It’s fair to say that physical health is pretty well understood in mainstream society today. Everyone knows that to maintain a healthy lifestyle you have to exercise and eat fresh, natural, whole foods. As such, these aspects are always on the top of people’s minds.
Although less tangible health factors are becoming more popular in modern society, there is still a large majority of the population who do not consider the quality of their mental health, relationships, how they relax and how they develop.
My Home Vitality has been created in order to help people consider these neglected areas of health and to improve lives.
This particular article aims to provide a range of exercises to keep your mind focused and healthy, 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 routine-based existence is good for us because it requires very little thinking but it’s also bad for us because it requires very little thinking. Let’s explain… Our body wants to save energy, so by not thinking we are saving energy, good! However, by not thinking, we are not living, we are not experiencing, we are not developing.
The key to conquering this “think or not to think” dilemma is to strike a balance (as always) and get sufficient rest!
Striking a balance is being able to use mental energy on the things that are important to you and saving mental energy on things that are unimportant. For example, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same grey t-shirt every day so he doesn’t waste necessary energy deciding what to wear in the morning.
Sufficient rest speaks for itself – recharge those batteries enough so that your mind can focus on important tasks when it needs to. There are lost of resources on this in our article The Importance Of Rest And Relaxation.
It’s also important that you don’t get into the habit of being lethargic and sluggish. You need to take conscious steps to shake up your routine so that you are always alert, aware and appreciative of things around you. This where brain exercises come in…
Benefits of brain exercises
Taking care of your mental health through mindful exercises will protect you against cognitive decline and also help deal with stress.
It is important that we take conscious steps to ensure that stress is dealt with it when it arises so we do not suffer from the myriad of negative consequences associated with it. Brain exercises are one way of doing this.
They also attributed to clearer thinking as racing thoughts are halted, making you calmer and more aware.
Recommended brain exercises
Brain exercises that enhance brain performance are known as neurobics.
According to Lawrence Katz (Ph.D.) and Manning Rubin in their book ‘Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness, neurobics enhance brain performance by involving the five senses.
Here are a few popular neurobics exercises that you should definitely consider trying…
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 concentration and make you more mindful when you’re eating, it will also help with calorie consumption and digestion.
For those who are already adept at using chopsticks, using your non-dominant hand would be the way to go as the entire training process would achieve the desired results.
Reading books aloud
Reading books aloud is not exactly common but it is something you should consider if you want to improve your brain functionality by utilsing a simple everyday task like reading.
This is especially effective when you read to a child because you often use your imagination to make stories interesting.
The science behind it is that different areas of the brain are responsible for different tasks; for example, processing images (words), processing sounds (listening), being creative (imagining), speaking (reading), etc.
Challenging different regions of your brain is good. The more the regions you can keep active, the stronger your mental muscle becomes.
This will also help you develop many useful skills too, such as communication, storytelling and creativity.
This isn’t just applicable to story books. If you read non-fiction to a partner aloud, whilst really creating interest with your words, tone and actions, you can also improve your ability to remember because so many areas of your brain become active.
It helps breed focus and concentration, which are useful states to help you get through hectic days and tough times.
Think of meditation as a break for your mind. It provides a dedicated rest from the usual bustling and firing associated with everyday tasks.
In the long run, meditation actually empowers your brain to run more efficiently.
Though the idea of sitting down in complete silence and taking your thoughts away from the world is, at first, somewhat absurd, it will bear fruit; of course, if you practice enough.
Chris Ludlow of thought-bubbles.mykajabi.com, believes that mindful practices are so important for long term mental health that he has created a programme for children…
Eat unfamiliar foods
The smell and taste sensory systems are often referred to together as the chemosensory system because they provide the brain with information about the chemical composition of objects through transduction – the conversion of a sensory stimulus (a chemical substance – taste/smell) into another form of stimulus (a biological signal).
The brain typically likes to link different signals (smells, odours and tastes) with different emotions and scenarios; thus exposing yourself to new ones, evokes unexpected associations and feelings that will eventually force your brain to think and most definitely grow.
The simplest way to do this would be to go to a restaurant and order unfamiliar cuisines from different parts of the world.
You could even try to cook some up 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 back towards them, especially after realising just how helpful they are for the brain.
Similarly to meditation, they help to deeply focus the brain, locking out racing thoughts and allowing you to free your mind of distractions. They offer a stress free period of “just being,” even if only for a short time.
Any activity that allows you to access a state of flow will help achieve this feeling of nothingness without trying to formally meditate.
Gardening, dancing, learning an instrument, martial arts, running and walking are all good methods, as opposed to watching TV or sitting at a computer.
Test your recall
Forgetting things can be very stressful, especially if they are important things!
Making lists and putting your ideas down on paper can definitely help but practising memorising them can also be a great exercise for your mind.
Challenge yourself by creating a list next time you go grocery shopping and memorise it. Try to complete your shop without using your list but quickly check it at the end to make sure you have remembered everything!
For some simple memory techniques, check out this clip from our learning and development podcast:
Let us know your brain exercises!
The exercises mentioned above are just a small sample of what you can introduce into your daily routines.
Along with these exercises we would also recommend looking into your diet, to make sure you are getting all those important nutrients for your brain.
Brain Berries And More… Foods For A Healthy Brain provides some fantastic dietary tips to keep your brain healthier for longer.
It’s important that you are aware of different brain exercises and why we use them but, as always, the challenge is to find exercises that suit you!
If you have any other exercises that you think would benefit others, please add them to the comments below!