Healthy living results in an overall good quality of life. Almost everyone would like to have the best quality of life humanly possible. Healthy living has two aspects to it: physical health and mental health. A handsome amount of folks are familiar with physical health and the steps that need to be taken to ensure its actualization. As such, aspects like physical exercise, sufficient rest, nutrition and meditation are always on the top of people’s minds. These largely take care of physical health, however, very few are familiar with mental health. In fact, did you know that there are exercises that can be done to keep your mind healthy? Below is a rundown of a couple that could prove handy to anyone regardless of age.
What Is Mental Health?
Before we delve deeper into mental health exercises, it is important to first understand exactly what it is and why it is important. Most people live their lives following routines that are largely subconscious. They get up almost at the same time every day and do the same things all day before eventually retiring to bed only to repeat the cycle the next day. This could be attributed to the fact that routines largely need very little thinking. As the body gets lethargic from physical activity, your brain tends to become sluggish, in order to counter this, you need to take conscious steps to shake up your routine. This will help you build a sharper and healthier mind, this is where brain exercises come in. Take a look at our article ‘understanding mental health’ for a more in-depth description of mental health.
Benefits of brain exercises
Taking care of your mental health through mindful exercises will not only mean that you are protecting yourself against cognitive decline, but also against future loss of memory. It will also help us deal with stress that almost always results in mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. We therefore need to take conscious steps, to ensure that we deal with it when it arises and brain exercise is one of such ways. Brain exercises also lead to clearer thinking as racing thoughts are halted, making you calmer and as result you are able to think more clearly.
Recommended brain exercises
Brain exercises that enhance brain performance are known as neurobics, according to Dr. Lawrence Katz in his book ‘Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness’. They enhance brain performance by involving the five senses. The following are a few popular ones that you should definitely consider trying out.
- Eating with chopsticks
Using chopsticks is not exactly straightforward, they will force you to eat mindfully as you get used to the motion of eating. This will not only develop your mental activity even further, but will also help with calorie consumption and digestion. For those who are already adept at using chopsticks, using the non-dominant hand, would be the way to go as the entire training process would achieve the results stated above.
- Reading books aloud
Reading books aloud is not exactly common. You should consider reading out loud with your partner or significant other, as it engages your imagination in a different way. If anything, brain science has shown that different regions of the brain light up when text is heard, spoken or read, especially the prefrontal cortex, lighting up of different regions in the brain is good. In fact, the more the regions, the better.
Meditation is good mindfulness exercise for everyone, especially those with packed and intimidating schedules. It helps breed focus and concentration, which are good tools to help you get through hectic days and tough times. Think of meditation as a break for your mind, it gives it a dedicated break from the usual bustling and firing, associated with everyday tasks, which in the long run actually empowers it to run more efficiently. Though the idea of sitting down in complete silence and taking your thoughts away from the world at first is somewhat absurd, it will bear fruit; of course, if you are patient enough with it. Check out our article ‘meditation practices to try this year’ for some great ideas for you to try.
- Eat unfamiliar foods
The body has an olfactory system that works really hard to distinguish odours and smells by activating combinations (unique ones for that matter) in the nose. The brain typically likes to link different smells and odours, with different emotions and scenarios and thus exposing yourself to new ones, evoking unexpected associations and feelings that will eventually force your brain to think and most definitely grow it capacity. The simplest way to do this, would probably be to go to a restaurant and order cuisines, from different parts of the world which you are not familiar with.You could even try and cook some different recipes at home.
- Take up a creative hobby
Craft hobbies like knitting have not been the most popular since time immemorial. However, recently, there has been a change of attitude and people are slowly shifting towards them, especially after they realize just how helpful they are. They deeply focus the brain almost similar to when you meditate. They help lock out racing thoughts, allowing you to free your mind of distractions and experience a stress free existence, even if just for a given amount of time. Other useful activities include gardening, dancing, learning an instrument and martial arts, as opposed to watching TV or sitting at a computer.
- Test your recall
Forgetting items while your shopping or forgetting to do something at work can be very stressful. It’s great to make a list to help with remembering such things, but making this list and then trying to remember it can be a great exercise for the brain and mind. Try creating a list next time you go grocery shopping and memorize it. After you have completed your shop and your ready to pay for the items, quickly check your list and see how much you remembered.
The exercises mentioned above are just a tip of the iceberg. All these exercises can be introduced into your daily routines, to help keep that mind and brain mentally healthy. Along with these exercises we would also recommend looking into your diet, to make sure you are getting all those important nutrients for the brain. We have a great article ‘Brain-berries and more… For a healthy brain’ which has some great dietary tips that will also help keep the brain and mind healthy. The important thing is to be cognizant of the fact that brain exercises exist and as such be very intentional about how we choose to go about them.