Learn Something New: Part Two

June 24, 2014

Posted by AmySanderMontanez at 5/16/2013 9:46 AM | Add Comment

Sucker that I am, I recently signed on for a year’s membership with Lumosity. www.lumosity.com.  Based on the new brain science of neuroplasticity, this website designs a set of mind exercises uniquely for you, based on your responses to a questionnaire.  You can then log on everyday to try new games and puzzles, each one targeting a different brain function.  These are the areas I am working on: spatial relationships, (I was so bad at this in middle and high school that the guidance counselor called my parents in to ask if they knew how remedial I was in this area, given my other apparent intelligence, and my parents told the counselor that my seven year old brother regularly beat me at Chinese checkers) memory,(hello, menopause) attention, (I want to be able to hyper focus) and mental flexibility, ( I need to be able to shift from one thing to another given my work of therapy, writing, teaching, and spiritual direction.  It is like yoga for the mind).

I am not doing it everyday, but maybe four days a week I log on and settle in for the ten to fifteen minute mental calisthenics.  It is fun and challenging.  I talk to myself and try new ways of solving puzzles.  Some are much easier than others for me.  I finish some with a fist pump and an “Oh Yeah!” and others with a exhalation and a “Geez Louise. Will I ever get better at this?”  Well, really some other expletives that I won’t put in this blog.  And I don’t let anyone look at those bad scores.  My remedial spatial relationship scores are private, very private.

What I have found curious is that after I finish a session, I feel alert and creative.  I want to write, or play the piano, or do some yoga stretches, or cook.  The website did not guarantee that I wouldn’t gain weight if I did these exercises, but they did mention an increase in focus and creativity.  Whatever is happening in my brain, the results are good. This is not an advertisement for Lumosity. This is another encouragement to try something new.  Get way out of your comfort zone.

Lexington School District #1’s Education Foundation recently hosted a fund raiser modeled after the popular TV show Dancing With The Stars.  Twelve Lexington County educators, parents, and business leaders were asked to dance with the professionals from Columbia’s Ballroom.  The show was skillfully produced and the turnout was good. I am sure the Foundation raised tens of thousands of dollars for education which was the stated purpose of the evening.  For the men and women who participated, though, I suspect what was more important was what I witnessed before the show when they were practicing at the studio and after the show in the lobby. The men and women who took a risk and tried something new had a blast.  They were concentrating, laughing, attending, practicing, challenging themselves, and developing some new skills.  Their energy was freely flowing and they had a glow on their faces.  They each said, in the pre-dance video the audience watched, that they had no idea how hard this was going to be, how much they would have to learn, or how challenging ballroom dancing really was.  They had each said yes to trying something new, and the positive results were visible.  Most of them said they were going to continue with their dancing.

So try something new.  It can be something as convenient as Lumosity, or as challenging as a new sport.  It can be as difficult as holding your tongue when you want to say something hurtful, or as easy as saying thank you when someone does something kind for you.  It can be as personal as deciding to cook and eat healthfully at home instead of eating out, or as public as volunteering somewhere that needs your help.


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