Like the other muscles in your body, your brain needs regular workouts, too.
Mental health is as important than physical fitness. Keep your mental faculties agile with these fun activities that don’t even feel like a workout!
Cut the shortcuts
When you’ve gotten used to doing the same thing over and over, the brain starts to get lazy and finds shortcuts to achieve the same effect. You want to keep it on its toes by doing the same things differently every now and then. Are you right handed? Brush teeth with your left hand. #totheleft Always take the same route to work? Take an alternative road.
Whether it’s a foreign language, a new sport or a craft activity, when you learn a new skill, that sparks off new neural pathways and strengthens the connections between the various parts of the brain. Research has even shown that it can help improve memory.
Eyes wide shut
Here’s an interesting experiment you can do (within safe confines, of course!): Choose an everyday task and do it with your eyes closed or blindfolded. Just like learning a new skill, this forces the brain to seek new ways to get something done.
Getting jiggy with it
Do you find yourself slow to react to things lately, or perhaps your memory has been getting fuzzy? Bust out some moves to rev things up again! A ballroom dancing programme designed by the University of Illinois in Chicago, USA helped its participants improve memory, attention, and focus after 10 months. Zumba, anyone?
Test your tastebuds
Did you know that eating can be a mental exercise too? The next time you sit down for a meal, don’t just shove food into your mouth. Savour every bite and try to discern the many ingredients that go into it. This not only challenges your palate but also jogs your memory and sensory associations.
Forget me not
Turns out, it’s not just something that schools make students do but several studies have shown that speaking and hearing yourself speak actually helps the brain lock the information into long-term memory. Typing or writing down words and repeating them aloud also contribute to memory retention.
Remember the last time you pieced together a jigsaw puzzle? You were focused, constantly thought of the big picture, figured out how to connect each individual piece, worked with your eyes and hands… it involved multiple senses all at the same time, which makes it an excellent way to challenge and sharpen the mental faculties. Crossword puzzles, chess, and Sudoku have the same effect too.
If you’re happy and you know it
Feeling a little stuck in the rut, ideas-wise? Give the artistic side of your brain a kickstart by either listening to or playing music. A study found that when you tune in to happy songs, you’re more likely to come up with creative solutions to your problems.
Easy as 1, 2, 3
An unused muscle is a wasted muscle; ditch the calculator and put those mathematic lessons you learned way back in school to good use. We’re not suggesting you recall complex formulas but look for opportunities to practice simple calculations such as adding up your grocery or restaurant bill.
I spy, with my little eye
What better way to build those memory muscles than to keep testing it? Look around you, there’s a variety of things you can practice this on – car number plates, phone numbers, shopping lists, food menus, song lyrics.
Turn things on their head
No, you don’t have to pull off a head or handstand (but if that’s your jam, go ahead!). Read something backwards, hang your wall clocks upside down or wear your wrist watch the other way around.
The bottom line is, when things are out of sync, the brain has to scramble to reconnect the dots. Do this often enough and you’re essentially training your brain to be more flexible and to respond quickly to new stimuli.