I love that January is the time of year for new goals and added resolve. If you are reading this blog, you probably know that taking piano lessons is the very best way to boost brain function and memory, while having fun! But you do have to play regularly to progress, and to enjoy the maximum brain benefits. Research shows that short daily practice sessions are more effective than one long weekly session. If you practice 6 days for 10 minutes a day, you’re going to learn and remember better than if you play one day for 60 minutes. Playing daily, even for a short time, is going to get you the best and quickest results. But I know how difficult it is to make the time to practice! Our Pledge To Play: 10 Minutes a Day challenge will hopefully give you that extra bit of motivation to get you to the keys. Every one who completes 30 days of practice will receive a free gift! Plus you’ll have 30 days of practice tips and motivational emails from me to keep you going. All you have to do to join is to subscribe to this blog (if you haven’t already) and write a reply such as, “I’m in!” You can find the subscription form at the bottom of this post. (Don’t worry, I won’t share your email with anyone.) You’re welcome to report on your progress and I encourage you to make comments whenever you’d like.
A short article in AARP today affirms what we have known for years, that a good diet can help you to avoid serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s, cancer, and Kidney and Lung Diseases. The women who ate the Mediterranean Diet also did better on memory tests and their ability to move around.
The Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables (especially dark leafies like kale and spinach) , fruits (especially berries), raw nuts, whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, and legumes such as lentils and black beans, with fish and a little poultry. You use Olive Oil instead of butter to cook with. You can read the article here.
If you eat a Mediterranean Diet, exercise regularly, stay social, and train your brain with piano lessons, you will be doing everything you can to live the healthiest and happiest life possible!
The NY Times recently ran an article called “Is Music The Key To Success?” The author, Joanne Lipman showed that many of the most successful Americans play instruments. Alan Greenspan (former chief of the Federal Reserve), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State), Steven Spielberg (filmmaker) and Andrea Mitchell (NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent) all play musical instruments. You have probably heard that children who study music elevate their test scores (particularly in math and including IQ) but these highly successful people are convinced that their musical training impacted their professional achievements as well.
The aforementioned luminaries plus many others that were interviewed for the article believe that the years they have spent practicing and focusing on their instrument have influenced the way that they think in general. They have learned how to attack a problem from many angles with imaginative and unconventional solutions. Neuroscientists often recommend that you hang your pictures upside down, change your furniture around and take a new route when walking or driving somewhere, to stimulate your brain to see things in a different way. Similarly, the act of learning a piano piece activates new neural pathways in the brain and sparks the senses anew each time you practice.
The high achievers in the article have learned that working hard on something such as music really does produce results. Sometimes as beginners we think we will never learn to play the piano, but when we practice, we keep improving! That helps us to build confidence in ourselves, and to recognize that we have control over what we would like to accomplish.
Billionaire hedge fund chairman Bruce Kovner says that his investing is influenced by his piano playing, as “both ‘relate to a kind of pattern recognition.’” Finding patterns in our music helps us to learn it more deeply and aids memorization.
Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft says, “music ‘reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.’” James D. Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president believes that playing an instrument restores balance to your life. Sitting down at the piano can bring back that sense of artistry and equilibrium that we sometimes lose in the course of a stressful day.
How has playing the piano influenced the way you are in the world? Have you noticed that you have increased patience and trust that your concentration and self-discipline will bring you closer to your goals? What have you noticed has changed since you have started playing the piano? I welcome your observations! With love and music, Gaili
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Greetings from Long Island, NY! Today I visited the Montauk Point Lighthouse, which was commissioned by President George Washington in 1792! I read letters and journals written by both male and female light keepers who saved the lives of hundreds of fishermen by rowing out in fearsome storms, pulling them into their boats and nursing them back to health. During WWII the lighthouse was used by the US Army as an eastern defense post. In the 1960s the lighthouse was in danger of falling into the sea because the land it was built on was eroding at an alarming rate. The army corps of engineers came with great tractors and concrete, but were not able to keep the bluffs from eroding. It was a woman named Giorgina Reid who was under 5 feet and in her mid-60s that was able to save the lighthouse. Starting in 1970, Giorgina worked for 20 years with her formulation of lumber, sand and the native reeds growing along the beach, to build terraced walls that would hold. In recounting her story, Giorgina said,
I had come to terms with nature–no longer was I battling it; I was using it, working with it.
