An Engaged Mind Makes for a Happy Retiree

Boost Your Health and Outlook on Life with Brain Stimulating Activities!

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Have you fed your brain today? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, retired or not! How do you maximize your brain health and have fun doing it?

Intentionally Energize Your Mind

According to Dr. Angela K. Troyer in her August 2014 Psychology Today blog , “One great way is to find leisure activities that challenge and engage you, and to participate in them often.”

Dr. Troyer says the research is clear. “In recent years, there has been accumulating evidence that participating in activities that make you think hard and learn new things is good for your brain health. People with such active, engaged lifestyles tend to do better on memory and other cognitive tests than people who are less engaged. Even more encouraging is research showing these same individuals are less likely to develop dementia – such as Alzheimer’s disease – than those with less active lifestyles.”

She summarizes her top 6 ways to engage your brain with advice for new and challenging learning. She concludes, “It’s important to pick something that makes you think a bit.”

  1. Nurture your inner artist. You have heard me rant about this before. Music educators, go back to your “creativity roots” which inspired you to enter into this profession and “make your own music.”
  2. dancers-in-white-1440514Take up a new hobby. Now that you have the time, go exploring… and the skies the limit! But don’t forget, anything worth doing “engages the mind!”
  3. Explore cultural activities. Near or far, this is a no-brainer! We are talking about the very things we love and have experienced most of our lives: the symphony, ballet, theater, opera, museums, etc.
  4. Do old activities in new ways. How creative are you? Dr. Troyer asks, “If you already have some favorite activities, think about how you could ‘shake them up’ and make them into novel, challenging activities.”
  5. Learn something new, just for the fun of it. How courageous are you? What are you waiting for? You should have an extensive to-do list of things to try for the first time.
  6. Take the ultimate “formal learning” challenge. Enroll in a course at the local community college, community center, or library, or sign-up to volunteer in a new organization doing something you have never done before.

Read Dr. Troyer’s full article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201408/6-ways-engage-your-brain.

curious-cat-cutout-1405973Curiosity does not kill the cat… or the retired person either!

Do you know the differences among IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and CQ (curiosity quotient)?

Citing issues of solving the complexity of life (ever try to set-up a new printer?), the article “Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence” of The Harvard Business Review (see https://hbr.org/2014/08/curiosity-is-as-important-as-intelligence/), touches on the value of the curiosity quotient. “CQ… concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas…”

Author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic makes two important conclusions.

  1. Knowledge and expertise (like experience) translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
  2. Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Although we no longer have to spend our lives at school solving “complex problems” and motivating students to study and appreciate music, being passionately curious is exactly what all retirees should strive to be and do every day!

How do retirees face the tumultuous passage of leaving full-time employment?

heart-in-your-hands-1311548.jpgIf you have not read a previous blog of mine, “Advice from Music Teacher Retirees to Soon-To-Be Retirees,” check out the reprinted version on the Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/advice-music-teacher-retirees-soon-be-retirees. The act of retirement is a very stressful transition, and what would be worse is sitting around mindlessly watching television or allowing your brain to “atrophy!” In the article, I refer to Dr. Amit Sood’s writings, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living: “This a time of enormous change. You are leaving your job and friendships with colleagues and finding new things to do.” He recommends, “Find meaning in new passions, including possibly using your work skills in a new job or volunteer work.”

My own ideas on stimulating our brains have more to do with a journey into the unknown… to steal a quote from Star Trek, “to boldly go where no one has gone before!” If you have not experienced any of these, take a gander. However, you should customize (and frequently revise) your own unique list.

