To all you brainiacs seeking to keep your gray matter perking along at a good pace as age tries to slow the rest of you down, the science is in, and it says get super crazy busy. Yup, that Tasmanian devil whirling dervish of daily tasks and activities and general busyness we find ourselves caught up in may actually be good for maintaining cognitive function in our aging brains.
A study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas looked at the relationship between busyness and cognition in more than 300 people aged 50 to 89, and “Results revealed that greater busyness was associated with better processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge.”
They asked people how busy they were—the relative youngsters were busier than the older folks, and women had more on their plates than men—then subjected them to a dizzying array of cognitive function tests, such as reading a series of words aloud and then remembering them later. No matter what their age, the busier they were, the better their cognitive function proved to be.
But does busyness cause better cognition, or are people with more on the ball more likely to have more balls in the air? The researchers could only find correlation, not causality. But this article in The Week says,
“There is a growing body of evidence suggesting activity and continued learning does positively affect the brain and memory. For instance, a 2013 study at the Center for Vital Longevity found that sustained engagement in learning new skills such as quilting or digital photography enhanced memory function in older adults. Just last year, a study at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that exercise improved brain function in older adults.
“The challenge, it seems, is crafting an active lifestyle without stressing about it so much.”
So planners, be your perfectionist, crazy busy selves. Juggle those BEOs, haggle over those contract clauses, chase down that entertainment rider, and make sure the AV cords are all taped down—all while completely redesigning your event’s educational program and format.
It’s OK to be super crazy busy as long as you keep a positive attitude about it. As the Mayo Clinic points out, positive thinking can make you less likely to be depressed, and help you live longer and healthier. Add in that super crazy high-tuned brain, and you’ll be planning meetings for many decades to come.
P.S. While we're talking brain matter, check out this article from Vox on how IQ is "one of the best predictors of someone's longevity, health, and prosperity." But no matter how busy you get or how zen you are about it, there's not much you can do to up your IQ: "Even though intelligence generally declines with age, those who had high IQs as children were most likely to retain their smarts as very old people."