Fight the effects that aging has had on your brain & body

Brain Tips for Busy People (Pt.2)

peoplewalkingWe're back with more tips for you to help squeeze some active brain exercises into your already busy daily routine.  If you haven't read Part 1 of our 'Brain Tips for Busy People' series, be sure to give it a quick read... as you'll learn about how to turn one of the most mundane, routine things you probably do everyday into an incredibly productive anti-aging opportunity (among other tips).

If you recall from Part 1, we referenced some free foreign language podcasts to help you re-awaken those old foreign language skills and activate your brain's important language areas. Well, it turns out that learning a new language (and brushing up on one you used to know, even a little bit) is one of the best ways to get your brain back into gear, expand your knowledge and overall brainpower, and keep your brain young!

Now, if you're like us, your language skills from school days long ago are probably a bit more than rusty. Chances are your old textbooks are not only missing, but for a busy person, the idea of doing verb conjugation worksheets is only slightly less fun that preparing your taxes or a visit to the dentist.

Ah, but fortunately, this is 2007 and there are now MUCH more fun ways to refresh your old language skills. Or learn a completely new one. So, what a perfect time to finally learn a new language, and get your brain back in shape in the process?

We at BrainReady are big fans of the language series.  The Pimsleur series are broken into 30-minute, verbal-only courses which emphasize natural language learning through repetition and recall.  It's not the rote, "phrase book" memorization: instead, you really LEARN the sentence structures without ever needing to sit down and read a textbook or fill out a worksheet. 

Which translates to "listen in your car or on your iPod"...nice. Convenient.

It is remarkable how naturally these language programs work and feel, and you'll find yourself bringing your new words and phrases to mind in almost any situation. Imagine how it will be to ask the sushi chef for "otoro kudesai" (Toro Sushi, please), and "O Sake onegaishimasu" (some sake if you would be so kind), and thank him with a cool "Arigato gozaimasu" (Thank you kindly). 

With these lessons, you'd becomfortable with these phrases in just a few lessons, and more importantly, you'd know what they meant, and how to ask for beer or wine or tempura instead.

This is truly functional language learning, instead of starting with pages of letters and words and verb tenses.

Of course these lessons can be done in the car, or while walking; the only rule that is important to follow is to SPEAK OUT LOUD.  You can't just "think" the answers, if you're at a public gym on the treadmill or on a train, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of being stared at (ah, they're just jealous).


Naturally, the more you can focus, the better the lesson will be, but use common sense and if listening while driving or doing anything else that demands your attention...drivers have enough distractions these days, use your common sense.

There are 8-10 lesson "starter" sets available for under US$20 at most booksellers including online via .  These each contain 5 CDs you can take with you in the car, or put on your iPod. You can also download the Pimsleur language products directly to your computer (to play on your computer, record to CD for your car, put on your iPod, etc.).

The Pimsleur starter level will get you comfortable with greetings, basic directions, numbers, dining, and other basics. And, a staggering number of languages are available - from the standards (French, Spanish, German...) to the majors (Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese) to the smaller countries and less familiar (Norwegian, Tagalog, Czech....). If you get hooked, there are 90-100 lessons for many languages (30 each in levels 1, 2, 3, and some 10-lesson review courses).  At that point, it's not cheap...but quite worth it in our opinion.

We have also heard very good things about the ") as well: these are software-based training courses that you do on your computer, with speaking, reading, and writing integrated.  While we have no doubt these are great tools, as a busy person, this program may be less attractive, since it requires that you have the time (or discipline) to sit in front of a computer every time you want to do some training.  That's why we're fans of the audio-only can be learning a new language anytime, anywhere, just like with our BrainReady BrainCasts (our Podcast brain exercise episodes).

However you choose to do it, learning a language is an AMAZING brain cross-training exercise - you use your verbal centers, you are actively associating new words for old, you're learning new sentence structures and syntaxes...translating in your mind quickly while speaking, and much more.  That's one of the reasons we put mini-language lessons on the back pages of our BrainFlex exercises (our BrainFlex Workbook and worksheets).

Next tip:  Sip some Knowledge with your Coffee!


As we start our days, it is very easy to fall into the same habits - reading the paper, catching up on favorite news bits or web sites or blogs, comics, checking sports scores, and so on.

But so much of that information you're taking in is simply "transactional data":  it's information about what happened yesterday, but usually doesn't challenge you to think or integrate that knowledge into your life.  Reading about a 30-car pile-up is interesting (but grim), but in a month, the only knowledge that you may retain from that information may be a vague factoid about black ice and the way overpasses tend to freeze first. 

Most of what you read in the paper will keep you informed, but only informed about...well, let's admit it, fairly unimportant and often irrelevant things. It's info-tainment at its core, and it serves that purpose well. But you're not really learning from it, nor retaining it.

Perhaps there's a better way to use this reading time in the morning?  A way to really learn something new, every day?

We ran across a book called "" by David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim recently ().  It's 365 pages of information: The first page is a history of how the alphabet was developed (we believe it started as a way for Egyptians to transmit orders to their vast hordes of slaves...)  The second page is a brief biography of James Joyce.  The idea is not for you to curl up in front of the fire one night and try to cram these facts into your head. 

No, this is a book that you enjoy one page at a time with your morning coffee or tea.

And you only take that one page for the day - let that one fact rattle around in your brain.  Let that fact settle into your knowledge garden and take root.

Other books have similar goals:  Scientific American published "" () - a collection of very strange questions answered earnestly by experts.  Mark Frauenfelder wrote "" (), a compendum of amusing and terrifying data (facts about Lawn Darts, African Dictators, and Plastic Surgery addicts are included). There are any number of "Factoid" books out there, and you're sure to find one that suits your taste.

But the key is not to devour these books in a sitting - if you do that, the facts will simply wash over you and go "in one eye and out the other".  The key is to be disciplined and give yourself a single fact for the day, something to ponder. 

You will be amazed at how well this knowledge will settle in when you slow down and enjoy a single page of new information with your morning routine. And THEN you can move on to reading the real estate classifieds, or the op-ed page, weather forecast, sports and the rest.

Then, when you go out into your day, you'll feel content knowing you've already done something good for your brain...and the day has only just begun!

- The BrainReady Team

(If you have a favorite Podcast or some of your own Brain Tips for Busy People to share, use the Comments link below and let all of us know! And share your suggestions and tips with us so we can include them in upcoming Blog and Podcasts, by emailing us anytime at )

All Contents (c) 2007 BrainReady LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Medical Disclaimer