One retiree’s bucket list of “brainy engagements!” Not enough hours in the day…

  1. face-questions-1567164Just like a rehearsal – start off with a mind warm-up! Go to the website https://curiosity.com/. You will be amazed to read topics from the sublime to the ridiculous – examples like “Cats and Dogs Drink Very Differently” to “How Does Memory Work in Your Brain.”
  2. Have you perused the awesome coursework and lectures in iTunes University? Download the app to your smartphone… it’s free and you won’t be sorry!
  3. You need to visit the “Best of Bonk” website about creativity and critical thinking in education, hosted by a modern-day genius Dr. Curtis J. Bonk from the Indiana University of Bloomington: http://www.indiana.edu/~bobweb/cv_hand.html. Almost makes you wish you were still teaching?  
  4. Also, don’t forget to sample the inexhaustible iTunes library of free video and audio podcasts on nearly every subject in the world.
  5. In a thousand years, one could never consume all of the material available from Ted (the famous “Ted Talks” either online at http://www.ted.com/ or the TED Radio Hour hosted by Guy Raz) and YouTube.
  6. computer-monitor-tablet-and-mobile-1241520Leo the Tech Guy program and site at www.twit.tv and www.tech guylabs.com offer an extensive archive of broadcasts solving problems and recommending purchases of computers, software/apps, smartphones, cameras, home theater, and other devices.
  7. Here are a few more “very educational” and “mind nourishing” websites and television channels, many with online versions of full length episodes and videos: The Discovery Channel http://www.discovery.com/, National Geographic Channel http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/, The History Channel http://www.history.com – to name a few.
  8. Believe it or not, there are many free brain-games websites, such as http://www.games.com/brain-games and http://www.brainbashers.com/. I cannot vouch for their educational value, but word games, Sudoku, and logic puzzles can be… stimulating.
  9. If you miss being a teacher and creating tests (did we ever enjoy assessments?), there is a even website for taking and sharing quizzes: http://www.quibblo.com/.
  10. chess-world-1415252Finally, hobbyist websites are a wonderful resource. Examples: photography Flickr,  Shutterbug, and Tips from the Top Floor; family history research programs www.ancestry.com, www.familylink.com, and https://www.myheritage.com/; sewing http://www.sewingsupport.com/general-sources/sewing-websites.html;  woodworking http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/highland-woodworking-links-woodworking.aspx and http://www.woodworkers-online.com/p/top-100-woodworking-sites.html; gardening http://www.gardenguides.com/ and http://www.garden.org/; cooking http://www.epicurious.com/, http://www.bestcookingsites.com/, and http://online-recipe-websites.no1reviews.com/cooking-websites.html.

Blogs are all about sharing ideas. Comments to this site are welcome! You are invited to “join in the fun” and submit your own “engaging mind” resources!

Make it a point in your life to discover something new every day. Happiness and good mark-learns-to-row-1468576health is all about nurturing our skills/talents, exploring new pathways, facing new challenges, engaging our minds, and enjoying the “good life” after full-time employment. Nothing is stopping you from starting a new career, learning a new language, writing a book (or reading everything you always wanted to at the library), learning (better) how to act/dance/sing/play a new instrument, taking a trip to a new country (or city in the US) or journey to your backyard with a camera, and modeling the essence of the Robert Frost message, “I took the road less traveled by…. and, that has made all the difference.”

Additional Resources:

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Random Acts and Other Resolutions

One Music Teacher Retiree’s Reflections on New Year Resolutions

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.  – Oprah Winfrey

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Segment from the December 22, 2015 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Retired Member Network eNEWS. For additional articles and blogs on the transition to retirement, please click on “retirement resources” at the right, or visit the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

 

Ushering in the New Year is all about pursuing new directions or a sort of “rebirth,” making promises for self-improvements, and analyzing and revising our personal goals/visions… perhaps a little like the personal renaissance of retirement.

According to Wikipedia, the tradition of making resolutions is rooted in history, with many examples:

  • The Babylonians making promises to their gods at the start of each year “that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.”
  • rejoiceThe Romans giving tribute to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
  • The knights in the Medieval era taking the “peacock vow” at the end of Christmas season to “re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.”
  • At “watch night services,” many Christians preparing for the year by praying and making New Year’s resolutions.
  • During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur, reflecting upon “one’s wrongdoings over the year” and seeking and offering forgiveness.

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While success and happiness are in the eye of the beholder, many resolutions do not stand the light of several days… you’d be lucky to “stick with it” for more than several weeks! However, the process of revival – re-examining what is important in our lives, and placing effort in establishing new habits and plans – is just plain “good for you.”

Here are happy-new-year-1184943my top-ten recommendations to help you “grow” and enjoy a glorious 2016!

