Archive for the ‘health’ Category

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Some mental abilities increase as we age

May 30, 2009

According to a Wall Street Journal article, “The Upside of Aging,” our mental abilities keep growing as we age.

American culture celebrates youth and many human abilities that decline with age. But contrary to prevalent beliefs, some mental functions actually increase in some areas while decreasing in others.

The aging brain is subject to a dreary litany of changes. It shrinks, Swiss cheese-like holes grow, connections between neurons become sparser, blood flow and oxygen supply fall. That leads to trouble with short-term memory and rapidly switching attention, among other problems. And that’s in a healthy brain.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. An emerging body of research shows that a surprising array of mental functions hold up well into old age, while others actually get better. Vocabulary improves, as do other verbal abilities such as facility with synonyms and antonyms. Older brains are packed with more so-called …

Speed of response times and reflexes decrease, according to the Journal article. But wisdom–a previously unquantifiable set of abilities–increases, says new research.

That’s because we develop “action templates” for experiences that we can apply to similar experiences. Younger minds don’t have enough experiences to develop templates as seasoned as those of older people.

These templates may be the foundations of what we call wisdom.

Sharp Brains, a website devoted to mental improvement, notes:

In our “Exercising Our Brains” Classes, we typically explain how some areas typically improve as we age, such as self-regulation, emotional functioning and Wisdom (which means moving from Problem solving to Pattern recognition), whereas other typically decline: effortful problem-solving for novel situations, processing speed, memory, attention and mental imagery.

Of course, this runs against my own experience: I knew far more at age 16 than I’ll ever know again. I certainly knew more than anybody else then.

But maybe my memory is just slipping…and I’ve merely forgotten most of it?

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Why blog?

July 22, 2008

Benefits of blogging

Blogging helps writers in many ways. These include:

  • igniting creativity
  • capturing ideas
  • good writing practice
  • promoting your product or service
  • improving your health

Blog posts can be anything you like

I love to blog. But so many of life’s necessities and projects vacuum time away from other fun stuff–and that includes blogging.

There’s a way to do it, though, that won’t turn your blogging into a full-time job. With a blog, you don’t have to fit every item into a preset format like you would with another kind of article, news item, think piece or essay.

Certainly it’s helpful to your target audience when you stick to a specific topic. But within that topic, you have almost free reign.

This is both heaven and hell for a writer. On the negative side, you could become a gushing Word Monster with overly long posts. The constraints of publication guidelines often demand cuts in content that you may not like, but which improve the writing. Discipline streamlines the work.

On the other hand, freedom can invigorate you. Writing exactly what you want to write is the editorial equivalent of soaking in a steaming bath.

Blogs can be notepads, forums, magazines–or whatever

Try this: If you have just a thought or two, use a blog as a notepad for an outline–or just to throw it out on the random winds of the Internet.

Opening your ideas to review by others can spur creativity in unpredictable ways.  Comments can help you flesh out the idea–or spin it in a completely new and fascinating direction.

One thing I like about creating is the lack of predictability. It usually produces meaning and joy in directions you could never have foreseen.

If you don’t have much time, just toss up short items as they strike you. I do that with rough drafts on my Google Notebooks, and sometimes quick posts. (I always want to perfect and flesh them out, though!)

Why blog more often?

Many bloggers do it to reach a wider audience. It’s worth noting that Google ranks blogs higher that have 2-4 new posts/week, as well as those with subheadings, lists and bullets, and links to other websites and blogs. Blogging helps people find your site, using what’s known in marketing as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Google offers a more detailed explanation here.

The short version: Google’s algorithms place high value on the connectivity of the Internet, assuming that the more sites you link to, the better the chance that you’ll be found–and apparently, the more you deserve to be found. Adam Lotz at ROI Media explains the basics well, and notes a few wrinkles and turns that affect the process. The better the site ranking on Google and other measures, the higher your site will rank and more easily be found via Internet searches.

The bottom-line value: your blog or site ranks higher in searches for terms included in the post. And the higher your blog ranks, the easier it is for searchers to find your site, and for you to market your ideas, products or services. So you get more attention, and if you’re doing the right things, more sales.

Blogging also offers health benefits that you may not be aware of. More and more research on creativity and health, including studies at the Harvard Medical School and some published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that people who pursue a creative hobby or work live longer and healthier lives than those who don’t. Such hobbies can include writing, knitting, music, playing board games and even sharing stories with friends–just talking about yours and others’ lives!

So if you like blogging, just do it. And appreciate that, unlike most other writing outlets, it’s whatever you want it to be.

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