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November 15, 2006

Indy Shrink


Putting Minds and Bodies in Motion

Motion, self-actualized motion, is life. When motion stops, so does life. If we take that as our point of departure, then the following observations, which have been more and more supported by scientific studies and clinical observation, are true. We are entities that move ourselves and it seems that just about on every conceivable level that it is critical for us to keep moving, to encourage movement, to increase it if possible.

What does that mean exactly? Let's start with the mind. Numerous studies are appearing which encourage the notion that the continued use of our minds to grapple with more than every day experiences, i.e., to do tasks that require a bit of mental gymnastics, will keep us alert and sharp as long as our physical health supports our continued existence. It had been thought that as we age our memory and other mental faculties decline proportionately. This is not true. People who maintain an active mental routine motivated by an active sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, will not only maintain but continue to grow and develop their mental capabilities.

So let's look closer at the formula for mental fitness. First, a person has to have passion in his or her life. The fire of motivation is fueled by passion. But passion comes from having a strong sense that your life has meaning, that the last portion of your existence is as important and filled with creative potential as any of the earlier portions. What is the best way of guaranteeing that this will be the case? Well, in a word, happiness!

Yes, the degree to which you have cultivated compassion, joy, gratitude as integral parts of your life is, researchers are coming to see, the best indicator of health on every level. So being happy pays off. It pays off in each moment because in that moment you are feeling the wonder of feeling really good. That has very definite positive influences on your brain and all the functions of your body as well. You feel clear and more open mentally, much more motivated to exert your mind and push it to stretch and exercise its abilities.

So what kind of mental activities would be good for keeping your mind young and supple? Well, the mind craves novelty. Doing something different is always going to be more challenging and produce more salutary growth than simply running through the same old routines that you have become accustomed to. So mental activities that have you engaging in new challenges, new horizons, new ways of seeing and doing things would be ideal.

Some obvious choices are mathematically oriented activities, puzzles, games, etc. But so also would becoming part of community activity where problem solving and the tackling of ever present thorny issues. Each of us have special talents and strengths and by utilizing the best of who you are, you can keep your mind in the mental gym on a regular basis and keep your self mentally fit indefinitely. Next time we will focus on the body. Let me know what you think.

Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed mental health counselor, life and marital coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. Take a look at his perspectives at puttingmindsinmotion.com.

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