Are you stretching your brain out of its comfort zone? If you aren’t, you aren’t doing everything you can to protect it from dementia as you age.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
– Neil Donald Walsh

Stress is necessary to function at your best. You are familiar with this regarding your muscles. When you exercise them beyond what they are used to, in other words “stress them”, they get stronger and you get better at whatever exercise you are doing that stressed them. When your muscles are sore after exercise, it means that you worked hard and are getting stronger.

Your bones are similar, they get stronger when you stress the muscles attached to them because the bone strength is necessary for the muscle to perform.

Your brain is similar; when you stress it, it gets better. So what do I mean? Aren’t you supposed to avoid stress to protect your brain? Well, it is best to avoid chronic stress and distress; but, some kinds of stress actually help you. The best kind of stress for your brain is the discomfort or frustration you feel at learning something new. If you find yourself getting frustrated, rejoice! It means your brain is learning, stretching and growing. This growth will protect you from dementia. The research is clear. The more you learn, the better your brain is protected and the longer it will last.

I was reminded of this recently when I was coaching with one of my clients who has successfully retired from his primary career. He has decided to share healthy living products and programs to bring in some fun-money and support his community. The skills that he needs to be successful are different from the skills he developed for his career. He was expressing his resistance and frustration. I told him how much I admire him for being willing to learn something new because I knew that he was gaining more than success in a new business venture in the process. He is also gaining a stronger, more resilient brain. He is becoming smarter and better than ever. He was surprised and pleased that his hard work was having that wonderful side effect. He thought there was something wrong that he was feeling frustrated. Quite the contrary, frustration is the sign it is working. It is never too late to get smarter!

Who knew?! There is value in those frustrating computer apps that keep changing so you have to relearn them!

What can you do to push yourself out of your comfort zone, learn something new? I recommend this holiday season you try something you’re not good at and push through the frustration until you are good at it. It is worth it, you will be smarter for it. And, if you allow yourself, it will be fun! Let it be play!