In my never ending quest for the latest trends and ideas to help mind and memory, much comes back to the concept of use it or lose it. The idea is this: the more we use our brain, the more brain we have to use. Think of it as a muscle. While the brain isn’t muscle, the analogy applies. The more we use our muscles, the stronger they get. Same holds true for our brain.
When we use our brain cells, they are strengthened. They fire, reach out to their brain cell neighbors and communicate as is their job. But like a muscle, if we don’t use our brain cells, they can atrophy and eventually die. This is why mental fitness and using our brain in stimulating ways each day is so important. We want to use our brain so it’s strong when we need it!
Mental fitness is one only component of mind wellness, however. We will be discussing other components of mind wellness in the next few weeks. But keeping our mind strong by challenging it daily is the most important. There are many ways to do this and I hope we’ll all incorporate mental fitness into our goals for this challenge! Here are a few ways to insert some mental fitness in your day:
- Read aloud! This may seem easy but try it for longer than a paragraph or two. It takes more concentration to say and think on each word as opposed to skimming or speed reading. It utilizes more parts of your brain than silently reading as well. We did it as kids, we did it with our kids, now do it for yourself. Read whatever you read aloud for at least 10-15 minutes a day-you’ll see how challenging it can be!
- Use your non-dominant side! Ever try writing, brushing your teeth or eating with your non-dominant hand? It’s difficult. Your brain, like muscle, likes to do things the same way. When you challenge yourself by doing things with your opposite hand/foot/side the brain cells have to think differently. You will challenge a whole new set of brain cells (and muscles) by simply using your non-dominant side for simple things. (For your safety, try this with simple things only-no sharp knife usage!) I put my coffee/water glass on my left to remind myself to do this each day!
- Explore Technology! Whatever you think of technology, it is here to stay. So jump on board and learn new things and make your life easier and more enjoyable in the process. Learning to use a new remote, cell phone or a computer in a new or different way are all great ways to stimulate your brain. New brain training programs are popping up all over, too. While these can be a fun and stimulating way to exercise your brain, they are not necessary. There’s always something new to learn, so seek out help and give it a try! This challenge is certainly helping me learn new computer programming skills! I also tried a new game app this week-difficult but really got my neurons firing!
- Try something new! We all have our comfort zones with food, people and even how we stimulate our brain. But when we learn something new or try a new way of doing the same thing, we exercise our brain. New things are always difficult at first. But this is how we grow, literally and figuratively. So step out of that comfort into something new and feel those brain cells working! My friend just enlightened me to a new way of playing solitaire-takes it to a whole new level-a new twist on an old favorite!
There are many more strategies than this, but as I often tell my clients let’s not make it harder than it is. It may seem like we already knew this, but knowing and doing it are different things! For today’s Mindful Monday challenge: try implementing one or all of these into your day. Don’t be surprised if your mind isn’t fatigued by the workout. Use your brain in different ways to strengthen it and move toward mind wellness today!
Take a moment to think of some mind wellness goals for this challenge. Here are mine:
- Learn or try something new each day. Never stop learning!
- Focus on one thing at a time, a constant challenge for me!
- Be more creative in my thinking and actions-step out of my comfort zone!