Maybe it was something fascinating from history or a scientific fact you never saw coming. My middle daughter, Brittany, is taking an Anatomy class in college and the things she’s sharing with me are incredibly interesting… gross sometimes… but interesting, nonetheless. One afternoon she said, “I’ll let you get through eating first...” I pretty much knew I was in for it!
On Out of Bounds, my mental fitness blog, I’m forever on my reader’s cases about stretching their mind. It so vital to your brain’s health – short term and long term. We wouldn’t dream of slothing through life without getting any physical activity whatsoever, would we? And why? Because our bodies would, for lack of a better word, rot.
We’d look as terrible as we felt.
Are you green and growing, or ripe and rotten? – Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder and personal hero to Emily Erin Sigers (my oldest daughter)
Imagine how an unused, unchallenged, unstretched mind feels. Rotten! Some people make the mistake of thinking that they get enough of a mental workout within their typical day. What they fail to realize is that no matter what we do for a living, our brain gets pretty much used to the routine. Even if it’s a job that calls for constant thinking and problem-solving.
I’ll give you an example. I write daily, and it usually involves a lot of reading and research. While that’s all find and good for my brain, to a certain extent it has become accustomed to the drill. I can literally feel the difference when I challenge my mind in areas it isn’t accustomed to.
Our brain craves problem solving in all areas. If we keep exposing it to the same type of problems day in and day out, it will become weak in other areas.
Below are a few ideas to give your brain a broader work out.
- If you work predominently with words, like I do – find mathematical games, puzzles, and even workbooks to challenge your mind in an area that one can get soft in FAST. I speaketh from experience.
- Another mathematically-inclined exercise for those of us who are anything but mathematically-inclinded: When shopping, keep a mental running tab of what you’ve spent. Round to the nearest dollar if you have to.
- If your job doesn’t involve a great deal of writing, get back in touch with this discipline. Start a journal, even, recording each day’s events. Write as though you’re writing an autobiographical account that others will read. In other words, no LOL’s, btw’s, or blah, blah, blah’s.
- Make it a point to learn a new word each day. Buy a desk calendar with this very thing in mind.
- Give the creative part of your mind a great workout by taking up a new craft such as woodworking, candle-making, sewing (I’m dying to learn how to make candles and would love to take sewing up again – but, time??), knitting, paint by number, etc. Look in the arts and crafts section of your favorite department store. There’s so much fun just waiting to happen!
- My favorite way to give the creative part of my mind a workout is in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking and find that it can be a very rewarding way to express yourself and to even stretch the creative envelope.
When endeavoring to call upon your brain cells more often, never underestimate listening to other people. Whether they’re telling you about their day at work, in class, on the golf course, or even watching a movie – you never know what gems they’ll throw in your lap. As Brian Koval said, “Lessons are where you look for them. You can learn something from anyone.” So keep your eyes, ears, and mind open!
“Discovery consists in seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
Never make the mistake of thinking that you’ve learned all there is to learn or that you can’t possibly grow any more. As long as you never get overly satisfied with who you are, you’ll continue to grow. In the words of B. Copeland, “Life is now in session. Are you present?”
I’ve added a few more “steps” to the Daily Steps in Self Confidence lessons.