Exercises to Keep Your Brain Mentally Fit
July 20, 2016
Remember the days when you needed to get directions from a friend to a place you’d never been or when you actually had to use a map to find your way? I usually memorized the directions given me and never really had a problem finding where I was going. My reality now is that I depend on my smartphone for directions (which doesn’t always pan out). I use it for looking up all information, including movie times, phone numbers, addresses, concert details, etc.
You can find anything on your smart device, and it will normally take you less time than if you did it the traditional way. Am I guilty of using my smart devices instead of working my brain and looking up something in a newspaper or encyclopedia, or on a map? Yep, that’s me! Are smart devices hindering our thinking and making us less creative because we depend on them so heavily? And are there ways to help keep our brains working to their full potential? Yes.
There are simple exercises we can do to keep our minds sharper, more creative and innovative in this world of smart technology. Some benefits of brain exercise include faster thinking, improved memory, better vision (need it) and hearing, increased motivation, more productivity and quicker reaction times. Just like your body needs exercise to keep fit, so does your brain.
Eliminate Fixed Routines
Routines are run by our subconscious and require very little mental effort. I sometimes find myself thinking of how I got from A to B in my commute to work and didn’t notice passing a large part of my trip. It’s like I’m on autopilot. Change up that routine by taking a different route or another form of transportation, such as the train or a bike.
Use Your Senses
Performing daily routines such as folding clothes, washing dishes or taking a shower while having your eyes closed will make you more dependent on your other senses. You could try brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand. This will get you using the other side of your brain, the side you normally don’t use. It’s going to feel weird, unless you’re ambidextrous (did you know Benjamin Franklin was ambidextrous?).
Thinking “outside the box” really forces you to go above and beyond as far as working that brain. Trying something different, original, thought-provoking or entertaining can trigger the release of dopamine and stimulate the creation of new neurons (the cell that carries messages between the brain and other parts of the body and is the basic unit of the nervous system). Challenge yourself. Being social and interacting with others will also expose you to new ideas and information.
The simplest things you might not think of can keep those neurons firing:
- Creating artwork
- Doing a crossword puzzle
- Learning a second (or third) language
- Camping (not my cup of tea)
- Playing a musical instrument
- Martial arts (or my favorites – kickboxing and CrossFit)
- Craft hobbies (yes, I make scrapbooks)
Even playing “Cards Against Humanity” can help. It forces you to be more creative with your word choices. That sounds like fun to me!
While we have to find faster, easier ways to do things in this fast-paced, crazy world we live in, we also need to take the time to exercise that organ inside our noggin so we won’t get lazy or be less creative or quick-witted (need that in my office). Let’s keep those brain cells communicating with each other so we don’t become totally dependent on technology. We need to be prepared for a zombie apocalypse that might knock out all our power sources – then we’ll really be up a creek (being chased by zombies) without a smartphone or a paddle.
Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental FitnessLawrence C. Katz