Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Move Or Be Self-Consumed: Avoiding Atrophy Of Body, Mind, And Soul

We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.
— Charles Bukowski

There is something about turning 50 which makes one think frequently about the break-neck speed at which life moves past all of us. I think about this a lot.

I speak to tired young families with 6-month olds, complimenting them on their cute kids; encouraging to enjoy them.

"It goes fast," I warn. "You blink once and they're 6. Blink twice and they're 26 and married."
I speak like an old man.

Young Moms and dads respond, "I know! I can't believe she's 6 months already."

I smile.
Internally, I laugh. You miss my point, but it's okay. You can't know. You're 20. You have a baby - and your frontal lobes aren't even fully developed, yet.

Beyond the ever-increasing swift passage of time, age brings on the reality of atrophy.

It’s one of my concerns.

But not just atrophy of the body. That’s concern enough. And remedied with relative ease through physical movement. The deeper concern is the less obvious sorts of emaciation.

Atrophy of the mind and atrophy of the spirit.

Keep the brain moving

As we get older, the brain does slow down. We forget things. Short term memory fades. We’re just not as sharp as we used to be. Where are the car keys again? I can't find my phone. Oh. It's in my hand. This is concerning to me.

I’ve read research that learning a foreign language helps with this. (Mongolian language is my one party trick.) I remember my grandparents doing crossword puzzles. My guess is it's one of the reasons their brains stayed active. Cognitive exercise is as important as physical exercise, at any age. Both are even more critical at 50 and up.

Most people throughout the world ... care more about their faces, their boobs, their bellies, their butts, and their abs than they do their brains.
— Dr. Daniel G. Amen

Avoid the mental mush of screens and newsfeeds and moving images. Go analog. Go outside. Take a walk. Sleep for 8 hours. Force your mind to work through the complex problems and challenges faced at work. Write in a journal. Learn new things. It saves the brain. (You can read about this in detail in Dr. Amen's book. Or listen to these TED talks.)

Keep the Spirit moving

I was a young kid, returning from my first trip outside of America. The time and the people had a profound impact on my psyche and spirit - and the trajectory of my entire life. An old lady in the airport asks me where I've been and I tell her, expecting her to mirror my youthful enthusiasm.

She's bitter and angry. Cusses "those people" and talks about the way they're taking over the city.

I didn't know how to define what I saw.

I do now. It's atrophy of the spirit.

It's allowing prejudice and bitterness creep into the soul to the point of toxicity.

It's the result of being in a constant, long-held state of unforgiveness, anger, and discontent.

The remedy is to feed the spirit. For me, this means a steady diet of prayer, scripture, and solitude.

The danger of getting old is failure to properly move. This is apparent in the physical realm.

But, if we stand still in the mental and spiritual space, we'll also grow weak and potentially noxious.

Because here's the twist.

When it comes to atrophy, age is irrelevant.
Move, or become self-consumed. That's simply how these things work.