Social Strategies to Boost Your Brain
Keep in Touch
Our connection with friends and family is one of the easiest ways to maintain a complex and novel environment for our brains. Friends and family provide opportunities to communicate, interact and share experiences. They also provide necessary motivation to stay mentally active and involved.
Sustaining a social network can seem difficult or daunting, especially as children leave home, retirement sets in or a spouse passes away. But keeping in touch can be as easy as picking up your phone. If you’re having trouble getting started, how about trying these 4 simple steps…
Your Game Plan for a Strong Social Network
- Open your Address Book – Search your brain, book, or smart phone for a list of friends and family.
- Pick Your Priorities – Categorize your contacts into 3 groups; close friends being the first and casual acquaintances being the third. (Don’t worry, you’re the only one who needs to know this ranking!)
- Make a Plan to Connect - Based on your priorities, determine whether you want to connect weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly and mark a reminder in your scheduler.
- Follow Through. - Call (or email) on the date you’ve set aside. If they’re not there, leave a message.
- Reschedule - If your friend or family member can’t make it, plan another day to reconnect.
Get a portable phone and answering machine or voice mail. A portable phone means you won’t miss calls and can multi-task if necessary while talking. An answering machine means you don’t have to worry about missing people when they call you back.
Stay Socially Engaged
Staying involved in society helps you maintain a complex and novel environment in which your brain can thrive and may help to prevent cognitive decline in older persons. Research has explored the relationship between the amount and type of activity, and the risk for dementia. Findings indicate that older persons with five or six social ties are significantly less likely to demonstrate cognitive decline compared to those who had no social ties. Joining a club, or volunteering for a cause or campaign, is an excellent way to develop a stronger social network and boost your brain’s health.
Even if you're not "a joiner" there are ways to stay socially engaged...
- Find a club or activity that interests you, whether it’s a book club or sports group.
- Make a list of your skills & talents and find organization or groups in your community or city that relate to them.
- Attend school, workplace and other types of reunions or gatherings.
- If you’re a member of a faith group, get involved in their choir or a committee.
- Form your own group; maybe a weekly card game, gardening group or coffee club.
- Scan the papers, notice boards or online announcements for cultural and other public events. Invite a friend and head out to enjoy a new experience.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Your best social network might be just around the corner or right next door. Getting to know your neighbors, whether a local shopkeeper or nearby residents, is a great way to create meaningful connections close to home. An evening stroll is one way to do this. You might start a conversation by complimenting a neighbor on their house’s curb appeal or asking about a type of plant. If you’re an apartment dweller, make friends with your local grocer. Pick up a weekend paper instead of getting it delivered. It will not only give you an excuse to get out of the house, but to connect with others.
Explore the Internet
If initiating social engagements or joining a club seems too daunting, the Internet is a great way to start your socialization process. Instead of turning on the TV, turn to your computer. Not only are you substituting an interactive process for a passive one, you may be plugging into a whole new network of people. Online Internet communities are an increasingly popular means of socializing, and indeed are becoming the norm for youth. Going online gives you access to chat rooms and discussion forums on almost any topic. Try opening a Facebook or My Space account. You may be surprised at how easily it helps you stay connected with your friends and family or helps you reconnect with people you’ve lost track of.
If the Internet intimidates you, consider a trip to your local public library. Librarians can often help you get started with your Internet education. If a computer isn’t part of your life, make it so. Colleges and community groups provide plenty of introductory courses to computers.