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5 mental exercises you should do every day

by CBHS Health | Jan 31, 2019
Mental Health

Would you try to run a marathon without training for it? Probably not.

Yet we expect our minds to keep burning through energy all day. Why do we treat our mental capabilities so differently?

Despite being an organ, your brain has some powerful similarities with muscles. It can be worked on, developed, tested, and have its endurance and capacity increased (imagine getting to the end of the working day without being a zombie). Just like your muscles, an active brain is a healthy brain, and has a huge impact on your overall health.

Why is it important to keep your brain active?

  • Can help prevent or lessen depression
  • May slow down or lessen the impact of dementia
  • Shows signs of improving cognitive functioning

Just like a dog at a park with a ball, your brain doesn’t need too much to get it excited and working hard. Here are simple daily mental exercises you can do at work, home, or on the go.

Daily mental exercises

Experience something new

When confronted with a new environment, action or challenge, your brain analyses and adapts to it.

This doesn’t have to be an explosive, life-changing event – it can be as simple as:

  • Writing with your opposite hand
  • Walking a different way to work or home
  • Visiting a new place
  • Listening to different styles of music
  • Meeting new people

Connect socially (in the real world)

Email, SMS and social media make it easy for us to choose when and how we connect and communicate with the people in our lives…but it’s not as good as the real thing.

Face-to-face social interactions force our brains to think and act on the spot (you can’t leave someone mid-sentence and pick up the conversation later). Conversations, discussions and exploring ideas challenges your brain to accept new concepts and entertain abstract thoughts.

Changing your communication from leisurely (oh, I’ll get back to them when I feel like) to an immediate face-to-face style can be tricky, but there are ways to help you get into the swing of things:

  • Have a conversation with your recipient before or after sending them an email
  • Interact with people more personally – instead of leaving a message, make a call. If you usually make calls, organise to meet face-to-face
  • Say yes to a social event you’d normally avoid

Do puzzles

Puzzles are like weights for the mind – deciphering abstract concepts, performing math problems, and working to find answers helps your brain develop new neural pathways. There are puzzle types to suit almost anyone:

  • Chess
  • Some video games
  • Card games
  • Sudoku
  • Crosswords
  • Word jumbles

Indulge in your curiosities and hobbies

There’s a universe of interests out there, each with its own history and community. Rekindle old passions or start one fresh by typing one of your interests into Google! You could start with:

  • Sports
  • Painting
  • Instruments
  • History
  • Books, blogs and poetry
  • Writing

Getting enough sleep

When you’re asleep, you’re no longer bothering your mind with thoughts of excel spreadsheets or if it’s humanly possible to have just one more coffee. Your brain still powers along during this quiet time, and you can help it by getting the best sleep possible.

Need a little more motivation? Lack of sleep has been associated with reduced grey matter volume, and grey matter volume is important for healthy brains.

To get a better quality of sleep, look to improve your sleep hygiene by

  • Making your room as dark as possible
  • Avoid daytime napping
  • Avoiding stimulants before bed
  • Associate your bed with sleeping

Sources 

Face to face social contact reduces the risk of depression - Psychology Today

Eight habits to improve cognitive function - Psychology Today

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies.