Into a world bombarded by research on wellness and longevity comes “Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom.” In this smart and (relatively) simple guide, the authors, psychologist David Alter, Ph.D., and psychiatrist Henry Emmons, M.D., boil down the brightest science and neuropsychological research, stir in age-old wisdom and create a nourishing mental, physical and spiritual soup to optimize well-being.
As a therapist, I was pleased to see that Emmons and Alter anticipate the natural resistance we have to changing habits, framing advice in a way that leaves readers curious and easily inclined to adopt the specific suggestions for self- care. Questions about recommended basics of movement, nutrition and sleep are put to rest in a convincing manner. The treatment of attention and memory issues is handled masterfully in their wise overview of mindfulness — the cornerstone of modern mental health.
Of personal interest for me, since I have some difficulty sitting still and reading for long periods, is finding validation for the downside of physical inactivity — even sitting and reading. I searched Audible.com and found “Staying Sharp” was recorded as an audio book, quickly downloadable to my smart phone.
As an auditory learner, I found myself much more absorbed in the narrative by listening as I walked my daily 10,000 steps, drove around town or performed other routine tasks. Immersed in the richness offered in “Staying Sharp” while avoiding being sedentary, I was far more receptive and motivated to review the written text for its myriad protocols about nutritional supplements, movement routines and calming meditations.
My favorite chapters were in the second part, where the true foundation of a satisfying life is revealed. Lifelong learning! Social interaction! Flexibility, optimism and cultivating curiosity are woven together with inspiration for building the skill of mindfulness. The result is a pragmatic recipe for staying meaningfully engaged in a life that mingles blessings, tribulations and surprises.
The authors recommend frequently asking ourselves four questions (from Wayne Muller, author, therapist and clergyman) to open our hearts and enhance our sense of meaning: “Who am I? What do I love? How shall I live knowing I will die? What is my gift to the family of the earth?”
In sum, authentic self-regard builds genuine relationships, friendships and sociability, all of which round out the circle of life. Together, they form the heart of a meaningful existence.
This is a book to be slowly savored and digested. And if you’re inclined toward resolutions, its ideas may help you focus on achievable increase in your overall zest for life by preserving your vital mind and brain.
“Staying Sharp” is fabulous for anyone interested in doing better. In fact, I’d rename the book, “Staying Alive!”
Andrea S. Gould-Marks, Ph.D., ABPP, founder of Lucid Learning Systems, LLC, is a Tucson-based psychologist with a private and public practice focused on learning to negotiate lifelong change. She can be reached at [email protected].