I preach the importance of staying mentally active almost as often as I breathe, Don’t worry, I don’t just preach it to y’all, I preach it to my daughters, husbands, sons-in-law, friends, strangers… You get the idea.
The problem is, I’ve read far too much. Far too much, that is, about the dangers of an inactive mind. Another one of the blogs I write for and publish is Out of Bounds. Out of Bounds is a mental fitness and brain health blog devoted to helping its readers strengthen their minds, reduce stress and anxiety, and (by whatever means possible) prevent dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease). As I do for Self Help Daily, I do a great deal of reading and research for Out of Bounds.
The dangers of an inactive and unchallenged mind are as horrifying as any Saw movie. More so, because it’s all too real. To keep our minds sharp (and to prevent serious mental health issues down the road), we simply must keep our brains active.
It reminds me of a physical injury I had when I was 10 years old.
My much, much loved white German Shepherd, Lucky, and I did what we did every Saturday morning after we finished watching cartoons – I hopped on my orange ten speed bike and we circled the neighborhood. If I sped up, she’d jog. So I was always mindful of going slow more often than fast, so my best friend in the world could keep pace. I’m not sure which one of us looked out after the other one more – I think it was a draw. Since I was an only kid, she only had me to look after, but I”m pretty sure she’d have told you I was enough.
That morning, as I always did, I turned my head around to see where Lucky was. Sometimes she’d stop to do her business or trade sniffs with another dog. As I turned to see her checking out a fat little beagle, my hands threw on the breaks way too fast and I flipped over the handle bars and down into a ditch.
Not my finest hour.
When I walked up the driveway, with blood coming from my head, elbows, knees, shins, and ankle, my poor mom ran out of the house, with her face as white as Lucky was. I hate to brag, but I did a number on myself that day. I remember hurting so much when I took baths that I wanted to cry. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure I did.
When the knees and ankles finally healed up enough to actually ride my bike again, I found that my legs were SO weak that I didn’t have to slow down intentionally for Lucky – she was always in the lead looking back at me. Even though the injuries had healed, inactivity had left me with Jell-O knees.
Every single part of us (from our knees and ankles to our hearts and brains) needs a steady diet of activity, challenges, and strengthening. If we neglect anything, it’ll neglect us. I fairly certain “Jell-O brain would be even worse than Jell-O knees.”
This realization is what keeps me sane on particularly grueling, long days. While plugging away with research, writing, and blog creation, I often remind myself that the activity going on in my brain is a positive, not a negative. Staying menatlly active and even pushing yourself a little further than you’re accustomed to going is a wonderfully healthy thing for your mind.
Below are 8 other ways to keep your brain engaged and active.
- Dig deeper. When a subject comes up in a book or on a television show that piques your interest, do a little research – dig a little deeper. Whether it’s going to IMDB to research an actor in an old Western or Wikipedia to research the lifespan of penquins – never pass up a chance to “flesh out” a subject and learn more. Your brain LOVES these mini lessons! I think it gets the same kind of buzz when it’s engaged that I get when I eat chocolate.
- Read more. While it’s important to read more often, it’s just as important to read a wide variety of books. Don’t just read the same genre of book time after time. Mix things up and keep your brain guessing about what’s coming next.
- Laugh. Scientists tell us that laughter is good for our health; that it releases endorphins and other positively powerful chemicals into our system. We don’t really need scientists to tell us that it feels good to laugh. Laughing helps us reduce stress and break old patterns, too. So laughter can be like a “quick-charge” for our brain’s batteries. Laugh more, and laugh harder.
3. Remember. Get out an old photo album or high school yearbook. Your brain is a memory machine, so give it a chance to work! Spend time with your memories. Let your mind reflect on them and your mind will repay you in positive emotions and new connections from the memories to help you with your current tasks and challenges.
4 .Do a puzzle. Some of us like jigsaw puzzles, some crossword puzzles, some logic puzzles – it really doesn’t matter kind you choose to do. Doing puzzles in your free time is a great way to activate your brain and keep it in good working condition. Do the puzzle for fun, but do it knowing you are exercising your brain.
Continue Reading Re-Energize Your Brain for the last 4 great ideas!