Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Prevent Senility the French Way

Eiffel Tower

How do you envision yourself at 70, 80, 90? Clear minded, or memory challenged? In Stone Crossings I explore this question— albeit with a spiritual emphasis— through the work of Ellen Langer and her book Mindfulness.

Here's an excerpt from Stone Crossings concerning Langer...

What [she] found in study after study was that 'old' is too often a state of mind, not a state of fact—even in people aged eighty and up. In a series of studies that raised the bar for elderly participants, she and her colleagues saw dramatic results—from memory loss reversal to prolonged life, improved hearing and vision, increased emotional satisfaction, renewed hand strength, and so on. p.141

Richard Restak, author of Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot concurs. He notes that the brain WILL change over time but says, The real question is: Will we help bring about positive, enriching changes in our brain's structure and function, or will we allow it to undergo 'disuse atrophy'? p.15. According to both Langer and Restak, we do have some choice in the matter of senility onset; we have some measure of control, depending on how we challenge our brains.

While Langer's book is more theory and research, Restak's is delightfully practical. I learned, for instance, that using my hands is vital for preserving brain health. So all that dish washing, floor sweeping, onion chopping, lawn mowing, piano and guitar playing, keyboard tapping and pencil wielding I do... well, it's good for my brain. Music is good for my brain too, as is paying attention to fragrance. Standing exercises are excellent brain developers. Learning a language is terrifically helpful. And, says Restak, The brain thrives on novelty. Stress, on the other hand literally kills my precious neurons in the hippocampus.

I can think of all sorts of applications. Notes to myself, like never hire a housekeeper... unless you are trying to develop his/her brain and put your own into atrophy. Or, hey don't sit so long at the computer; it doesn't qualify as a standing exercise. Or how about this one? Go to Paris, where you'll hear new music, see new things, relieve your stress, stand a lot, and have a reason to learn French. On that last one, I think I'll do it sometime in the next couple weeks— go to Paris, that is. Do you think I can learn French that quickly? Je ne sais pas, but I'm going to try.

Eiffel Tower photo by J Barkat. Used with permission.

Ted's book club post Roxaboxen: Heaven
Ted's book club post Blood from a Stone: Completion

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Blogger Craver Vii said...

Ah, tres bien; bon voyage!

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adios, Amiga... Oh, wait. C'est la vie.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

You've got to be kidding on the French/Paris thing!

Really, that would be cool. And good reflections here. Makes me think there's some good in my factory work.

I don't know a lick of French though I'm supposed to have alot of French blood in me, my wife thinks. Oui is about it. But it's a beautiful language and music I've heard from them can be as well.

The one thing health-wise, perhaps that I might fear or dislike the most as a future possibility is losing my mind. I've heard this kind of thing before and it makes sense.

Enjoy Paris!

5:13 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I think a trip to Paris should be considered a regular brain exercise. Hmm.. have to go to London on a business trip next week -- does "Brit" English count as a foreign language? Maybe, but the food won't be as good.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Crowm said...

The most French I know l.l. is Evian. I guess that's just a company though.

The studies of Langer are interesting. How many people have moved into atrophy of the brain? Sadly too many. Thankfully, there's still hope until the medulla oblongota goes into atrophy.


7:04 PM  
Blogger Crowm said...

Sorry for the weird humor.

I did want to mention the link to the "parent blog." I do try to follow the rules. Ha!


7:07 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

LL - fascinating! Your idea about packing all those brain enhancing benefits into a trip to Paris is brilliant. May I add that if you take in a bottle of Bordeaux, you'll stave off a heart attack or stroke as well.

I'll start packing,

8:30 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Craver... what a Francophile you are!

Sam... good one. And I must tell you that because I know so much Spanish, this is all getting mixed up in my head. Tonight my Littlest wanted to exchange I Love You's in French, which we did. Then when I ended by asking her to kiss me... well, I said it in Spanish!

Ted... Yes, factory work, especially if you're working with your hands... can be good for the brain! Now, I'm not sure how you would deal with the novelty question there, but I bet you could come up with something clever.

Maria... Ha! Too funny.

Crow... well, I think that counts. Especially if you can say it with a nice French accent. :) As for weird humor, you've come to the right place... we appreciate that here. :)

Every Square... connecting all these things to Paris... that's what we call rationalization, right? I bet that's good for the brain too. A kind of puzzle exercise. Oh, do pack! Meet you near the Eiffel. You can have wine... I'll have cheese or chocolate. :)

8:37 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

What exactly is a "standing exercise"?

Are the kids going with you? What a delightful city to tour with children!

Manger une tartlette au citron et une baguette chaud pour moi, s'il vous plait.

9:36 PM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

I love your thoughts here. I've been looking a little bit myself lately at how the brain works in terms of memory abilities. It's interesting to see how our "memory muscle" can weaken or be built up depending on how little or much we work it.

I also love the idea of a trip to Paris! Sounds great for the mind and the soul. Enjoy!

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have only traveled to places that speak english, though once i was in kentucky and i could have used an interpreter there.

the only trip out of the country was to new zealand. they have wonderful names for things there, like chilly bin for cooler, and a trolley instead of shopping cart.

i just got back from wyoming. and there it is pop instead of soda. where dogs ride in the back of pick-ups. where guys wear straight legged jeans, big belt buckles and western boots.

so many new things for the mind to work on.
like, where is my passport, toothbrush, and i am sure i packed my ________! you fill in the blank.

don't forget your ruby slippers!

12:14 AM  
Blogger Freedominthedance said...

