Use it or Lose it – Are you giving your Brain enough exercise?
Made any New Years resolutions lately? New Years resolutions often involve a promise to one-self to increase physical exercise. However, we should also remember to take care of our brains. Our brains are often ignored or taken for granted. Yet to ensure top brain performance, they need exercised like everything else!
Giving our brain a good work-out keeps our brain fit, agile and young. In this article we take a closer look at why exercise is great for the brain. We then go on to discuss 11 great forms of mental aerobics that can help to keep your brain in tip top shape.
Brain Training: The Advantage of a Good Brain Workout
Mental exercise effectively keeps your brain young. Once the brain has mastered a task, however difficult, it must learn something new in order to develop. New learning causes new connections to form in the brain. Whether you learn a new work related task, a new hobby, or a new game, new connections will form that will help maintain and improve the function of other less-often-used areas of your brain.
Learning has a positive effect on the brain’s neurons (also called brain cells) because it keeps them firing and also makes it easier for them to fire. The brain has about a thousand trillion synapses (the connections between all the neurons). Each one of these may wither and die if it is not actively being used. On the up-side the brain can keep developing new connections at any age.
11 Practical Brain Exercises
To keep the human brain young it needs proper stimulation throughout the life-cycle. We have included 11 practical ways to exercise your brain below. These exercises will help your brain continue to grow and develop in healthy ways. See what you think!
1. Dedicate yourself to new learning
Put fifteen minutes of your day into learning something new. In a year you will be an expert
2. Enrol in a class about something new and interesting
Community colleges are great for this e.g. dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga or sculpture.
3. Cross-train at work
Learn someone else’s job and switch jobs for a couple of weeks.
4. Improve your skills at things you do already
Some repetitive mental stimulation is OK as long as you expand your skill and knowledge base. If you garden, sew, paint, do crossword puzzles, push yourself to try different techniques or more difficult patterns, or levels. Pushing your brain to new heights helps to keep it healthy and strong.
5. Limit TV
Several studies have highlighted health and behavioral problems amongst children who watch a great deal of T.V. Watching a large amount of T.V. may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in adults.
6. Read alot & consider joining a reading group
Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas because your brain has to process, understand and then analyse what you read. It then stores it for later recall. It can be advantageous to join a reading group because this pushes you to remember what you read because you will need the information for later discussion.
7. Perfect practice makes perfect
The brain cannot distinguish between good or bad practice, it just translates it into connections. If you are learning the piano for example, it is important to practice perfectly and not practice bad habits or sloppy fingerings of keys. A good teacher can be useful in this regard. Similarly, as a manager at work one should model good practice (i.e. customer service, relating to colleagues, work-life balance etc.) and provide good training to staff. These good patterns will develop effective, happy employees!
8. Break your routine
To activate the other side of your brain and gain access to both hemispheres, do the opposite of what feels natural. Breaking the patterned routine in your life will challenge your brain to make new connections. Here are some suggestions:
- Try writing with your other hand
- Learn to use your mouse with your other hand. This is also great for reducing OOS / DPI problems.
- Learn new cooking recipes
- Try a different shampoo/soap/razor
- Take time out to strengthen a special relationship with a spouse, child, friend
- Remember to laugh. Laughter improves our alertness and mental functioning.
- Have fun. Fun subtely shifts our reality. This is why fun at work is good for innovation.
- Make a new friend – call up someone and ask them to do something
- Submit a new idea at work
9. Compare how similar things work
Evaluate similar items e.g. how different pitchers throw a curve ball. Learning to see, hear, feel, or taste subtle changes will enhance your sensory ability and stimulate brain growth
10. Visit new and different places
This exposes the brain to new experiences. Using a map will stimulate the brain in new ways and also exercise the visual-spatial zones in our brain
11. Cultivate smart friends
People are contagious. You become like the people with whom you spend time. So, work on developing friendships with new, interesting people. In other words, spend time with people who challenge you.
Mental exercise is as important as diet and physical exercise for keeping both your body and brain strong. These exercises will also help your memory. Remember: Use it or Lose it!
Kathryn Owler and Ross Thomson, Directors Joyworkz Ltd.
Amen, D. 2005. Making a Good Brain Great. New York: Harmony Books.
Cameron-Hill, P. & Yates, S. 2000. You won't die laughing!: How to have less stress in your life and more fun. Australia. Argyle Publications.
2012© Joyworkz Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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