One general idea is that we need to constantly challenge ourselves to keep the brain and body healthy. Not only challenge ourselves with new physical and mental tasks, but also challenge some of our long held beliefs and behavioral patterns.
We have the basic needs of food, water and shelter. Humans have advanced to the point that in developed nations we take these things for granted (though a large percentage of the world’s populations does not have this privilege).
In an experiment of going out with normal shelter I have lived with out a fixed address (some people would say homeless) for the last year. Living ‘homeless’ for the last year has given me a new appreciation of the simple things, and maybe a slight insight into how the other half lives (and saved me some money). Now in reality I did not have it bad at all. I had money in the bank so I could always step out of the experiment at any time. And in reality I wasn’t really homeless in the traditional sense. In most cases I had a roof over my head – just not in the normal situation most of us are used to. For most of the year I had a very small hard floor surface to sleep on. I could quickly go shower then the rest of my day I could use public buildings (coffee shop) to do my normal intellectual activity (read a huge amount of information each day – and write considerably less). At other times (minority) I house sat or stayed at friends for short periods of time. I also slept in my van.
So in reality I was never really homeless, but I did find out that I was still very happy with far less than what we expect in the Western developed world. If I had a small place to place my head at night to sleep I was happy (safety helped). All the rest was gravy. Now I do not know what it is really like to be homeless and I would not wish that on anybody. I of course hope that the world situation changes for the better so no one has to be homeless – and my limited experience with this lifestyle has driven home this point even more so.
I learned somewhat to appreciate the basics, and maybe made me a little less consumer driven. It has made me more compassionate to people less fortunate than myself. And I learned I don’t require the full western luxurious lifestyle to be happy. So, yes I think this experiment has been good for my brain health.
The only real negative emotion I experienced was very recent. When I returned to my home city after having left it for several months I felt excited and happy to be back home (I have lived in this city for the last 10 odd years) but then it suddenly hit me I was homeless. So it was weird and sad to come home – but be homeless. I decided to leave the city again because of this feeling.
Well that was my experience of my little experiment. It taught me a few lessons that I think are valuable. I am not aruging that other people should try such an exerpience – but try to think of how fortunate you are in your daily life – and sometimes only be removing those luxries do you fully appreciate them.
Challenge your brain by challenging your lifestyle.