Ya know the funny thing? My mind still sees my body in a size 7 and it does not want to compute that five kids as well as age have caused it to be bigger than well as the grey hairs that I keep denying exist until I try and straighten my hair and they refuse to lay, as far as my brain goes, I plan on continuing to stimulate it by laughing, which, I'm sure HAS to have some connection to staying young, right?
This post brought me back to the reality that my gramma had alzheimers...not sure I spelled that right~I'm slippin'!
Have a great day!

2:06 AM  
Blogger Anna M Blanch said...

Great post! I am very glad I have found your blog. You are a wonderful writer and it is a pleasure reading your posts both here and at the - I will try and complete your mem on my own blog sometime soon and i'll post a comment when i get round to that! I'd love to have you come and visit my blog sometime soon. Have a great day!

2:14 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin... think "wax on, wax off." : ) Yes, with the kids. And don't worry, I'll eat baguettes, croissants, ice cream (Paris has THE BEST), fruit, chocolate. You know, all the healthy stuff.

A Musing... funny how little we consider the brain and its needs. I guess maybe because it's hidden away in there, we forget it needs exercise too.

Nancy... oh, very amusing!! Now, you travel a lot. Part of your job description? For Paris, I'm more likely to take my ruby sneakers. (Okay, I don't have RUBY sneakers, just camouflage green and black... will that do?)

Daune... I think laughter must be good for just about everything. Did you ever read about that man who cured himself through laughter? Some kind of incurable disease. He got a lot of honorary degrees for his work. And I'm sorry about your grandma. It makes me remember that the brain is also connected to the body, which ages differently and can sometimes perhaps influence these things. For instance, if someone has a stroke. Like with my grandmother.

Anna... welcome to Seedlings. Thank you for your very kind words. Now, please tell me your blog URL so I can stop by. I'd love to see it. (The link is taking me to a dead end.)

2:37 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Anna... oh, I found you! Welcome also to High Calling Blogs. Great to visit your blog at Goannatree. Tell us... what's a goanna tree? And I love that you posted some Hopkins.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Parisian ice cream!! BERTHILLION on the Ile St. Louis... do not miss it... do not.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Escargot. Not for eating; for food fights. Splat!

1:40 PM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...


Oh, even the picture of the Tower made me lonesome for that place that seems like home, even when you first just meet.

And you are going. Grace! Bliss!

Once, just you and him, at the beginning, yes? And now, with children. Perfect.

Think of all the poems you'll find. And you'll bring them home and post them and enrich all of our brains too... and souls.

Much love, friend...

9:27 PM  
Blogger Tulsi said...

I loved this blog post and other's I have looked at. My mom lives in Switzerland so I could relate. What a great writer you are.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Oooohh, La La! Bon Voyage!

2:55 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin... funny you should mention that. I've already tasted it. And I'd be happy to return.

Craver... duck! (as in, down... not as in poultry)

Ann... what a marvelous memory you have. Yes, 'twas my honeymoon place. I never considered that this is sort of full circle, going as I am. I am sure I will think of you when I'm there, and I will gather poems and bring them home for you. : )

Tulsi... thank you. Sweet words. Switzerland. That's another place I hope to go...

Kim... : ) I'll need it, what with taking two kids solo on the plane there and back!

10:15 PM  
Blogger Power Up Love said...

I invite you to visit a community of real people sharing real stories about how Love has really impacted and changed their lives. Share your story, struggles, or testimonies. Blessings...

8:38 AM  
Blogger Michelle Gregory said...

l.l. - i'm norwegian and i've always wanted to visit norway. to keep my brain from fossilizing, maybe i should learn norwegian and travel to see the fjords. or there's always the short-cut to avoid senility - eat the norwegian lutefisk. fish *is* brain food, right?

on second thought, i've tried lutefisk and almost gagged. if i have to choose between a pickled brain and pickled fish, i think i'll take the brain and just look at pictures of the fjords instead.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Kate Lord Brown said...

Hello - wonderful blog. I'm a big fan of lifelong learning - plan to still be finding new fascinations well into the purple kaftan stage.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

All so true! But I have to have the housekeeper because my body and mind are so busy with so many other things!

6:47 PM  
Blogger Scott R. Davis said...

enjoy your crossing the BIG Pond of the Ocean when you go to Paris. Lot of famous movies filmed there.

I left a note for you at the other blog of yours; Is my book of yours still available for me. if so, let me know where to send the money. thanks. scott

10:24 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Great thoughts! And what's true of the mind is true of the body too. What we too easily accept as the physical effects of aging are often the results of a sedentary lifestyle – especially when it comes to strength, flexibility, and endurance. Walking around Paris practicing French is the perfect remedy. :)

8:24 AM  
Blogger nannykim said...

Hi--Just wanted you to know I am reading your book and enjoying it very much. Hope you enjoyed Paris;-)

1:44 PM  
Blogger Anna M Blanch said...

Sorry, I haven't been by in a while - Things in the other parts of my world have been keeping me busy. You asked me what to tell you about Goannatree. Maybe I should write a full post explaining this, but I kind of like it that it isn't something people are going to know...

Goannatree is really a made up word, by me....A Goanna is a native Australian lizard - they are beautiful up close and can live for a similar life span to humans. They have claws and can be dangerous when provoked but most of the time they will leave you alone...

The name Goannatree comes from a photograph I took a couple of years ago on my parents property - there was this massive, like 5 ft long Goanna who looked like it was climbing a big eucalyptus tree, but it had stopped while almost entirely vertical with just part of its tail curled around the bottom of the tree.

There are some other much more intellectualised reasons for the name - I have an entire philosophical argument for how and why it is that I chose this name. But the bottom line is that i like it and people find it different enough to ask me about it...

Have a great day!

12:52 AM  

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