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I’ll be the first to admit that much of my day is spent doing passive and rote activities. Brush my teeth and apply make-up. Pack lunches. Drive the same route to take the kids to school. Check email. Fold laundry. Fix supper. Watch the news.

But, according to research, passive and rote activities are bad for your brain while new and complicated activities are good.

Why? Your brain reacts to novel and complex stimuli by growing more dendrite connections between cells. Imagine dendrites like a mesh of entwined tree branches that serve as communication pathways between brain cells. While there is no cure or prevention for the weed-whacker known as dementia or Alzheimer’s, the whacking has a less noticeable impact on a dense jungle than on an island with a single tree.

Therefore, one practical way to keep strong for the journey ahead is to keep learning and grow more dendrites.

How? Learn a second language (or third or fourth). Play a musical instrument or do improvisational acting. Take an art class or learn how to cook. Do crossword puzzles or other paper and pencil games. Play board games regularly or construct puzzles. Visit museums or attend concerts or plays. Take a new route to familiar destinations. Read and keep reading. Write daily. Teach a class. Do something you don’t do well.

Every little bit helps grow dendrites, so keep learning.

What about you? Are you stretching your brain? What new things are you learning?

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