New places and new faces strengthen brain health

As the new year began, many people made resolutions to improve their physical fitness. Often we hear in news reports that the attendance at gyms and fitness clubs is highest in January and February. Paying attention to our ability to move and our muscle tone are important priorities. 

It is equally important to remember that our brains are muscles and can benefit from strengthening exercises, too. A great form of brain exercise is to explore new places and meet new people. Now that kind of exercise sounds fun, right?

Research supports that new experiences do stimulate “neurogenesis,” meaning the growth of new neurons in the brain.  Neurons are the pathways by which our brains communicate and function. This means that each time you go to a place you have not been before you are activating and strengthening your brain. 

Experiencing new places can range from going to a different country on vacation to traveling just down the street to a different restaurant. So next time you plan to dine out you can pull out a phone book or go online and pick a new place to both exercise your brain and try new cuisine. 

Another way to exercise your brain and activate neurons is to meet new people. When you are getting to know a new person your brain is forming new pathways to store the new information received. The more you activate neurons, the stronger your brain becomes. In addition, talking and conversation are fantastic exercises for your brain! They are a workout for both sides of the brain, left hemisphere and right hemisphere. If you would try listing all the activities your brain is doing while communicating with a new person it would look like brain “circuit training,” a cute little pun. 

You might want to consider making a monthly or weekly “brain workout list” consisting of new places to visit or ways to meet new people. You may find choices that can accomplish both, i.e. Bay Village residents could join the Community Garden, or Westlakers could take a computer class at Westlake Porter Public Library. 

Our Compeer Program is a great choice of brain exercise if you are an adult managing a mental illness. Compeer volunteering is also an excellent way to meet new people, explore new places and to strengthen your brain. We would be more than happy to help you make your “brain workout” fun and beneficial.

For information on the Compeer Program at Far West Center, please call 440-835-6212, ext. 242, or send an email to  

Denise Ayres

The Compeer Program has been serving adults that are managing mental illness from our Far West Center office fo almost 21 years

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Volume 4, Issue 4, Posted 2:43 PM, 02.21.2012