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Growing Older Gracefully

New research suggests that at 40, the brain's best years are still ahead!

A study released recently in Newsweek indicates that the midlife crisis may be a myth. While as a society we tend to think our "best" years are behind us by the time we reach our forties, it seems that our brains only improve with age!

According to the article "Mythical Midlife Crisis" up until this point, "successful" aging has been defined as the effective management of decay and decline. And, as the article explains, no one can deny that aging brings challenges and losses. However, recent discoveries in neuroscience show that the aging brain is more flexible and adaptable than scientists previously believed. It seems that the brain's left and right hemispheres become better integrated during middle age, making way for greater creativity. In addition, age also seems to dampen some negative emotions.

So is getting old a picnic of guaranteed growing genius? Of course not. Most of us have seen loved ones grow old and give in, and the studies confirm that growth is not a given. The old phrase "use it or lose it" applies to the human mind, and the only way the aging brain grows stronger is with use and challenge.

In short, wheras we used to think of midlife as a crisis brought on by the fear of decline, midlife can actually be a time of new possibility. As Dr. Gene Cohen writes, "Growing old can be filled with positive experiences. The challenge is to recognize our potential -- and nurture it."


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