Get Lost: Why Meandering May Be Good for Your Brain

A man and woman driving in a convertible on an open road
Thomas Barwick/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.

Want to dig a little deeper? Give Your GPS a Rest and Let Your Mind Benefit From Navigating

“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.

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 learn more, check out these articles on Staying Sharp:

An Exotic Vacation Could Be Just What Your Brain Needs

Pack the Perfect Suitcase

Search AARP Blogs
Related Posts
June 04, 2020 05:07 PM
If starting your day without a cup of coffee sounds like torture, you’ve got company. The latest statistics from the National Coffee Association show 90 percent of older coffee drinkers need a morning cup to jump-start their day.
May 12, 2020 05:37 PM
Scientists have been telling us for years how beneficial yoga is for our mental and physical health, but what does yoga actually do to our brain to achieve these benefits?
May 12, 2020 05:34 PM
When the country is stressed out, what do we do? We bake.