When you become an adult, it’s easy to get set in your daily life routines. The problem with doing virtually the same thing day in and day out is that you often don’t open your mind to learning new things. Unlike children, who are constantly learning new things, we tend to hit a wall after we’ve completed our formal education and started our careers.
The good news is that no matter what your age, you can – and should – learn as many new things as you can. I try to help my coaching clients remember this as we work on bringing them into living a more full, rewarding, and well-balanced life. It’s something that I’ve become reconnected with in my own life, that I take great pleasure in sharing with others.
Here are a few ways to expand your mental horizons and teach your brain new tricks:
1. Change hands.
Believe it or not, changing from your dominant to your alternate hand can increase your brain power. Using your opposite hand forces your brain to strengthen existing neural connections and create new ones because it’s learning something new. Try using the computer mouse, brushing your teeth or even using the remote with your opposite hand to make your brain more powerful.
2. Think about exercise.
An experiment conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that people who imagined that they were flexing a muscle increased both their brain and muscle strength. The study was conducted over 12 weeks and asked 30 healthy adults to imagine using the muscle of their little finger, or elbow flexor, for five minutes a day, five days per week. According to researchers, the intense focus of the participants increased activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the muscle strength gains were due to the brain sending constant signals to the muscles.
3. Engage your brain.
Although entertaining, sitting in front of the television does nothing for your brain. In fact, studies show that the brain is relatively passive when watching television. (They don’t call it the idiot box for nothing!) Try replacing an hour’s worth of TV watching with something that stimulates your mind – like putting together a model or puzzle. If you’re still stuck on video for entertainment, there are plenty of portable game systems like the Nintendo DS that offer brain games designed to pump up the grey matter.
4. Try Neurobics.
Neurobics is a system of brain exercises created by Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D and professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. These fun exercises use your five senses to help your brain manufacture nutrients that promote the growth of brain cells. In addition, when performing these exercises, your brain activates underused nerve pathways, which help you to keep a nimble mind. The exercises are as easy as: getting dressed with your eyes closed, and tapping your fingers while listening to the rain.
5. Go for a walk.
Sedentary lifestyles wreak havoc on waistlines and brains alike. The simple act of walking provides great benefits for both the mind and body. Walking increases the oxygen to your brain, which is why many people walk to ‘clear their head’. Also, studies of senior citizens who walked on a regular basis showed significant improvement to their memory recall ability when compared to those who didn’t engage in regular exercise.
Remember that no matter what your age or state in life is, you can keep learning and improving your mind – right up until the day you die. In fact, it’s one of the few things about humans that can be ‘upgraded’ on a constant basis.
Have you exercised your mind today?