Am I the only person who has managed to do laundry for decades without learning that occasional white spots or streaks on dark clothes are caused by too much undissolved detergent? Please don’t embarrass me by replying, “Well, duh, everyone knows that!”
Anyway, I know this now. And while I was emptying the lint trap today — today being laundry day around here — it occurred to me that we often accumulate little unwanted specks of debris in our psyches, too.
Mental “lint” accumulates when we’re exposed to too many little bits of negativity. It could come from the news. The jerk driver who cut you off. A chance remark by a nasty neighbor or co-worker. It could even be a self-deprecating thought that makes us doubt our own worth.
And, just like doing our laundry, we need to regularly empty our mind’s lint trap and start afresh. At least once a week.
TORONTO, Ontario — Have you been putting off your spring cleaning or just saving some tedious chores for a rainy day? A new study may provide the motivation you need, especially for seniors. Researchers in Toronto find older adults who perform household chores have larger brains — a key measure of good cognitive health.
“Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores,” says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, Exercise Physiologist and Project Coordinator at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in a media release.
“Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”
Researchers at Baycrest Hospital examined 66 mentally healthy older adults during their study. Each participant took part in three assessments, a health evaluation, structural brain imaging, and a cognitive test. Results reveal older people who spend more time doing chores have greater brain volume, regardless of how much they exercise. These chores ranged from cleaning, to cooking, to going outside and working in the yard.
How do chores keep the brain healthy?
Although most people probably aren’t fond of doing chores, the team finds they’re likely helping the brain in several ways. First, study authors believe chores have a similar effect as low-intensity aerobic exercise — which benefits the heart and blood vessels.
Chores also push the mind to plan and organize, which promotes the formation of new neural connections over time. Lastly, researchers say chores help older adults become less sedentary. Previous studies have revealed how sitting and being less active can lead to poor health and cognitive decline.
“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says senior author Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI.
With all the cooking at home we’re doing, I was excited to pick up some great tips this week. It may not make sheltering in place any less stressful, but at least the kitchen will be cleaner!
First up, some dishwasher tricks:
For dishes that still look cloudy even after a full cycle, pour some white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it on the top rack. The vinegar cuts through hard water to help reduce stubborn residue.
Another dishwasher hint: To keep plastic containers from flipping over and filling with water, put them on the top rack and cover them with your plastic or metal dish drainer to weigh them down. (Odds are, it could use a good clean, too.)
The dishwasher’s also useful for cleaning your microwave’s turntable. Just put it in the bottom section with the plates and goodbye, anything sticky.
Finally — here’s my favorite hack to keep your eyes from tearing when you slice onions: Simply sprinkle some lemon juice on your cutting board as well as the onion. I have no idea why this works, but it’s kind of amazing!
You’d think that with all this sheltering in place, time would be crawling by and every day would seem longer than the one before due to their rather dreary lack of variety. And yet, each day finds its own rhythm.
Time is a shape shifter. It expands to fill a vacuum, and contracts when doing something pleasurable. It lives on in memory, where events can be revisited and reimagined for years. It’s too short when we’re happy; too long when we’re impatient or bored.
Pandemic Time is a law unto itself. Excursions now take on mythic importance, to be remembered and savored because they’re so rare. It can feel like “forever” before we can eat out or get our nails done, even if it’s only a matter of days or weeks. And although there are certainly enough hours to do all those chores I’ve been putting off, night inevitably drops the curtain on another day where they didn’t get done — because, well, there’s always tomorrow.
Mostly I’m grateful to have these days at all, when so many haven’t. I read somewhere recently that “Good times become good memories. Bad times become good lessons.” One can only hope.