Jun 6, 2017
Guest article by Larry Mager
Too often, we consider “fitness” a physical undertaking — but that’s only one part of comprehensive wellness. There’s also emotional, spiritual, social, and mental fitness. Focusing on mental fitness can help boost creativity and productivity, two traits essential for a fulfilling life. You don’t need to be a graphic designer, filmmaker, or novelist to benefit from increased creativity. However, you do need to know some key mental fitness exercises to help workout your brain.
Your brain might not technically be a muscle, but it behaves like one. Working out your brain requires seeking out varied, fun, and engaging exercises that fit easily into your schedule. Just like gym-goers avoid certain machines and classes, you’ll also avoid mental workouts you don’t like. Focus on variety and, if necessary, schedule mental workout breaks throughout the day to ensure those sessions happen.
Meditation can be the perfect option to start down the path towards brain fitness, and meditation is an excellent way to learn focus and to sharpen the mind. Some brain exercises utilize meditation-like techniques, and with mental exercises, you can you can prime your brain true meditation and breathing exercises, and vice versa. Meditation is often thought of as sitting still with your legs crossed, and focusing on one point. While the focus is important, the way you do it is flexible. Mental exercises often require a sharp focus, and can have very similar benefits to traditional meditation.
Try the following mental fitness options to get your creative juices flowing:
Adult coloring books. Even CNN has recently reported on the many benefits of adult coloring books, and it’s easier to find these mental workout books at a number of retail locations. According to CNN, everyone from yogis to Johns Hopkins researchers say that adult coloring is an excellent form of meditation. (Of course, this is something that adults who color with kids have known for years).
Crossword puzzles. Perhaps one of the most sustaining forms of a mental workout, crossword puzzles come in a plethora of challenge levels. You don’t need to master the Sunday Times’ crossword challenge to get the benefits. Instead, choose options that are both challenging and enjoyable. Crossword puzzles are a staple for a reason, and help grow your vocabulary while encouraging creativity.
Sudoku. It’s not for everyone, but it’s shocking that a numbers-centric game has made such a big impression on adults around the world. Lifehack has reported on the many benefits of Sudoku, from better memory and concentration to decreased risks of dementia to simply feeling happier. Like crosswords, Sudoku comes in a myriad of challenge levels so you’re always in control of how demanding the mental fitness exercise is.
Try an app. There are a slew of apps available to challenge your mental fitness, and options like Luminosity have made huge gains in recent years. As we begin to revere the importance of holistic fitness, not just physical fitness, more and more options are being developed to tone your brain. If you’re not engaging with a particular approach, try another. Many apps and other mental fitness workouts are completely free, which lets you experiment and find the right matches for you.
Break out the games and activities with kids. Whether you’re a parent, beloved aunt/uncle, occasionally babysit or otherwise interact with little ones, try your hand at one of the many games designed to increase memory, creativity and concentration in players of all ages. Just because a game was designed for kids doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the benefits, too. Memory card games are a classic, and in addition to getting a mental workout for all players involved, you’re also getting quality non-screen time with the children in your life. That’s a win-win.
- Read. It really can be that simple, but the Pew Research Center reports Americans are reading less and less. Women and young people read the most according to research, but books are still declining in popularity. Reading forces you to imagine and picture scenarios by only offering part of a presentation. It’s by far the simplest and one of the most enjoyable mental workouts.
Challenge yourself to more mental workouts and to try out different approaches. Just like the muscles of your body from biceps to glutes, if you don’t work out your brain it tends to atrophy. Fortunately, you’re in control and it doesn’t take much time for a few mental workouts per day. And, if you do them regularly, mental exercises might even become an integral part of your daily meditation routine.
(Original Image: Thinksotck)