Have you ever noticed you don't feel quite as mentally sharp when you do the same mundane things day in and day out? This is actually physically true. If you use your brain for new tasks, it gets sharper.
Our brains have the ability to change structure and physiology in response to new stimuli and challenges. Try some of the suggestions below to give your mind this kind of food for growth.
- Challenge negative thoughts. By working with a therapist or a mental health professional you can start to notice your pattern of thinking and challenge them when they get negative.
- This is especially helpful when you want to become more open-minded or change your perspective. If you aren’t particularly keen on working with a therapist try worksheets such as the ones from Therapists Aid or get into books like Mind Over Mood
- Exercise regularly. Moving your body during exercise accomplishes many things:
- The brain is forced to send stronger impulses to your muscles when moving vigorously or against resistance.
- The coordination required and the use of muscles not normally used both challenge the brain.
- The flow of blood and nutrients through the brain is increased.
- Play music. Learning a new musical instrument is a great way to challenge your mental fitness. This is particularly true for someone who has never played a musical instrument.
- Learning musical theory is like learning a new language. Not only is music an enjoyable way to spend free time, but it's also great for your brain. Now might be the perfect time to pull out the phone book and look into piano or violin lessons.
- Meditate your way to mental fitness. Meditation challenges your brain by creating a new mental state. It's relaxing and teaches your mind the ability to focus, which is a huge task for many of us. Meditation is a great way to improve mental fitness.
- Read something new every day. Reading is a complicated mental process that requires processing information quickly. Try reading something new that interests you. You'll get the added benefit of novelty, enhance your brain function, and learn something as well.
Challenge your memory. Each day, take a minute and try to remember the previous day. What did you have for lunch? What happened at work? Try to remember what you did last weekend. What happened last Christmas?
- Make a list of 10 items and then see if you can remember them without cheating! Part of the memory loss sometimes associated with aging is due to not using our powers of recollection regularly.
- Have less screen time. You'll be amazed how much better you feel in every way if you have less screen time. You can do so many things to improve your mind and body that you'll never get around to if you're always on a screen.
Your mental fitness doesn't have to decline dramatically as you age. The key is to expose yourself to new and challenging experiences regularly. So break up your routine and try something new.