How to Change Your Mind

at 10:43 PM

A new year is coming and already I can hear the pencils scratching out resolutions - lose weight, stop drinking so much, eat right, be a better person. These are all lofty goals, but what about changing your mind?

A new study by the University of Iowa reveals what anyone who's sat through a holiday dinner already knows; that once people come to a conclusion they are highly unlikely to change their minds, even when new information shows their original belief was wrong. It's not surprising that American citizens are so politically divided. Half of us are always right, and the other half are, well, right too. So what can we do to change our minds?

Easy.  Start playing the guitar.  Or the piano.  Or the trombone.

A friend of mine came up to me at a party and congratulated me for playing an instrument - drums -because she read that researchers determined it helps to keep the mind alert and the body active.   It made me laugh. I've been playing drums for 48 years and have watched many of my fellow drummers fall by the wayside due to bad backs, knees and shoulders. Not exactly the spontaneous combustion of Spinal Tap's timekeepers, but years of lifting and pounding do take their toll.

With physical challenges looming and gigs in short supply, I made it this year's resolution to learn guitar. As clumsy as I was at playing my first three chords, I felt challenged and renewed when my brain finally accepted the task. What I suspected this last year has been confirmed by more research:  playing an instrument can actually change your mind, build gray matter and connect new neural pathways never utilized before.

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So here's something you can do in the coming year: stick a harmonica in your pocket, take up the steel drum, tune up that guitar and learn a Beatles song. Whether you're eight or eighty, there's a musical instrument waiting for you. No doubt it will change your mind.

And you thought it couldn't be done.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.

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