Brain training for health
“There are so many benefits to keeping your brain sharp, trim and fully functioning. I could list most of them but I would be here all day!”
BRAIN TRAINING FOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Brain exercise is all about choosing things out of your norm, not what you’d normally choose, something that might take you out of your comfort zone and present a bit of a challenge, or something that takes you a little out of your comfort zone.
You should aim to keep your brain connecting quickly, storing and recalling efficiently, firing effortlessly. We all want our brains to be premium shape for as long as we live.
There are some great things you can do to get your brain at play, having fun, being engaged and taking part! To exercise your brain, though, you have to give it things to do that it doesn’t normally do. Now, I know that plenty of people would immediately suggest you do puzzles, play scrabble, do sudoku, crosswords scrabble and such, yes, I would agree with all of those suggestions but you also need to give your brain tasks to do in everyday life that take on all shapes and sizes and that take it out of its comfort zone. Lots of micro activities that would build on the strength and agility of this most essential of the body’s organs.
If you were at the gym and you only did the same type of exercises all the time you would only build one set of muscles. You’d be totally ignoring the others. They wouldn’t get developed as well. I think to exercise your brain you need to introduce all sort of micro tasks that accumulate and amount to a whole lot of unusual brain training.
Here are some suggestions that you might find are easy to introduce and shake your grey matter up a bit!
Do usual things in an unusual way
Brush your teeth holding your toothbrush with your opposite hand, or brush your hair holding your hair brush with your opposite hand. To really turn up the brain activity walk on the spot as you do this too! It really stretches the grey matter.
Take a different route home when you walk, cycle or drive or imagine yourself walking home using different routes. Imagine yourself walking around a building taking a different route than normal. Don’t forget to focus in your mind on the landmarks or most memorable anchors along the routes for each of the different ways you imagined.
Do you like reading comics? If you do, skip to the next idea! If you are not used to reading comics (remember we are trying to feed your brain with things it doesn’t normally deal with) ….read colourful comic strips where there is a story to be told that includes lots of different pictures and there are captions. Study the pictures carefully.
Visit an art gallery, or search online. Find an interesting painting and study it. Choose one you haven’t studied before. Go for a completely different style of artwork – then look for 10 things in that artwork you haven’t seen before. I love Pieter Bruegel the Elder for this – there was so much going on in his artwork you’ll find those 10 things no problem even if you study the picture again and again.
Memorise your schedule for the week ahead instead of relying upon a diary or app. Make your brain do the work!
Try going shopping without a list – remember what you need in a way that is inventive or unusual – if I only have a few things to buy use a mnemonic (using the first letters of each word in a sentence to help remember the items I need to buy – if I needed apples, pears, fennel, lettuce, avocado and parsley the mnemonic ‘a pretty flower lasts an hour’ would serve (a)pples, (p)ears, (f)ennel, (l)ettuce, (a)vocado and parsley (that’s ‘h’ for herb!).
If you need more than a few items memorise the individual ingredients for the meals and then buy the ingredients for the meals one at a time. Rather than drifting along the aisles in the order that the shop wants you to travel in, walk around the shop buying each item according to the ingredients for the meal.
If you are in a supermarket, you could try shopping differently – start at the back of the shop towards the exit and then move towards the front of the store at the entrance (as well as making my brain think about shopping differently I’ve found i save money this way too! That was an unexpected additional benefit!)
Bring in the senses
Learn how to cook a new type of meal or an entirely different type of cuisine altogether! Don’t buy it ready made or as a kit, have go yourself from scratch. There are plenty of recipes online that are marvellous and cooking uses all the senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, even sounds and new ingredients not only connect to the different areas of the brain but they also involve remembering different names, combinations, menus and preparation tools and techniques. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like the taste the first time you cook something new, work at at, learn how to tweak the recipe using the unusual ingredients, use your brain and find a way to master something new.
As you eat your food try to identify which ingredients are in your meal as you taste them. Don’t only focus on the more obvious ingredients, are there any herbs or spices that are a little unusual that you can concentrate upon and identify as well?
Learn a language
Learning a foreign language will boost your brain activity, but choose one that is going to really stretch you…choose a language that is completely different! Greek, Japanese, Russian…they all have different words, different symbols and letters.
Reading non fiction and reference or self help books is marvellous for increasing your vocabulary, enrich your thought processes and stimulate your thinking.
To refuel your mind I’d suggest you read self-help books written by world class leaders of our time, just a few paragraphs a day can be the perfect super fuel for your mind. Browse online at TED or on Youtube. Listen to quality Podcasts.
Learning to play a musical instrument – choose an instrument that requires both a new skill and coordinated actions, anything that you can pick up and play quickly is okay but an instrument that takes a while to master is better, it’ll give you a constant challenge.
If you don’t want to play an instrument learn how to read music.
Sing! – Do scales at first, then, if it goes well aim to join a choir.
Start a new hobby that requires you to combine a new skill along with mobility, dexterity or coordination so try crocheting, knitting, cross stitch, embroidery, life drawing, painting, basic woodwork, jewellery, plumbing or home decorating.
Do a short courses in applied first aid?
Start doing a new sport or exercise that connects your body with your mind try pilates, yoga, golf, squash or tennis.
Grow your own
Learn how to grow your own fruit and vegetables, even a bucket of herbs by the back door helps you learn new skills.
Learn the different ways to preserve fruit and vegetables (using salts, oils, vinegars, sugars and dehydrating) Learn how to preserve using reliable recipes until you can adapt them to your own needs or to the needs of your family. keep your grey matter ticking.
Make our own alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks and beverages too. Don’t buy pre assembled kits, they make it too simple and your brain won’t get stretched….the idea is to make your brain work harder: find your recipe, learn about the role of each ingredient, source the raw ingredients and make your own…I do!
Memory and recall
Something as simple as looking outside your window and looking for a bird that you don’t know the name of ….. studying the bird, remembering what it looks like, researching it and finding out the name of that bird. Say the word outloud every time you then see that bird. Find 5 birds, one at a time.
Do the same exercise with Butterflies and beetles, trees and plants and cloud types too.
Challenge your brain
Find things for your brain to do that challenges it to reach further, try harder, push passed the norm. All these things and more will really refuel your brain and then require fuel burning from it, take your brain, dust it off, shake it a little, expose it to new things and let it feast on the plenty.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Children’s Games is a feast for the brain to look at, observe and process. There is always something new to uncover.
Home Brew: Brew it yourself: Make your own Beer, Wine, Cider and other concoctions (my favorite home brew book) by Richard Hood and Nick Moyle