This week we celebrate Brain Awareness Week, an annual event sponsored by the Dana Foundation to raise awareness of what we know about and owe to that amazing organ, the brain. As a longstanding partner of BAW, we have seen interest in the role of the brain in everyday life grow tremendously over the past decade. Whether driven by interest in boosting performance, staying sharp with age, or reducing risk for stroke, head injury or dementia, people of all ages and backgrounds seem more aware of the relationship of the brain to their overall well being, and more interested than ever in taking whatever steps they can to boost their brain fitness.
What is on your calendar to mark Brain Awareness Week this year? Perhaps you are holding a brain health fair, or have invited in a guest speaker to talk about the cutting edge research on cognitive science.
Or perhaps Brain Awareness Week was not on your mind this year. Never fear! There are many engaging, quick, creative ways you can easily fit in a bit of brain awareness for your clients – and yourself – this week to mark the day.
Here are 4 great last minute ideas to bring Brain Awareness Week to your community this week:
Brainy Board Game Hour: Board games offer several wonderful opportunities to engage our brains. Many popular board games such as Scrabble, chess, or Monopoly, offer us the chance to involve our minds, often in ways that we don’t get “challenged” day-to-day. In addition, many of the games that are played against the clock, such as Boggle, give us the chance to work out the very cognitive skills that are most likely to decline with age. Research shows that regular challenges to those skills – attention, processing speed, cognitive flexibility and memory among them – may help us maintain them more effectively. Finally board games are social by nature. Socializing is a powerful way to nurture our neurons as doing so challenging our thinking skills, encourages engagement across intellectual and physical activities, and offers us the chance to feel emotionally connected and supported.
Bring the brainpower home this week by hosting a Brainy Board Game Hour. Chances are you have many of these games available, or ask folks to bring their favorite ones to share. The only other things you’ll need are a room, some tables and chairs, some refreshments and to get the word out! Spread the brain awareness even further by planning a Brainy Board Game Hour for employees or your own family and friends.
TED Flash Think Evening: TED, founded in 1984, hosts events that offers a series of thought-provoking and entertaining presentations that each run about 10 minutes. The organization provides online recordings of these sessions, and now has playlists where they have gathered some of the more popular or provocative talks on a specific topic, making it easy for you to host an event where folks can view, learn from and talk about the topic together. There are currently 5 playlists available on the topic of the brain, including one on the complexity of memory and another that focuses on how the brain works.
Hold a TED “Flash Think” evening by inviting folks to join you in the library or another common area to view and discuss TED presentations from these various playlists (or a few other favorites if you have any). You will need a way to screen the presentations using an internet connection, and perhaps some refreshments (brain healthy, of course!). You can even use the screening as a kick-off to your own “Flash Think” event where members of the community prepare their own brief presentations to share.
Brainiac Walks. Aerobic activity is one of the best things we can do for our brains. Research shows that getting regular physical exercise promotes the brain’s physical integrity, boosts daily performance, and may lower dementia risk over our lifetimes.
Bring Brain Awareness Week to your community this week by offering several spontaneous Brainiac Walks. These walks can be as short as 15-minutes, and can happen at anytime during the day, such as right before breakfast, at the end of the workday, or after dinner. Offer a thinking challenge folks can do while walking together, such as a recall naming race (naming as many items in a category, such as animals, car brands, vegetables, body parts, etc. as the group can do together in 1 minute) or a group sing-a-long to some favorite tunes.
“I Thank My Brain For …” Wall. Here is a great last-minute activity taken from our TBH FAIR Toolkit that doesn’t even require you to add anything to the calendar. Nurture more appreciation for the amazing brain by asking folks to share the different ways they are personally grateful for all their own brains do for them. In a common area, such as the reception lounge or dining area foyer, set up a large banner of paper and have multiple colored pens available. Write “I Thank My Brain For …” in large letters across the middle of the banner (if you have someone with artistic flair available ask for their help). Then simply ask folks to take a pen and a minute to write their own “brain thanks” on the wall to share with others. You will end up with a colorful showcase banner you can leave up on display for all to see. Alternatively you can also have folks write their brain appreciation statements on different colored index cards and post them on a bulletin board.
Happy Brain Awareness Week to all!