My mother called me today and told me that her television was broken. “I was just watching my show when, all of a sudden, it turned off and YouTube was on. I think it’s my phone that did it. My friend sent me these Q videos, and I don’t want to watch them, so—”
“Mom. It doesn’t work like that. What kind of TV is it? Send me a picture of the remote.” A few minutes later, after she assured me that she didn’t do anything—“Well, except turn the TV off and on. And I went on Facebook. Does that matter?”—I get a picture and start guiding her to try all the different buttons. “Push this one. Push that one.”
Suddenly: An explosion of sound. The television is working again. “OK,” she says. “So what do I do when it happens next time?”
“Well,” I answer, “what button did you push?”
“The one you told me to.”
“Did it work?”
“Then that’s the button you push to make it to work.”
“Why can’t it just go back to the way it was?” she asks me.
Great question, Mom. Unfortunately, it will never go back to the way it was. That’s just how time works.
But as I explained to her in a tone too short to recount here, the loss of cognitive functions that comes with aging seems to be more pronounced for people who have experienced long-term exposure to “low job complexity”—working at jobs that offer little challenge or novelty.
A paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2017 found that those who had a healthy amount of novelty in their careers had better cognitive plasticity than those whose careers offered low job complexity.
“That means you have to keep learning new stuff and experiencing new things, even when you don’t want to,” I told my mother.
What does that have to do with cannabis? Well, for one thing, my mom never smoked reefer in her youth (despite growing up in the ’70s). If she had, she would have realized the same thing that the rest of us already figured out: Cannabis is great at injecting novelty into an otherwise boring time.
It’s true that marijuana has amazing physical health benefits that are only beginning to get their fair shake in the world of peer-reviewed science, but what many miss is that it offers even greater mental health benefits. Is there such a thing as reality health? If there was, it would probably help with that, too.
What’s clear is that it helps to improve mental plasticity, openness (the technical version of the word, as defined by OCEAN personality model) and the sense of novelty—all things that can help us stave off the inevitable decay of our aging minds.
Winter’s almost done. Time to shake the cold off your back and prepare for spring. This month we’ve got a great batch of articles to help you warm up the old motor and prepare for a wild future, full of novel uncertainty.
Because if there’s one unfortunate thing we’ve learned in the last year, it’s that nobody is going to look out for us but us.