Keeping Your Mind Sharp

We spend a lot of time focusing on our bodies. We try to keep fit by working out and eating right. I’ve focused a good amount of time here on my blog on different ways to keep your body fit. This month we’re going to focus on feeding and exercising your most important organ: your brain.

Importance of Mental Fitness

mind 01Many people have seen an older relative, friend, or community member deal with cognitive issues, whether it be dementia or Alzheimer’s disease

The Alzheimer’s association writes that “mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.”

Read more from the Alzheimer’s association on mental fitness here

Keeping mentally fit isn’t just advantageous for older people. Keeping your mind liber is important for people of all ages. It will improve your day-to-day memory and problem solving skills, and this can go a long way toward personal success.

The Alzheimer’s association writes that “mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.”

I’m going to propose two main ways to keep your brain fit: Mental Diet and Exercise!

Mental Diet – Fueling Your Brain with the Right Inputs

Just like you need to provide your body with the proper nutrients for it to thrive, so too, do you need to feed your brain with knowledge. Curiosity is the hunger that will keep your brain fit! As we get older, we can tend to stop learning. Encourage yourself to have a steady diet of new information that will expand your mind. There’s several ways to accomplish this which I will illustrate below:

Just like you need to provide your body with the proper nutrients for it to thrive, so too, do you need to feed your brain with knowledge. Curiosity is the hunger that will keep your brain fit! As we get older, we can tend to stop learning. Encourage yourself to have a steady diet of new information that will expand your mind. There’s several ways to accomplish this which I will illustrate below:

READ

mind 02It’s not just for your kids in school! It can be hard to find the time to read a new book, but it can be one of life’s best pleasures and has added benefit for your mental fitness. It will increase the number of connections in your brain, help you learn new words, new ways of thinking, and can be great for entertainment and stress relief. Don’t have time to sit down with a book? Try an audiobook while you’re in the car or while you’re doing household chores. Whether you like fiction or nonfiction, your brain will thank you for reading.

Click here to read the health benefits of reading

TAKE SOME CLASSES

mind 03Yep, you read that right. Take some classes to learn something! You don’t have to go to school to learn anymore. There are so many options available online to learn new things. Want to learn a new skill? Check out a YouTube video to explain how. Interested in Science? MIT offe rs free lectures online! That’s right, you can get an MIT education for free.

Check out MIT Open Courseware here

A great website called Coursera offers free online courses from top universities. How cool is that?

Check out Coursera here

Need to help your kid with some homework? Kahn Academy has tons of resources for nearly every subject in school. You can learn something for yourself while you’re at it.

Check out Kahn Academy here

ENJOY THE ARTS

mind 04Listening to new music, touring a new local art gallery, or even watching a new movie or show can be mind-expanding. It’s good to have a balance of different art inputs in your life, so don’t limit yourself to what’s on TV or Netflix. The key to keeping your mind fit is to explore NEW ideas. This means new forms and styles of art will help your mind stretch its boundaries and stay mentally fit!

Mental Exercise – Keeping Your Mind Limber

So, you’ll give your brain plenty of new information and experience as a steady diet for mental fitness. Now it’s time to put your brain to work! Just like diet and exercise keep your body fit, same goes for your brain.

WRITE

mind 05Write stuff down. Write down your thoughts, create a goals checklist for yourself, even just write out your grocery list before you go shopping. The more writing you do, the better you’ll be at it and the more your mind will get exercised.

You don’t need to be a famous author to write. You can always journal, or craft a well-thought out email to a friend. Don’t like what your congressman is doing? Write a letter to their office. There are so many ways to practice writing and it’s a great way to keep mentally fit.

PUZZLES AND GAMES

mind 06There’s a puzzles section in nearly every newspaper. Your phone gives you access to thousands of different puzzles and games. You can play a board game with your family, or a video game by yourself. Puzzles and games help your brain develop strategic thinking, improvisation, and more.

Crosswords, Sudoku, and Jigsaw Puzzles are great, but don’t limit yourself. Find new and interesting games to play, and this will help expand your mind and keep it fit!

Check out some fun brain games here

FIND A HOBBY

mind 07Hobbies save lives. I mean this truly, those who have passion and interests in life find fulfillment and keep their brain healthy. It doesn’t matter what your hobby is because having a hobby keeps you constantly improving one skill.

You can play a musical instrument, build models, paint, collect coins and stamps, start a garden, or pick up cooking. The possibilities are endless. Constantly learning and improving one skill that you enjoy is a great way to bring happiness into your life and exercise your mind!

 

Bringing it all together

So now you know: your mind needs the right diet and exercise! The proper mental diet consists of learning new things, and bringing new ideas and ways of thinking into your life. Proper mental exercise means using your noodle, whether you’re working on your favorite hobby or playing a game that makes you think.

Here are a couple more resources for mental fitness:

6 simple steps to keep your mind sharp at any age

Keeping your brain in shape

Best wishes for a happy, mentally healthy March.

Dr. Johnson.