A new trand is emerging. Not surprisingly, the Feldenkrais Method is on the leading edge: by about 50 years!
According to a recent article in Psychiatric News, “Brain Training May Be Next Fitness Craze.” Sounds great, right? Read the article here, and then come back to join us.
It’s confusing. Especially when you read other data, like the study that says “brain games” don’t work. Who is right?
Physical exercise, especially moderate aerobics, has been shown to have a high positive correlation with keeping your marbles. So do activities that provide you with an experience of “flow:” those absorbing, engaging moments and hours spent in discovery, action, novelty, and mastery. Musicians with their instruments, stamp collectors and model makers, writers, athletes, gardeners – this “flow state” can be experienced by anyone, from any walk of life. Feldenkrais classes and lessons create this experience of “flow,” or “being in the zone,” through gentle movement and attention. And that is the secret ingredient.
Rather than looking for a remedy or a treatment as your first response, look first to what you enjoy, and what you do well. There’s no sense in taking a sudoku puzzle like a pill, if you don’t enjoy it. Even Moshe Feldenkrais said, “These movements are nothing.” It’s not the WHAT, it’s the HOW. It’s your own attention that creates the change and makes the improvement. It’s your attention and consciousness that stimulates your brain’s own neuroplasticity, adaptability, and capacity to learn. Attention is what indicates that you are here, now. Isn’t that the primary criteria for mental competence? It’s a good place to start, anyway.
So — play video games if you enjoy them. Do puzzles, learn languages if they make you happy and open up your life. By all means, exercise, move, enjoy your body and all that it can do. Be a life-long learner. BUT: Don’t do these things out of fear, or out for some misplaced faith in the latest expert or gadget.
I don’t have data to back this up – however, my sense is that boredom is the first step on the slippery slope of mental decline. I frequently see updates on my Facebook wall or Twitter feed from some acquaintance who says, “I am so bored,” or a variation on that. There is a spoken or unspoken demand and expectation that someone else supply a solution, an activity, a rescue for the intractable and unacceptable state of boredom.
The statement, “I’m bored” brings out the worst in me. Ooooh! It is a hot button, pet peeve — wow. I become my most brittle and judgmental self. ”Are you completely incapable of finding even one idea for how to entertain yourself?” I want to scold. ”Do you know how to read? Do you know how to walk? Cook? Clean your house? Go to a movie? Is there anything you could do on your own to solve your problem in this moment without whining about it?” Thankfully, I reserve that speech for private rants, take a deep breath, and further develop my theory: Frequent feelings of boredom indicate a lack of engagement with whatever is happening in the present moment. As far as I can tell, the present moment is all we have for sure.
The Feldenkrais Method teaches you how to pay attention. NOW. It uses movement, touch, and a lot of humor to achieve this. It reduces the noise and distraction that overwhelm and cause you to “tune out” and disconnect in self-defense. It teaches you to be curious, to explore, to enjoy, to invent. It shows you that you are capable in ways that were not immediately obvious to you. THAT is “brain training” that actually works.
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- 5 Steps To Enjoying Exercise (eoghann.com)
- Brain Training Games Don’t Train Your Brain (science.slashdot.org)
- Study: Brain Exercises Don’t Improve Cognition (time.com)
- More Feldenkrais Fun, Part Trois (malepatternfitness.com)