  1. Read at least one new book each month, in spite of our society’s fascination with media, the web, movies, TV, etc. Multi-millionaires are known to reach out for new ideas, innovations, and leading-edge thoughts from recent publication releases.
  2. Take time for regular physical exercise and to “smell the roses.” For me, the three or four daily sessions of walking my dogs are extremely helpful for gathering my thoughts, calming my nerves, re-charging my batteries, and even brainstorming via speaking to Siri on my Apple iPhone. For example, using the Evernote, a note-taking/sharing app on my cell phone, was the tool for creating this article’s outline. I can even do it hands-free while I am driving (very carefully!), and with my “all thumbs” keyboarding skills, it sure beats typing everything out by hand!
  3. If you are fortunate enough to have reading-with-grandmother-in-wheelchair-1432646grandchildren (your own or adopted ones), enjoy them! Not only is your generous super-competent babysitting services providing ever-so-essential care-taking of your love-ones, “playing with the kids” is wonderful for your own mood and mental health. “Keep around young people and you will stay forever young!” However, invest your time wisely. You deserve a life of your own and unstructured time off. It is easy to be taken advantage of, so don’t let this childcare schedule dominate everything you do in your retirement.
  4. If travel is your thing, get out there and “book it!” One of the great advantages of retirement is the capability to go on trips while the kids are still in school. One of my least favorite memories of a family vacation was going to Disney World over Christmas break… Overcrowding closed the Epcot parking lot by Noon on December 27, and my wife had to endure 45-minute lines to use the ladies’ room.
  5. If you really like being “out on the road” a lot, consider offering your services to local travel agents as a music trip manager. Many PMEA retirees have already assumed new part or (nearly) full-time jobs organizing music groups’ out-of-town adjudications, festivals, workshops, and tours. Really, who is better qualified?
  6. flute-player-1506263-1920x1440The single most satisfying pastime for all of us is to be or do something creative. With few exceptions, every day you need to find venue(s) to express yourself. This could mean pulling out your instrument or singing, with a renewed focus on exploring your musicianship, interpretation, composition, or improvisational skills. Creating new musical works, like adding to your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” can “make your day!” Other projects in creativity could involve conducting, acting, dancing, creating two or three-dimensional artworks, sewing, gardening, and my personal favorite, writing. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, articles, books, poems, letters-to-editors – the activity is very personal – and possibly profitable? Try to assemble in words your long-practiced insights and experiences acquired working as a teacher. I am particularly inspired by the prospects of creating and posting blogs on just about any subject that motivates or moves me. Check out the opportunities that WordPress.com can give you. (I am not too shy to refer you to my own website, showing off my articles and “pet peeves” on the subjects of creativity in education, marketing professionalism, and retirement resources: www.paulkusc.wordpress.com).
  7. At the very least, complete one new “random act of kindness” every week. Do the math! This would add 52 “good deeds” a year, and if every PMEA retired member adopted this resolution, that would total more than 22K caring moments in 2016.
  8. caring-teacher-1622554Every week for the rest of your life, spend some time “giving back!” Volunteer or share your hobbies, interests, or expertise helping out wherever it is most needed… in local churches, hospitals, charitable organizations, schools, pet sanctuaries, or senior care centers. I never understood why some enterprising entrepreneur does not buy a large piece of land to build a combined animal shelter, childcare center, and assisted-living facility, connected with easy access to each other… mutually beneficial opportunities for needy children, lonely seniors, and rescued pets for interaction with each other! That’s a “win-win-win!”
  9. Now that you have significantly more time on your hands than you ever had before, advocate for music education. It is not really up to somebody else to eloquently voice a thoughtful opinion about the essential need for music in the schools. Politics aside, writing to your congressman or senator is important, and who knows, might make a difference in proposing and passing upcoming legislation.
  10. r3_logoStay involved in PMEA. Help new or recently transferred music teachers by joining the PMEA Retiree Resource Registry, the free (but priceless!) adviser/ consultant service (go to http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/). This is one way to get more involved at the state or district level as a judge of adjudications, guest conductor or accompanist for festivals, guest presenter or member on a panel discussion for conferences, workshops, or webinars, etc.

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These are New Year’s resolutions I can live with, and hopefully fulfill. Time will tell! I recall the words of the classic Star Wars character Yoda: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

 

Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.- Michael Josephson, whatwillmatter.com

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PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox