With the weather slowly heating up, you may well be thinking of ways to get into shape for the summer. But wait just a minute here. While you’re out there carefully toning up every single inch of your physique, there’s an area that you mustn’t neglect — your mind. You’ve likely heard it all before now, but your brain is a muscle. If you don’t exercise it and keep it healthy, it will slowly begin to decline and become less and less efficient. That’s the very last thing anybody wants. So, how can you keep it going stronger for much, much longer? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are just six ways you can exercise your mind this summer.
Study a New Language
Whether you have an insatiable appetite for travel or merely fancy dabbling in something new, studying a second language is just invaluable. Of course, many of us simply aren’t lucky enough to have been raised in a bilingual household, but that’s not to say that it’s too late. Sure, tackling another tongue as an adult is a tricky job; it’s far harder than it would be as a child when you’re still developing language skills. However, it may be just that fact that makes this such a worthwhile activity.
In one of the largest studies on this topic to date, the American Academy of Neurology found that studying a second language could ward off the likes of dementias. Now, here’s the scientific part: The very act of learning a new language is what helps you to develop the areas of your brain which are responsible for attention tasks. The idea is that exercising these parts of your mind will keep it active for longer and mean that you will be less likely to suffer from memory-related illnesses. Nice.
Delve Deep Into a Novel
Is that pile of books on your bedside cabinet calling your name? While your must-read list is likely getting longer all the time, are you any closer to starting it? Many of us claim to love reading fiction and yet never set aside the time to delve deep into our favorite novels. There are so many distractions out there that we neglect this enjoyable activity. Well, perhaps it’s time that you rectified just that problem.
The idea that reading is good for your mind and well-being has been out there for quite some time. You’ve likely heard people say that this small, significant activity helps them to unwind and, yes, de-stress after a long day at work too. But, did you ever imagine that it could also make you better with people? A recent study by The New School found that not only does reading help your brain, but it also means that you enhance your social skills, namely the ability to understand others. So, the next time you pick up a book, remember, it’s doing more good than you know.
Try Some Brain Puzzles
There are few of us out there who believe in the power of apps when it comes to improving our brains. You may think that these short and sweet little games are nothing more than a mere waste of time — a way to pass the minutes as you wait for the bus or the like. While they certainly are wonderful distractions, there may be more to them than first meets the eye.
Yes, according to research by the Nanyang Technological University, engaging in these games may actually help you improve your “mental flexibility.” Specifically, if you play physics-based puzzles such as Cut the Rope, you may find that it helps you think on your feet. The idea is that these addictive games speed up your reaction times while ensuring that you use your problem-solving skills. Practice them enough and you might just find that your ability to make decisions quickly and easily booms.
Start an Artistic Project
You might say that you don’t have a creative bone in your body, but that just cannot be true. We all have something that we love doing that falls into the artistic category. Whether it’s writing poetry, painting landscapes, or even knitting, there has to be something that you can immerse yourself in when you have some downtime. It’s actually these productive tasks — the ones that create something new — that can boost your brain power.
At least, that’s what a study published in the Occupational Therapy International journal recently found. The key idea here was that so-called “purposeful” activities have the ability to help people enhance their neurological system. The more you practice these tasks, the easier they come to you and the more you will have the urge to do them. The research suggests that making time for creative things like dancing, singing, and art can help you keep areas of your brain active that may otherwise become lazy and slow.
Listen to Something Educational
When you’re out and about, there’s one simple way in which you can engage your mind. If you’re not a podcast fan right now, you’re seriously missing out. The ever-expanding world of online talks and shows means that you can listen to a series on just about any subject matter. From those that educate you on politics to ones that help you learn a language, there’s just no end to the things that you may want to tune into on a daily or weekly basis.
This exercise is ideal for the coming summer months, when you may well be traveling around the globe. Before you jet off to faraway lands, take the time to check out your podcast app and see what it has in store for you. Downloading a few series that will entertain and engage you on a deep level means that you will always have a way to keep your brain active.
Get a Little Physical
Gym bunny or not, getting some much-needed physical activity could be just what your mind needs. Ignoring the rather obvious link between your mental health and your physical health is a mistake. The cold hard fact of the matter is that you need to keep the entirety of your body fit if you ever hope to prevent your brain from declining. There’s actually a wealth of research to suggest that being physically active is the most important way that you can keep your brain going strong.
Rather shockingly, it’s in our late 20s when we start to lose some of our memory and learning skills. While this may happen at a slow rate, it’s something that we’d all like to avoid. And we can. While we already know that exercise prevents the rest of our muscles from decaying, this latest report shows that it may also stop our brains from doing the very same thing. What that means is starting a fitness regime may do just as much for our minds as it does our bodies. Bonus.