Exercising your body offers several benefits and is necessary for a healthy life, but you might not know that you should exercise your mind too. Training your mind is a great way to sharpen your brain and increase intelligence.
While most cognitive scientists believe that claims surrounding brain training are both exaggerated and misleading, there is ongoing evidence that certain types of activities can be beneficial to your brain’s health. The main principles of mental fitness are variety and curiosity.
Variety means trying something challenging, and once it becomes our second nature, it’s time to do something different. For example, if you can complete a crossword puzzle, it’s time to move on to a new challenge for your brain to give it the best workout possible.
On the other hand, being curious and having curiosity about your surroundings, how they work and how you understand them will also give your brain a good workout.
Best Mental Exercises for Strengthening Your Mind
1. Drawing a Place From Your Memory
You can try to look for your neighborhood streets with your eyes closed; try challenging your brain by drawing a map of your town or area from memory. When you’re done, compare the map that you made with the actual map of the area.
You might get a little surprised by some of the things that you missed. If you think this activity is too easy, try drawing a map of the whole United States or Europe and naming every state or country. This can help exercise your brain.
2. Learning Something New
Although learning something new might sound a bit difficult at first, it will get a lot easier once you get used to it. It just requires a bit of commitment, but it will be worth the effort after some time. Learning something new is a fantastic way of keeping your brain active and continually introducing new challenges.
In one study, older adults were tasked with learning various new skills starting from digital photography to quilting. They then performed memory tests and compared the experiments to control groups.
Those in the control groups had engaged in enjoyable but less mentally straining activities like watching movies and listening to the radio. They also found out a year later that these memory improvements were still present in the elders.
3. Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
Using your opposite hand helps in strengthening neural connections in your brain and even growing new ones. It works similar to how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and muscle growth. Try writing with your non-dominant hand or use it to control a computer mouse or a television remote.
Brush your teeth with non-dominant hands; you will find it much more challenging to move precisely. It isn’t easy to move your hand instead of your head when you brush your teeth with the left hand.
If you are right-handed, using your left hand might bring back memories of how you felt when you first learned to write or tie your shoelaces. You will most likely feel awkward, but this is because you’re teaching your brain something new.
4. Being Socially Active
You should try to socialize with people as much as possible as it engages multiple areas of your brain. Many social activities also include physical elements like sports which are beneficial for your mind.
Seeking social interactions can benefit your brain in both the short and long term. Try signing up for volunteer opportunities in your community, joining a club or a local walking group, and staying in touch with your friends and family, as these are the best ways to be socially active.
5. Trying New Routes
When performing your daily tasks, don’t get stuck in the same route each time. Instead, be willing to experiment with new ways of doing the same things. Use a different route to work each week, or try a new mode of transportation like biking, public transport, etc., instead of driving.
This simple change can benefit your brain, and you might be surprised at how this can positively impact your thinking.
6. Playing Brain Training Games
You probably would have heard of some brain training games, websites, and apps. Most of these games are brain exercises that can improve your mental flexibility, keep you mentally sharp as you age, and even make you smarter.
However, if you already spend too much time staring at your computer screen or smartphone, your time would be much better spent going for a walk, learning a new hobby, or visiting a friend. All of these activities can have a significant impact on your brain’s health and vitality.
7. Taking Up Tai Chi
Tai Chi, also known as shadowboxing is a type of Chinese martial art practiced for several reasons, such as health benefits, training, and meditation. It’s no secret that tai chi can help you in various ways, including your mental health. It can also help you center yourself when your life seems to be out of balance. Practicing tai chi can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and enhance memory.
According to a study, long-term tai chi practice can cause structural changes in the brain, increasing brain volume. Beginners benefit the most from taking classes to learn the various movements. However, once you have mastered the fundamentals, you can practice tai chi anywhere anytime.
8. Making Use of All Your Senses
Try to use all your five senses as they help in strengthening your mind. A study done in 2015 proves that using all your senses may help improve your brain. To give your senses and brain a workout, try doing things that simultaneously engage all your five senses.
You could try something like baking cookies, visiting a farmer’s market, or trying a new restaurant while you are focusing on smelling, touching, tasting, hearing, and seeing at the same time.
9. Taking Care of Your Body
To take care of your mind, you need first to take care of your body. Some studies suggest that exercise makes you smarter and protects your brain from shrinking as you grow old. A 2013 study examined healthy behaviors in nearly 2,300 men for thirty years.
Starting in middle age, researchers examined the participants’ behaviors and cognitive abilities and followed their progress throughout old age. These behaviors included no smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, exercising regularly, eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, and drinking only a small amount of alcohol.
So, if you want to improve your mental health, start with your physical fitness like going for a walk, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink healthy slushies, and getting rid of any bad habit like excessive alcohol consumption or tobacco use.
Some of these can be more difficult than others, but your brain will thank you for many years to come.
Mental Exercises – Much Needed
Mental exercises can definitely help you a lot in keeping you in the right mindset. Regardless of how old you are, focusing on your brain health is one of the best things you can do to improve your emotional intelligence, concentration, focus, memory, and mental agility.
By trying out different brain exercises regularly, you will be challenging your mind, sharpening your cognitive skills, and possibly learning something new along the way, all the while keeping in mind to keep your body physically fit and healthy.