Six habits to keep your mind sharp

It might seem like by doing a lot of things every day, perhaps even more than what we can or should do, the daily whirlwind of activity keeps our mind in shape, but in reality, many times we confuse hyperactivity and exhaustion with having a well-toned and exercised mind.

For that reason, moving forward we will propose six easy habits to keep your mind healthy so that you can actively and readily tackle your daily challenges without drastically altering the organization of your day.  If you try these techniques, bit by bit, they will have a positive impact on your health.

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Practice some type of intellectual activity.  We all know how exhausting our daily lives can be and how, upon arriving home every night, the remote control of the TV offers sweet relief.  Sometimes, watching TV, and especially watching a lighthearted program that simply entertains us, is a good way of liberating pressure in our churning minds.

That being said, it is important that you include in your daily routine some kind of activity that stimulates a deeper level of thought than just pure entertainment.  Reading is the classic example of an activity that asks of you a higher level of cognitive effort while still serving the same purpose of entertainment.

Don’t worry, though.  To stimulate your mind, you don’t have to wrestle with some dusty novel that you don’t understand; you can choose a book that you find interesting, and you can spend a bit of time reading it each day wherever you find the time.  On the other hand, you can also engage in other activities that you might more typically complete in a sunbathed lounge chair; you can try your hand at children’s crossword puzzles or take on enormous sudoku puzzles.

You always have the option of visiting exhibitions or museums, trying an activity that you’ve never attempted, or even watching captivating documentaries or movies about themes that interest you, if you can’t resist the urge to watch television.

How much time has passed since you last went to a theater and saw some time of show?  Doesn’t now seem like the perfect time to do so?  On top of being really gratifying, it is also a good way of being active in a way that differentiates the pursuit from just feebly flicking the TV remote with your fingers.

Meditate.  We have already talked about meditation many times on this website.  Exercising your capacity to consciously attend to your internal and external realities is a habit that, aside from its pleasant effects, has a positive impact on your cerebral activity.  With repeated practice, meditation even benefits some facets of your mood and personality.

Remember that the practice of mindfulness influences the focus that you utilize to judge and evaluate the happenings of your daily life.  Mindfulness lets you calm the jungle of your thoughts and increase your happiness, improving your daily interactions and relationships.  It also improves your performance because it increases the clarity of your thoughts and permits you to better process the information that you receive.  Yes, meditating is more than just sitting in silence to see what happens; meditation is about connecting with yourself by devoting your full attention to how you are feeling in a way that allows you to refine your mind.

Train your creativity.  Knit, change up your furniture, make a gift for someone with your own hands, do some drawing (which can actually serve a meditative purpose), cook something new (and something easy, if you’re a beginner).  All of these are activities that can help you to stay in top mental shape.

Don’t delegate all of your responsibilities to other people.  Simple habits like keeping yourself busy by doing your own shopping and feeding yourself foods that take more effort than just buying a sandwich are helpful because they require more forethought and effort in their execution.  These habits are more sophisticated than they seem, and for that reason, they keep you on your toes!

 

Think about new projects: a museum that you’d like to visit, a trip that you have in mind (whether for a day, a weekend, or a week), a course that you’d like to take … Consider reasonable challenges that are sufficiently complex to pique your interest.  Once you have them in mind, take a shot at them!  We insist!  Do something that you’ve never done before, even if your adventure only takes you to an unfamiliar part of your city.  (You might not have gone because you haven’t heard of anything interesting to do there, but maybe something has changed, or in any case, maybe today’s the day when your neurons crave a dose of novelty.) Exploring the unknown, literally and figuratively, is a form of being creative.

-Keep your house clean and organized: furniture, papers, clothing, kitchenware.  No, this doesn’t mean obsessing with even the tiniest bit of lint on the floor, nor revisiting the nightmares of adolescence when your most mortal sin was to leave your bed unmade and your clothes strewn around your room.

Keeping clean is something more subtle.  The order of our exterior world, that is to say, the space that we occupy and inhabit, is often a faithful reflection of the order of our internal word.  Thus, we all know that our messiness is a kind of paradoxical organization of things in which everything has its own assigned space.  Miraculously, you know exactly where everything is … right until it takes you an hour to find that pesky shirt that felt like hiding from you, and right up to the point when you need to locate an envelope so that you can send your urgent piece of mail.

Admit it: if the placement of objects in your house makes sense, the impact that it has on your mind (and mood!) is much more positive than if the sensation that you get from your surroundings is one of dirtiness, carelessness, and chaos.  For that reason, from the fridge to your writing desk, from your bed to your sofa, maintaining an acceptable level of order and cleanliness will help you to find yourself better and be more efficient.  And, of course, it’ll help you find your possessions more easily, too.

Have an active social life. It’s an old axiom of psychology that the human being is the most complete stimulus that ever existed … above all else, for other human beings.  The sense of that statement has lots of applications, and one of them has to do with health.  Yes, as you’ve heard, mental health has an effect on one’s relationships with friends, family, and partners, etc.

A bit of solitude is great, and in fact, it is important that you know how to spend time by yourself without anxiously seeking the company of others.  However, especially if you’re a person who tends to spend a lot of time alone, you should remember that human interaction is one of the things that best greases the wheels of the complex machinery that is our brain.

On the other hand, there’s no doubt that communicating with your pet and enjoying the time that you spend together is wonderful … but don’t lose perspective.  Talk with people, dedicate time to them, share activities (preferably pleasant ones) with people like you.  Reflective silence is marvelous, but we human beings are designed to converse and help one another.  Continual and gratifying social contact is a really healthy habit.  When you deal with other people, you open up the possibility of learning new things, enjoying yourself, receiving help, and getting to know new places.  Interpersonal connection, in any form, is one of the simplest and most natural methods of stimulating our minds.

-Play a sport!  Sports, on top of entertaining you, exhausting you, modifying your body, and facilitating human interaction, also modify your body on the inside.  And no, we’re not just talking about your cardiorespiratory capacity or the strength of your muscle fibers.  Instead, we’re referring to the effects that those miles on the treadmill have on your brain.

Remember that physical exercise, especially if it’s intense, promotes the secretion of a series of chemical substances that act as neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in your body that carry information between neurons.  Technically, the brain isn’t a muscle that you can train in the same manner in which you’d swell your biceps by lifting weights, but the brain too is an organ that you can exercise and keep in shape through controlled, appropriate physical exercise.

These are only six ideas that can help you to keep you can mind in shape.  We encourage you to practice them, and if you find them insufficient, you can find more techniques that will help you to sharpen your mind.  Your health will notice these changes, and so will the people around you.

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