With more or less every second person wanting to hit the gym, people are aware that exercise is very important for the body. While you might know that you need to exercise your body, did you also know that it might also be essential to exercise your mind?
Brain training is all the rage these days, often referred to as a way to sharpen your mind and even boost intelligence. While many scientists suggest that the claims surrounding brain training are both exaggerated and misleading, there is a lot of research suggesting that certain types of activities can be very beneficial for your brain's health.
If you want to take care of your mind, you have to start by taking care of your body. Research has shown that people who engage in healthy behaviors like exercise and proper nutrition are less likely affected by cognitive decline associated with the aging process. Studies have also suggested that exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from shrinking with age. Exercise also helps in the generation of new brain cells. Go for a walk, include fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet and try to give up any bad habits like alcohol consumption or tobacco use, if you do this your brain will thank you for years to come.
Challenge your brain by actually drawing a map of your town or neighborhood from your memory. Try and include the major streets, major side streets and local landmarks. Once you are done, compare it with the real map. You might be surprised at some of the things you forgot to mention. If you found this activity easy, try drawing a less familiar area from your memory, like the map of the entire United States or Europe, and try to label every state or country.
Learn something new - It is one way to keep your brain on its toes. For example, learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument or learn a new hobby. This will not only help you stretch your mind, but you will also be continuously learning something new as you keep expanding your skills and becoming more accomplished.
In a research older adults were assigned to learn a variety of new skills varying from digital photography to quilting. After that, they did a memory test and compared the experimental groups to control groups. Those in the control groups had engaged in activities that were fun but not mentally challenging like watching movies and listening to music. The study found that only the participants who indulged in learning new skills experienced improvement on the memory tests. Nevertheless, these memory improvements were still present when tested again a year later.
This might sound vague but you can use your non-dominant hand to strengthen your mind. Using your opposite hand will be challenging and can be a great way to increase brain activity. Switch your hands while you are eating dinner or when you are trying to write something down. It will not be easy, but that is exactly the point. The most effective brain activities are those that are difficult to tackle.
Studies have also suggested that people who are active socially are also at a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Socializing often tends to engage multiple areas of the brain and many social activities also include physical elements, such as playing a sport which is also beneficial to your mind.
Even if you are an introvert, seeking social interactions can be beneficial to your brain in both the short and long-term. You can engage yourself socially by signing up for volunteer opportunities in your community, joining a club, signing up for a local walking group and staying in close touch with your friends and family.
Another helpful brain exercise which might actually be extremely effective is meditation. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is all the rage at the moment, adopted by positive psychologists, business leaders, and alternative health practitioners. Meditation can help engage new neural pathways, improves self-observational skills and increases mental flexibility. It also improves attention, focus, empathy, and even immunity.
All of these exercises can have major long-lasting effects on the health and vitality of your brain. Love yourself and help your brain reach its full potential.