Many people believe that mental deterioration is a natural part of aging. However, as we get older, there are numerous techniques for exercising the mind that can help keep us sharp, focused and in tune with the world around us for many years to come.
These days, most people recognise the importance of keeping physically fit and the long-term health benefits that exercise can bring. And yes… keeping your body in tune does improve your mental performance as well. However, your brain sometimes needs an extra push to stay healthy, alert and on top of things. With our fast-paced lives that are often filled with distractions, it’s easy to forget that our brains can get rusty with disuse, just as our muscles weaken without exercise. Research has proven that one hour of increased brain activity every day can make you smarter, more energetic, creative and even more sociable.
Here are a few tips to give your brain that daily jumpstart it needs!
Stimulate your Senses
Try listening to music you haven’t tried before, whether it’s New Age, classical, hip-hop, reggae, or jazz. Learn to appreciate creativity in all its forms. Stimulate your eyes by visiting an art gallery every now and then. Irrespective of whether you think the art is bad or good, the colours and images will help trigger new thoughts and ideas. Alternately, watch films from a variety of genres. Never been a big fan of historical dramas or goofy campus comedies? Take a leap of faith, rent a DVD and give it a try.
Stop and smell the roses… quite literally! Treat yourself to a bouquet of new flowers once in a while. Learn to differentiate between different floral aromas. Exposing your senses to new experiences and stimuli has been proven to greatly increase brain activity.
Learn a new craft that poses a challenge for your mechanical skills. Take up a do-it-yourself project. Build a ham radio, birdhouse or even a stepladder. Sign up for a pottery class and learn how to combine functionality with aesthetics. Nothing beats the joy of feasting your eyes on something you’ve created with your own two hands, especially if it’s a functional item.
By using your body in new ways, you will also expand your mind. Always wanted to learn how to do a backflip? What’s stopping you? Join a martial arts or dance class. Or get creative - juggling doesn’t seem like it can do much for your brain, but it’s actually a great workout for your eyes and reflexes. Start with two balls, then three, and maybe more… it’s a whole lot of fun too! New activities help you push the limits of both your physical and mental comfort zone, and you’ll discover new talents you never knew existed within you.
Play games or solve puzzles that stimulate your brain. Crosswords and Scrabble are great ways to expand your vocabulary. If you’re more of a numbers person, try Sudoku. Playing chess with your partner is a great way to sharpen your strategic skills, and also spend some time together. Lateral thinking puzzles are especially fun and can be solved (or attempted!) by a group of people, making them an enjoyable party game. Take this one, for example:
In response to an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected murderer. They know nothing about him, except that his name is John and he is inside the house. When they enter, they find a carpenter, a truck driver, a mechanic and a fireman all sitting together, playing poker. Without a moment’s hesitation, they arrest the fireman. How do they know they’ve got the right man?*
Puzzles like this one present a situation and challenge you to figure out what might have happened. They often cause us to question our preconceived notions about the world, and help us open our minds to seeing things differently.
You don’t need to go too far. How well do you know your own city? Do you always travel in a car? Explore an area you’ve been driving through for years, but this time on foot. You’ll discover places you never knew existed. Try to adopt the perspective of an outsider wherever you are… you’ll develop a different way of thinking about things.
There are, of course, many other ways to exercise your mind. Learn to be like the child who’s seeing something for the first time and wants to know everything about it. The key ingredient is to be open to new experiences and make the most of them. – Uttarika
(*Answer to puzzle: The fireman is the only man in the room; the rest are all women.)