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Reclaiming Civility

A child’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything with which it comes in contact. As the brain gets older it learns to process, to analyze, to interpret. And eventually it begins to slow, begins to forget, begins to lose function.

Few prospects are as forbidding as mental decline, the specter of which haunts us as we advance toward old age. And so the experts tell us to keep our minds active, that using the brain is the surest way to stave off mental deterioration.

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Word games
  • Logic problems

These are common recipes from the diet books for the mind. But don’t stop there; the more creative and more challenging, the better for your brain.

  • Go traveling
  • Take up knitting or gardening
  • Learn Italian
  • Drive a different way to work
  • Get an advanced degree

Anything and everything that piques cognitive activity belongs in our catalogue of mental health activities.

“That’s all good,” says Barbara Strauch, author of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind and New York Times health and medical science editor. But the most intriguing advice Ms. Strauch has heard is this:

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