking, older age no longer has to be a cage of limitations but rather a clear new horizon. Explore your creativity. Creativity is a vital component of good mental fitness. It is popularly defined as a person’s mass of knowledge multiplied by his or her inner emotional experience and his or her external life experience. It follows that the more life experience a person has acquired, the more creative he or she will become. The authors suggest you express your creativity in any way you enjoy, be it knitting, writing, reading, seeing a play, or by simply observing life in an ironic way. Develop a positive mental attitude. “A positive mental attitude comes from a combination of the following three aspects: positive words, mental powers, and the right attitudes,” write the authors. “It is about having the mindset needed to look automatically for the positive in every negative situation.” Becoming an optimist is not necessarily easy but the payoff is far greater than if you had remained in the negative!
A related tip: choose your words carefully. The language and thoughts you use influence the body’s chemistry, the book points out. Language is one of the most powerful drugs you can use to affect your body and mind. It is vital that you don’t limit yourself with “limiting language” or words you use.
Improve your memory. The chief danger in memory loss is not old age. It is primarily laziness and nonproductive routines. You can remember anything you decide you want to remember. Recalling people’s names: Repeat the name as often as necessary until you remember it. Use it in conversation with that person. Think of word plays that help you remember the name. Remembering important dates and appointments: Organization is key here. Make lists and use a planner. You are not supposed to be able to remember all your appointments, but you are supposed to have a good system of reference to look back upon. Remembering where you put household items: Place your keys in the same spot each time you come home. Make a habit of it and use this same strategy for all household items. Scissors and tape always go in the same drawer and so on. Speak your mind. “Speaking effectively is an art,” say Cusack and Thompson. “It is an excellent way to train your mind and to cultivate a vocabulary and expressive style that is truly yours. Seize every opportunity for speaking your mind. It gives your brain cells a good workout. Think before you speak – what is it that you really want to say? Join in discussions – everyone has something important to contribute. Don’t talk to people or at people or over their heads. Talk with people and then, above all, listen.”
The most important thing you can do in the pursuit of mental fitness is to keep doing something, anything, say Cusack and Thompson. Action and effort go a very long way in preserving a clear, healthy mind.
“No matter how stiff you have become or how many aches and pains you may have, it is never too late to get moving,” write the authors. “We all need to keep climbing to the top of mountains – physically and mentally. When we rise to the challenge, somehow the energy that we need becomes available. And we gain a new view, a view that gives us a fresh perspective on our lives and what we can achieve through personal commitment and hard work. You will feel as though you are literally on top of the world. And consider this: if you’re not climbing, you’re slipping.”
Sandra Cusack, PhD, is Guttman-Gee Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor in Educational Gerontology at Simon Fraswer University in Vancouver, Canada. She is a member of the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging.
Wendy Thompson, MA, is an educational gerontologist and the author of five books. A former Olympic speed skater, she has encouraged thousands as a speaker and trainer.
Mental Fitness for Life: 7 Steps to Healthy Aging (Bull Publishing Company, March 2006, ISBN: 092352195X) is available at better bookstores and major online booksellers. It is also available direct from the publisher at bullpub.com or by calling 800-676-2855.