Juggling, your brain and keeping playful

I’m still on the juggling kick. It turns out that as well as being good fun, juggling is also great for keeping your brain healthly.

Juggling has been the subject of a couple of studies that have shown it can help improve brain neuroplasicity.

Neuroplasticity is essentially the brain’s ability to reshape itself and create new pathways as you learn new skills. Unlike what was thought a few years ago (and what your elder relatives might tell) this doesn’t stop as you age. Your brain continues to develop throughout your life and the only thing stopping you learning new skills is not trying to.

This is a big deal. Life doesn’t have to stop expanding once you ‘grow up’ and we don’t have to end up stuck in our ways. It seems ridiculous that this thinking often begins at the same time as trying to teach our children as much about the world as possible. It’s understandable – with kids, jobs and all the life admin that comes with it, time is short and slotting into a routine is the easiest way to get through it. But keeping a sense of exploration and play is a great  lesson for children to have, much better than being too busy to try new stuff.

There is also something about pursuing an unnecessary activity simply for the joy of it. This is play at it’s purest and is something worth making time for.

I’ve recently finished reading the excellent book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. I highly recommend it if this is something you are interested in. Here’s how important he thinks it is:

“When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over… (We) become vegetative, stating in the same dot, not fully interacting with the world…. When we stop playing, we start dying.”

“The most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves….. When enough people raise play to the status it deserves in our lives, we will find the world a better place.”

And a classic:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

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The joy of juggling

My most recent hobby-project is juggling. I have been meaning to learn for a while as it looked like good fun, and it turns out it is.

I finally got round to buying some balls a couple of months ago and have just about got the hang of a three ball cascade, which is the basic three ball juggle. My current record is 62 throws in a row.

I’m going to get a couple more balls and some clubs to start working on some more difficult tricks, and also so there are spares for the girls to play with. They have a great time with them too, but now I’m consistently using all three balls they feel a bit left out.

I love it – it’s pure purposeless play, and that is a very good thing.