The mind like any muscle, must be exercised.
When we think about our health and well-being, we tend to focus on our physical health. Thus, we typically neglect the health of our mind, which is a critical aspect of our overall well-being. Whilst a healthy body keeps us active, fit and well. A healthy mind keeps us focused, motivated and productive. Hence, it’s critical to exercise the mind, just like any other muscle.
Becoming mentally fit is not as challenging as preparing and training for a marathon or triathlon. Mental exercises can easily be incorporated into our daily routine ranging from reading more to engaging in visualisation on the bus on our way to work. Exercising our mind is an essential element to achieving a healthy overall well-being.
Benefits of Exercising Our Mind
- Increased fluid intelligence
- Increased ability to reason and problem solve
- Better able to manage and cope with stress and mental illnesses
- Higher level of mental agility
- Increased motivation and mental focus
Examples of Activities to Exercise the Mind
Schedule Mental Fitness Breaks
Time needs to be allocated to exercising our mind on a regular basis. Thus, scheduling time for mental fitness breaks is a great way to ensure we engage in these activities.
Reading Often and Widely
Reading is beneficial for the mind. Every time we read a word, our brain is processing it and recalling the meaning immediately. Hence, it helps us visualise the subject described, and it stimulates imagination.
Mind Stimulating Games
Playing mind stimulating games builds up our mind and brain muscles. e.g., sudoku, cross word puzzles, memory games. These games improve our memory, attention span, reaction time and task-switching ability.
Visualisation can help relax and exercise our mind as it allows us to obtain a sense of peacefulness and contentment through imagery and reflection. This is achieved through picturing a tranquil image or scene or picturing ourselves in a safe and nurturing environment. This practice reduces the tension built up in our mind through directing our attention away from our daily worries and concerns, boosting our emotional well-being. Additionally, our mental fitness can be improved through visualisation, such as visualising ourselves achieving a personal goal. This stimulates brain neurons and networks that are involved in our goal-directed behaviour which influences our motivation.
Relaxation differs from person to person. Some people may find nature walks relaxing while others prefer to relax by listening to music. Moreover, deep breathing exercises and progressive muscular relaxation exercises assist in stress and anxiety reduction to overall improve our mental and emotional well-being.
Mindfulness is a technique that can be done anytime, anywhere. It involves concentrating on the present whilst acknowledging and accepting our daily experiences without judgement or criticism. For example, mindful eating involves bringing our attention to the flavours, sensations, feelings and smells of the food we are eating. Although, every time you notice your mind wandering, you need to bring your focus back to the task at hand.
Experiencing new things such as new foods, places or activities keeps our brain active. This is due to participating in new approaches and processes stimulates new neural pathways and connections. Hence, increasing the mind and brain’s vitality.
Positive affirmations or talking to ourselves in a positive way increases our well-being, self-confidence and life satisfaction. This can be achieved through creating a list of all our positive qualities to remind ourselves of our strengths. Furthermore, this should be followed by goal setting to highlight what we want to improve and eventually achieve.
Challenge our Mind and Intellect
Test ourselves mentally by engaging in challenging mental activities such as cryptic crosswords or learning a new language or skill.
Intellectual and Stimulating Conversations
Engaging in a variety of discussions with friends, family, colleagues or others allows the brain to investigate, analyse and query.
Therefore, start exercising your mind today. Schedule those mental fitness exercises into your daily routine and build that mind muscle.