In previous blogs, we have considered the environmental factors affecting cognitive performance, and how we can use and manipulate these factors to improve our cognition. Now, we consider cognitive stimulation. If you’re not challenging your mind and constantly learning, will you lose it? Just as the saying goes, ‘use it or lose it!’

Research has proven if a job is cognitively demanding and varied, mental functioning can be increased and age-related decline is reduced. If a job allows someone to learn new things each day, their cognitive performance will improve.

It doesn’t only apply to the work environment, or to non-occupational activities for that matter – but doesn’t work when pursuing hobbies, cognition can only improve if we keep learning more and mastering more tasks and skills – engagement isn’t enough to see a measurable difference.

When learning a new skill, starting a new job, or learning a new software, you are tapping into your working memory, long-term memory and other high level cognitive processes. This can be demanding, but it means you’re using your brain – doing something like word puzzles, isn’t as demanding, and therefore doesn’t advance your brain as much.

Having an intellectually engaged and physically active lifestyle promotes successful cognitive aging.

Our brains have been shown to be plastic in nature, so they can continue to grow or at least be maintained, given the right conditions and stimulus. If we stop using particular cognitive processes, this can result in them “wasting away” whereas if we subject ourselves to some stretching and challenging cognitive activities, these will help maintain or improve our abilities.

Here’s some food for thought, ‘when you are in your comfort zone, you are outside of the enhancement zone.’ So your cognition is being maintained, but is not growing.

It’s good to be aware of the nature of your work, the demand is places on your brain and how it improves your skills. If your work does not challenge you, you are allowing your brain to slowly ‘die a little’ as you are not using it. Try to seek out opportunities for self-development, learning new skills and practices.

Use it or lose it: United Church Homes
Woman at work: Pic photos