Exercise, exercise, exercise – all of us have been given this piece of advice before, and most of us do everything we can to avoid following it. But there’s one form of exercise that you should be doing, no matter what, and that’s a mental workout. Your brain is, after all, just another muscle. And like most muscles, it can atrophy if it isn’t used regularly.
However, you don’t have to wait until that happens to take action. A basic brain workout is surprisingly easy to fit into your life and the results are remarkable – improved brain functioning, longer-lasting mental agility and slower deterioration of the grey matter. Ready to rumble? Here are some basic “neurobic” exercises to keep your brain healthy for years to come.
Perform Simple Tasks with Your Non-Dominant Hand
You’ve probably heard that right-handed people use more of the left side of their brain and vice versa, but did you know that you can trick your brain into utilising the other, unfamiliar side just by doing simple tasks with your other hand? Research has shown that this can result in a rapid and substantial expansion of the parts of the brain that process tactile information from your hands. So, brush your teeth, pour your water and eat your food with your non-dominant hand once in a while and see the difference yourself.
Interact with More People During the Day
Research has shown us time and again that social deprivation has negative effects on your cognitive abilities. We’re not saying get out there and socialise more than you’re comfortable with – we know how hard this can be for most people, especially if you’re dealing with social anxiety or something like that – but you can achieve good results even from something as simple as buying a can of coke from a store with a shopkeeper instead of trying to get it from a vending machine.
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Do the Same Old Things Differently
If you take a cab to work, roll the window down and take it all in – the sights, the smells, the sounds, everything. This will help the hippocampus, an area of your brain that processes memories, which is involved in associating odours, sounds, and sights to construct mental maps. Or if you have a regular spot at the dinner table at home, change your place occasionally – the difference in how you’re seated in relation to everyone else, your view of the room and how you reach for things at the table, are beneficial to your brain which thrives on new experiences.
Try Some Brain Training Games
Sudoku, word puzzles, basic arithmetic – whatever gets your gears to grind and those juices flowing. Challenge yourself with memory games, or start learning a new language. Keep pushing your brain to do more and the results will surprise you. Avoid passive activities like watching TV and focus on something that actively engages your mind instead.
Break Your Routine
Yes, new experiences are important, but it’s not always possible to keep changing up your life. The shortcut is just to change up your daily routine. Brain activity declines when a task becomes routine or boring, so mix things up occasionally – shower after breakfast, take a different route to work, or even just read aloud to your partner.
Eat Unfamiliar Foods
All of us can distinguish millions of smells, but did you know that there’s a direct link between your olfactory system and the emotional centre of your brain? This means that new smells may evoke feelings and associations that you’re not entirely familiar with. Savour your food, try and identify the different flavours and spices separately. Or, if you enjoy cooking, try making something unfamiliar and enjoy the learning process.
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