PLAY NAME THAT SOUND

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On an old radio show, contestants would try to identify sounds the host would play for them. You can make up your own after-dinner version of this game. During the week, record sounds  from around the house or park or work. Play them back for the family and have each person try to “name that sound.” Or buy a sound-effects CD or cassette (there are lots available) and play the game.

 

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE VANILLA

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THE EXERCISE

To change your usual morning olfactory association (waking to the smell of freshly brewed coffee) wake up to something different—vanilla, citrus, peppermint, or rosemary.

Keep a bit of your favorite aroma in an airtight container on your bedside table for a week and release and sniff it when you first awaken, and then again as you bathe and dress.

THE SCIENCE

Odds are you can’t remember specifically when you “learned” to associate the smell of coffee with the start of a day. By consistently linking a new odor with your morning routine, you are activating new neural pathways.

 

TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

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On your work surface or fridge turn pictures of your family, your desk clock, or an illustrated calendar upside down.

Your brain is quite literally of two minds when it comes to processing visual information. The analytical, “verbal” part of your brain (sometimes called the “left brain”) tries to label an object after just a brief glance: “table,” “chair,” “child.” The “right brain,” in contrast, perceives spatial relationships and uses nonverbal cues. When you look at a familiar picture right side up, your left brain quickly labels it and diverts your attention to other things. When the picture is upside down, the quick labeling strategy doesn’t work—and your right-brain networks kick in, trying to interpret the shapes, colors, and relationships of a puzzling picture. The strategy of looking at things upside down is a key component for awakening the latent artist in us, as described by Betty Edwards in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

 

A TOUCH OF STYLE

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Without looking, choose clothing, shoes, and so on, with matching or contrasting textures. For example, make it a silky, smooth day or a rough, nubby day. Use not only your fingers but also your cheeks, lips, and even your feet—they’re all packed with receptors for fine touch.

Extensive practice using the fingers to make fine distinctions between objects or textures causes expansion and rewiring of the brain areas involved in touch. This has been observed in monkeys trained to use their fingers to get food and in brain imaging experiments in blind human Braille readers.

 

CLOSE YOUR EYES AND OPEN WIDE

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Identify food on your plate only by smell, taste, and touch. A food’s flavor includes its texture, aroma, temperature, spiciness—even sound.

Smell and taste, of course, are intimately involved in one’s response to foods. But texture plays a role in enjoyment, too, and by isolating your tactile appreciation you create a different neural route. The tongue and lips are among the most sensitive parts of the body (even more sensitive than the fingertips).