People are so quick to remind us about the importance of physical exercise and to even look down on us when we don't practice it regularly. But what about mental exercises? We're just as dysfunctional with an underexercised, unhealthy mind as we are with an unexercised, unhealthy body— if not more dysfunctional.
Take it from someone whose wheels weren't turning for a long time, getting stuck in your ways and forgetting to challenge your mind to learn and grow can most DEFINITELY result in a less productive and less positive lifestyle. You end up just going through the motions on autopilot rather than experiencing, processing, and learning to your most full potential.
If you're looking to self-improve when it comes to intelligence, memory, positivity, and more, try adding these 13 simple brain exercises to your daily routine:
1. Keep a journal.
There are so many reasons to keep a journal. One being our memories morph and dissipate over time and this gives us a way to keep them straight. Another is that this practice allows you to look back at the end of each six months or year and track your self-progression.
2. Write down a few simple goals each day, complete them and cross them off.
According to sources including ForbesBooks, goal setting is a great influence for a positive mind and positive self-image. Putting goals out there not only creates accountability to oneself and peers but also gives you the opportunity to complete them successfully, resulting in a confidence boost.
3. Read a book.
Read the story of your favorite movie or make your way through a written biography instead of watching a documentary. Though we can learn lots from a film, the Huffington Post and countless others remind us that the many mental benefits of reading from a paper book include things like keeping our minds sharp with age, improving our vocabulary and spelling, helping us become more empathetic in our everyday lives, and NOT keeping our minds up at night like reading from a phone or tablet would.
4. Switch things up when it comes to your daily routine.
Routine can be great for keeping our lives in order, but it has also been said to leave our minds lazy and even "kill creativity." So switch it up just a bit! Do your morning routine in a different order, drive a different way to work, sit in a different chair at the dinner table, or try a new place for lunch instead of the place where you're a regular.
5. Replace a portion of the time you spend on social media with time spent on simple brain games.
Even if it's just for 15 minutes, do a fun-themed crossword puzzle or play trivia on your phone instead of scrolling through social media for the 1,000th time that day. "Even just taking a stab at a crossword puzzle or taking online quizzes that challenge your mind, can help build cognitive reserves," says Dr. Jennifer Wolkin, a New York City-based clinical neuropsychologist.
6. Keep a gratitude journal.
Or, if you already keep a journal, add a daily gratitude log at the end of each entry. There are so many benefits to reminding yourself that you have things to be thankful grateful for, including developing a more positive mindset and discovering the most positive aspects of your life that you should pour more time and energy into.
7. Experiment with yoga and/or meditation.
According to an article by Harvard Health Publishing, yoga can help to reduce both physical and emotional pain. Meditation goes hand in hand with yoga as well and only increases the number of ways this activity can be a positive one for you to work into your life. And don't let meditation intimidate you - this can be as simple as silently calming your mind and body for five minutes.
8. Challenge yourself to learn at least one new thing every day.
Whether it's a new skill you're working on like playing the guitar, a government situation you're looking to educate yourself or learning to sew or simply discovering an interesting fact, learning something new will keep your brain alert.
9. Practice attentive listening.
Think and process what someone is saying to you even if the conversation seems short and meaningless. Wait until someone finishes their full thought before you respond. This will help to increase your chances of learning something you didn't know before, building a relationship with someone you didn't know before, and strengthening an already existing relationship.
10. Practice speaking in a different language - even just the basics.
Neuroscientist Dr. Mariano Sigman and many other scientists back the idea that being bilingual betters our minds by making us more empathetic, better at socializing, and more able to see multiple points of view. In addition, it keeps our wheels turning by challenging us to continue learning and adapting.
11. Fit music into your day.
Music is one of the few activities that engages both sides of the brain simultaneously. According to the article "36 Proven Ways to Improve Your Memory" by researcher, author, and biologist Deane Alban, listening to music positively impacts memory, focus, attention, language skills and physical coordination. Instrumental music, in particular, can bring you these benefits. So, try adding it to your workout routine, playing it while you cook or listening to it on your morning commute and then letting your mind wander.
12. Talk to a stranger.
This goes along with attentive listening. If a stranger says something you're interested in and seems open to a conversation, begin one. If someones wearing something you like, compliment it and ask them where they got it. Talking to strangers can bring new people into your life, and with new people come new perspectives and ideas to listen to and consider.
13. Write articles/blog.
This one is a more personal tip. Writing articles like this one has helped me to grow in my own thoughts so much. Challenging my brain to come up with interesting, original and relatable article topics keeps my mind working. Doing research on my selected topic causes me to discover new facts I wasn't aware of before. Finally, the physical writing not only helps me to formulate thoughts and put my thoughts into words but also allows me to practice my spelling and editing skills. I'd suggest it to anyone who is even slightly intrigued by writing!