The Ant Tools: How to Maintain Your Memory as You Get Older by Debby Spitzer


Where did I put my phone?

It seems like I am asking myself this type of question more and more. The thing is, all my friends seem to ask themselves these types of questions on a regular basis as well. We are empty nesters, not ancient crones. What is going on?
Now that I work at The Center for Resilient Leadership and know more about the brain, I have a better idea of what is happening and what to do about it.

The Resilient Mindset Model is a framework to help us understand how our brain works. Each part of the brain is represented by a character, and the ant represents our cortex, which is in charge of decisions that are going to benefit us in the long run. In the model, the ant holds the tools of optimum brain performance, those things that help our ant to stay on track and do well. One thing that I have learned is that those tools are also the things that we need in order to improve our memories.

1. Map: Keep Your Brain Active – This helps your brain focus. Do a jigsaw puzzle, try sudoku or a crossword. Doing these things will build new pathways, but be aware that once your brain gets used to doing the puzzle, game … the benefits decrease. The reason for this is that once the pathway is created, we need to build new ones to keep our brain in shape.

2. Merit Badge: Try New Things, particularly things that make you feel proud or help others – This helps your brain map out new pathways. If you have always wanted to learn an instrument, now is the time to do it. You don’t need to be a concert musician or even very good at it. If it’s a new skill, you are building new pathways and helping your memory, but keep in mind that when you are inspired the connections happen much faster. So, try new things that are of interest to you, or better yet, excite you.

3. Boots: Exercise – We all know this helps your body, but it also helps your brain. Exercise brings your brain the nutrients and oxygen it needs to perform at its best. I know, I wish eating donuts was exercise too.

4. Banana: Good nutrition – There are so many healthy options out there now. Make good choices as often as you can.

5. Walkie-Talkie: Social interaction – Talking to people helps your memory. Following and participating in conversations require mental power. Our brains like being connected to others. This doesn’t mean you have to go back to being the party animal you were in your youth, (I couldn’t anyway since I am getting ready for bed at the time I used to be getting ready to go out) but you could join a new club or volunteer group.

6. Binoculars: Pay attention – I am guilty of forgetting someone’s name 2 seconds after I met them. I didn’t pay attention so it wasn’t encoded. Try making a connection to someone you already know after you are introduced. It doesn’t even have to be someone real. For example, I repeat the name in my mind, Monica. She has hair like Monica on friends.

No matter what your age, having these tools in place will help your brain keep in shape but as I find myself getting older, it sure is helpful to have the model there to remind me. We are all going to be living longer and we want to keep our brains in the best possible shape that we can.

You can visit to learn more about the Resilient Mindset Model.

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