Walking on the various pathways surrounding the lighthouse I saw the reeds that Giorgina credited with the success of her terraces. It was a windy day and they were well bent over. The reeds have hollow stems like tiny pipes perfectly suited for retaining rainwater – like a miniature irrigation system! They are strong enough to prevent sand from sifting out, but flexible enough to bend and not break in the fierce winds that hit the bluffs.
When they decay, they blend with the roots of plantings above, holding the soil together like millions of tiny fingers.
These beautiful reeds, the story of the evolution of the Montauk Lighthouse and Giorgina’s remarkable resourcefulness got me thinking about adaptability; how important it is to be able to bend to the inevitable circumstances that we face in our every day lives, instead of breaking under pressure.
In the book SUPER BRAIN, the authors talk about the genius physicist, Albert Einstein. They didn’t talk so much about his great intellect, but about his adaptability. Einstein once told his students:
Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater.
But when faced with roadblocks, Einstein learned everything he could about the problem, then opened himself to new explanations and creative possibilities.
When you think about it, our species has been able to adapt to incredible environmental challenges such as the harshest climates, limited diets, terrible diseases and natural disasters. We look for innovative solutions, and do our best with what we have. The irony of Einstein was that while he was completely flexible in his thinking in his work, he was difficult and inflexible as a husband and father! Even for a genius, emotions are more elusive than intellectual ponderings. Here are some suggestions for expanding your emotional adaptability:
Don’t keep repeating what never worked in the first place.
Stand back and look for a new solution.
Stop struggling at the level of the problem, the answer never lies there.
When old stressors are triggered, walk away.
Stop attaching so much weight to being right. Instead look for ways to be happy.
You are becoming more adaptable when:
You can laugh at yourself.
You see that there is more to a situation than you realize.
Other people no longer look like antagonists just because they disagree with you.
Compromise becomes a positive word.
You can take it easy in a state of relaxed awareness.
You see things in a way you didn’t before, and this delights you.
Of course we are not always successful in our attempts to adapt to difficult situations. But when faced with obstacles, think like Giorgina Reid, looking around and gathering your resources to find a new way of thinking. Be like the reeds, bending, not breaking while letting the storms flow through you. Take your cue from Einstein who (when working!) knew that if he surrendered to the puzzle, he might find the missing piece. Trusting all the while that if something does break, it can be fixed, and you can start over again and find another way.
The aging process, though inevitable, is unpredictable. Authors Rudolph Tanzi Ph.D., and Deepak Chopra M.D. of the book SUPER BRAIN say that there are these unknowable factors about how the brain ages:
Aging is very slow- It starts at about age 30 and progresses at about 1% per year. Some cells age more quickly than others, and they age too slowly to observe over time.
Aging is unique- Everyone ages differently, even twins. Life experiences create unique genetic patterns as we age.
Aging is invisible- Though we can see outer changes in cells such as graying hair and wrinkling, the inner life of our cells at the molecular level are impossible to track.
In spite of these uncertainties, we can impact our cells by sending positive messages from our central nervous system, and minimizing negative messages. We can affect our own DNA! Drs Chopra and Tanzi talk about the mind-body connection. As much as we’d like to simply take an anti-aging pill, lifestyle choices are really our best defense against aging.
How to reduce the risks of aging:
Eat a Mediterranean Diet- olive oil instead of butter, fish instead of red meat, whole grains, beans, nuts, whole vegetables and fruits. Cut way back on fats, sugar, and ready-made processed foods.
Avoid overeating. Just walk away from excess food.
Exercise moderately for at least 1 hour 3 times per week.
Drink alcohol, preferably red wine, in moderation, if at all.
Take steps to avoid household accidents (from slippery floors, steep stairs, fire hazards, etc.)
Get a good night’s sleep , and take an afternoon nap if you like.
Have good friends.
Don’t isolate yourself.
Engage socially in worthwhile projects.
Be close with people who have a good lifestyle–habits are contagious
Follow a purpose in life.
Leave time for play and relaxation.
Address issues around anger.
Practice stress management.
These lifestyle choices affect longevity and quality of life. If you have started, continued, or restarted music lessons later in life, you have already surpassed the biggest obstacle to longevity:
“The most crippling aspects of aging tend to involve inertia. That is, we keep doing what we’ve always done. Starting in late middle age new things gradually fall by the wayside. Passivity overtakes us; we lose our motivation.”
Not you! Piano lessons are offering new challenges to your brain every time you sit down to practice. And playing the piano keeps you humble! 🙂
More about longevity on Sunday. Tomorrow I will be traveling all day, to visit my older daughter in East Hampton, NY. By Sunday I will have access to a computer again.