Get Lost: Why Meandering May Be Good for Your Brain

mature man in red convertible on a fall road trip
Getty Images

Life’s an adventure, especially when you go off track. That’s when the really cool things begin to happen, says William Barr, director of neuropsychology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

PROTECT YOUR MEMORY Activate your access to Staying Sharp today!

“Studies on animal development suggest animals that take time to explore their environment develop richer neurological connections,” he says. So when you hop in the car for a road trip, ditch the GPS and just wing it.

That’s because, when left to its own devices, your brain switches on its innate directional system that gets you to your destination, even if it takes a little longer and involves a few wrong turns. But, in the process, you’ll immerse yourself in a new environment and form stronger neural connections.

The stronger those connections, the better your mind engages with old and new facts, retrieves memories and sees patterns — the foundation for creativity and enhanced intelligence.

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR BRAIN HEALTH WITH STAYING SHARP!

So the next time you’re thinking about programming your GPS to your destination, think again: Doing so can weaken the signals that activate your internal GPS. You’ll be less likely to notice your surroundings and memorize landmarks — and your mental map will be less detailed.

Go ahead and take a trip without your GPS. Even if you make a mistake, you’ll be learning something new.

To find out more — including ways to boost your memory and get those creative juices flowing — activate your access to Staying Sharp today! It’s easy to enroll and is included with your AARP membership.

Search AARP Blogs