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Keep Your Resolutions Going Strong

Playing ping pong is good exercise for your brain.
Jamil Issy, http://tinyurl.com/yyth9rkq
Playing ping pong is good exercise for your brain.

So, it’s February. Reality check time. How are your New Year’s Resolutions faring? Statistics show that the vast majority of resolutions have fallen apart by mid-February.

Why do so many of us find it so hard to make changes that we presumably want to make?

“In part, that's because the things we're trying to change are commonly deeply embedded habits, and maybe they're even addictions, in a sense,” says Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus of neuroscience at UC San Francisco.

Merzenich is co-founder and chief scientific officer of Posit Science, and the author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.

Despite our habits working against us, Merzenich says we have the ability to retrain our brains at any age. His message: don’t give up.

“It's critical… that you continue to engage your brain in the development of new abilities and new skills…because you're exercising the machinery that helps you keep your brain growing,” Merzenich said.

It’s a positive feedback loop – training your brain in new skills makes it possible to learn even more new skills, he told Living Lab Radio.

Merzenich says he uses his phone’s calendar to remind himself daily of his New Year’s Resolutions.

“It says, basically, ‘Be a good soldier today. You promised to do this. Do it.’”

Merzenich also plays ping-pong because it’s good for getting his brain to operate “with high accuracy at speed.”

“It's a very good kind of exercise for your brain,” he said. “It could be dancing, it could be ping pong, [there are] lots of things that you do in everyday life that are very healthy for your brain.”

Web content produced by Elsa Partan.

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Elsa Partan is a producer and newscaster with CAI. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.