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Brain exercises to help you flex your mental muscles
Research shows that living a healthy life and doing certain activities, such as knitting, lifting weights, writing poetry, socialising, and problem-solving, can work wonders for our mental health and wellbeing. In fact, it may even be able to help ward off health risks, such as dementia, as we age. After all, our brain is a muscle and regularly working it out (just as we should any other muscle) is a great way to keep it in good shape. Here are five ways to boost your brain power and keep your body’s most important muscle fit and strong.
Change your routine
Doing the same thing day in day out isn’t just boring – it’s bad for your brain! Give your mental muscles a good workout by doing daily life differently every single time. On your way to and from work or school, try a different route and take note of the world around you. For example, how many white cars can you count? What signs did you see? Or how many steps did you take? In the mornings while getting ready, look at labels or instructions upside down to push your mind to new levels. Even completing your essential morning tasks in a different order will shake things up for your brain. You can also try brushing your teeth, writing to-do lists or eating breakfast with your non-dominant hand to challenge the other side of your brain.
Try new things
Life is busy and while it can be tempting to spend your free hours in front of the TV, being a couch potato, it won’t do your brain any favours. Our minds need just as much stimulation as our bodies, so get out and about and try new activities to challenge yourself. When you try new things you create new neural pathways, which helps keep your brain in top condition as you age. Think about taking a poetry class or learning a new language – check out your local TAFE and see what short courses interest you. Or test your artsy self by taking a pottery or life drawing class. Even entering the local trivia night at your local pub can help. Learning is good for you, and embracing this philosophy is key to having a healthy brain.
Brain training doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. Quick games and other app- or paper-based activities are a great way to test your skills and flex mental muscles. When you read the daily newspaper, try doing a crossword puzzle or completing the day’s Sudoku. Improve your strategy skills by playing chess, bridge or backgammon against friends or family members. Or find your favourite problem-solving activity – whether it’s a find-a-word, maze, spot-the-difference or cryptic crossword – and complete at least one challenge every single week. If actual puzzles are more your thing, a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle is a fun activity to do with the whole family.
Keeping physically fit is essential to your brain’s health, so while you’re teasing your brain with new activities and experiences, don’t forget to do some physical training to help keep the rest of your body at its best. Stimulate both your body and your brain at the same time by mixing up your workout – from cardio to strength, resistance, flexibility and more. Changing your workout from week to week and learning new exercises will challenge your body and your mind. If you’ve mastered push-ups? Try Burpees. Or add some sprints to your 45-minute walk. Challenge yourself to keep your brain (and all your other muscles) engaged.
It sounds like a cheat, but getting out and having fun with friends and family is a great way to stimulate your brain – especially while doing fun, new activities. Whether it’s trying a new restaurant, starting a book group, going to the opera or visiting an art gallery, if you’re enjoying each other’s company, your brain will benefit from the new surroundings and from simply having fun. Happiness is the key, so make sure you’re spending time with people who make you smile.
Want your brain to be healthy for the rest of your life? Treating it right is the first step.