Are you stuck in a boring routine that limits your brain function? While living predictably can simplify our life to a certain extent, it can also limit our decision-making skills and cause the brain to relax. No wonder, many of us are able to perform a complex task like driving a car with minimal mental effort. Doing the same things again and again provide very little or almost no stimulation to the brain. As a result, brain muscles get slow and sluggish- just like our body does due to lack of physical activity.
In order to sharpen your brain and enhance your learning and memorizing skills, you should proactively shake up your daily routine. Start by adding at least one brain health boosting activity to your day. But, what makes an activity a ‘mental exercise’? For starters, it should be novel and complex enough to stimulate your brain. Here are some of our favorite physical and mental exercises that keep your brain active and productive:
1- Join an aerobics class
You’ll be surprised by this one if your think physical activity can only help you achieve your summer body goals. All sorts of physical exercises that increase your heart rate benefit the brain muscles too. According to a study carried out by scientists at the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even a brief exercise session of only 20 minutes can help your brain enhance its information processing and memory functions.
There are various ways in which aerobics can help the brain stay sharp. The increased heart rate causes the body to pump more blood and oxygen to the brain. It also releases the ‘feel good’ hormones in the body and stimulates the growth of new brain cells.
What’s more, an intense workout session acts as an anti-depressant. People feel an immediate high after completing a run. It is the perfect way to bring down cortisone (stress hormone) levels in our body.
Still don’t have the motivation to do it on your own? Try joining an aerobics class with a friend who will hold you accountable every time you miss a class.
2- Switch hands for basic tasks
This one is a fun task to do, especially with kids. Try switching your hands while doing basic tasks such as brushing your teeth, eating or using your computer mouse. If you are right-handed, use your left hand and vice versa. There is a research that proves that using your non-dominant hand can result in increased brain activity.
It may seem a little hard at first, but think about it like lifting weights at the gym. Your brain will get a good workout out of it.
3- Take new routes
A routine commute to your workplace or the grocery store can get very predictable. Most of the times, you will find yourself staring out of the window aimlessly. This results in very little stimulation in your brain. What you can do to combat this, is to take an unfamiliar route. Passing through relatively new streets will activate your brain’s cortex and hippocampus.
It is said that Bill Gates used to take a different route to work every day, only because he wanted to stimulate his brain! You can also change your mode of transport to bring even more variety. Use public transport or a bicycle to make things even more exciting.
4- Stimulate all your senses
Try engaging in new activities that engage all your senses at once. The perfect way to do this is to join a cooking class where you can look, touch, sniff, and taste the ingredients. You can even head over to your local farmer’s market to take a look at organic produce.
Plus, these are social activities in which you will have to carry out a conversation with other people. This results in additional brain stimulation and relieves depression.
5- Challenge your brain
In today’s era, one of the most obvious way to challenge yourself is to stop relying on technology for every single task. Start using your memory and reach less for your mobile phone. Whether it is a mathematical calculation or spelling, try using your brain for it.
You can even try and memorize your friends’ phone numbers or turn off the GPS while trying to find a new location. Simple tasks like these will challenge your brain.
London cab drivers must memorize at least 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks before they get their license. Hence, research proves that a typical London cabbie has a larger hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for storing memories) as compared to the average human being.
6- Quit smoking
Another habit that will not only benefit your body but will also nourish your brain, is to quit smoking. According to a research published in Archives of Internal Medicine, people who smoked more than 2 packs of cigarettes a day had twice the chances of getting diagnosed with dementia in later age.
However, if you smoke there is no need to alarm. There is ample evidence that quitting reduces your risk of dementia drastically.
If you are facing symptoms like memory decline, confusion and difficulty performing everyday tasks, then talk to your doctor about conducting a brain test. There are a lot of braintest reviews which claim that it helps in timely diagnosis of brain illnesses.
In the recent years, psychologists have started believing the in benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Meditation techniques can vary according to culture and religion, but deep down they have the same common form of stillness, conscious breathing and calmness.
Research proves that meditating daily can improve the brain’s ability to concentrate and also enhances memory. Plus, it is also a stress buster and has the ability to sooth down our nerves. There is no reason why one shouldn’t give it a shot!
If you are serious about flexing those brain muscles, then make sure that whatever activity you choose has 2 basic principles: variety and curiosity. When any exercise becomes second nature, it’s time to add some spice to it. Stay curious about how things work around you and your brain will keep working efficiently.
We hope these ideas helped you attaining your quest for mental fitness. Do you have any more physical and mental exercises that can help our brain stay healthy? If yes, share them with us in the comments below:
About Michelle Joe:
Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on twitter: @michellejoe524