Summer is finally here and you have been preparing. Tireless time in the gym and refusals of dessert has paid off and it is time to go outside. In your efforts to get the perfect beach body, were your workouts really complete? At the risk of sounding a bit parental, have you been exercising your brain? Just like your biceps, your brain needs stimulation to keeps its body bangin. Pushups may go a long ways to impress coeds, but girls like a man that can dominate Jeopardy as well. Here are some tips to keep your mind sharp.
Switch it up
The Franklin Institute teaches that stimulation improves brain function and protects against mental aging. To keep things fresh, they suggest allowing your non-dominate hand to take over. For example, let your left (or right if you are freak) hand drive the mouse today. It is awkward, but they reassure us that you brain is learning a new skill. Becoming left handed is not the goal; you are just trying to keep the gray matter on its toes. For a more exciting twist, switch up the hand you use to…relax yourself. See, learning can be fun.
Get out of Dodge
Traveling is a great method of messing up your daily routine, ie exercising your mind. When you immerse yourself in a new place, there are opportunities to learn everywhere. Your mind must decipher new surroundings, different food and of course, the exotic locals. Make your way to another country and you’ll be dealing with language and culture issues constantly (unless you go to Canada. Then it’s just the metric system). Basically, if you are uncomfortable, your brain is working on adapting.
Shut off your senses
Walking outside at night, whether through a forest or the streets of L.A., doesn’t it seem like you pick up every bit of sound, no matter how weak? Unfortunately, no, you are not a superhero. Your brain is simply directing more attention to senses other than sight. To recreate this scenario is a safer environment, practice getting dressed with your eyes closed. Dr. Lawrence Katz says this “exercises” forces us to call on more senses, since the sense we usually rely on in this task, sight, is taken away. Try the eyes closed approach to showering or eating with a group in silence. Maybe if you blindfold yourself, you’ll actually listen about your girlfriend’s tough day. Or, like comedian Joe Rogan, you could try a sensory deprivation tank.
Even if you don’t represent it well, your brain is smart. It knows three lefts and two rights will get you to the office every morning. It expects to see your family picture if you look just to the side of the monitor. And at this point in the day it is already bored. Step outside of your everyday routine to keep your thinking life spicy. Try a totally new route to work and rearrange your desk on your lunch break. Find a mundane task you perform nearly everyday, and then don’t do it. Pretty simple. You may even appear more exciting to others, not just your brain.
Play a game
Did you wonder why Bingo is so beloved by the elderly? Aside from the fact their bodies are not fit for much else, these “doppers” are actually avoiding aging even faster. An English psychologist found that your grandma’s bingo addiction is helping her remember your birthday, as the game is slowing her memory loss. G 33! Other games give your mind a workout as well, like Scrabble, Boggle, Sodoku, etc. Don’t look at “Game Night” as just another opportunity to dominate your friends in Cranium, think of it as a chance to become even more powerful.
Hit the gym
Alright, it turns out that time spent pumping iron wasn’t just giving you a bigger chest. WebMD says that physical and mental health are related. Kids that exercise regularly score better on tests. Physical exertion releases serotonin and dopamine, hormones that make us feel happy. Wellness and fitness coordinator Christin Anderson, via WebMD, says that those who exercise can think clearer, perform better and maintain higher morale. There does not seem to be a particular exercise that is necessary, just get off the couch. Kind of makes you think about the term “meat head” in a different light…
Whether young or old, your brain needs you. You can help it grow stronger at any age, so don’t neglect it. Take some time each day to get that gray matter flexing. Actually, by reading this article your brain has been stimulated. You’re welcome.