How to Strengthen Your Mind
Written by Joe Zhou
Brain health isn’t really something we prioritise when we think about getting fit -- in fact, “brain training” is something we take for granted entirely. We tend to focus our attention and efforts on losing excess weight, getting observable muscle “gains,” or even improving our gut health with healthier diets, but do we ever stop to consider how to strengthen our minds?
After all, those aforementioned fitness goals don’t mean much if you don’t have a strong and healthy brain able to not just sustain your daily life, but to take your learning, memory, and concentration to new levels. This is essentially what making your mind stronger is all about: gently coaxing your brain to function at its best, and letting you reap the benefits.
Yes, it is possible to push your brain to greater heights. One of its greatest properties is its plasticity: Your brain is constantly adapting, making new neural pathways and connections, thereby making it stronger yet more flexible at the same time. While it’s true that aging slows down some of these neural processes, you can stave off common signs of aging or even degenerative diseases by strengthening your mind today.
Here’s how you can coax your brain to function at its highest capacity. It isn’t about getting smarter (research is a little thin on that ground), but about truly living -- being able to focus on what’s important, remembering things that matter most to you, and growing more and more each day. You can’t do any of those things without building a strong brain!
Be a lifelong student. (Brain Boosted)
Research shows that learning something new helps push your brain to become stronger. Deeper, more meaningful connections can be made in your lobes and you’re able to improve focus, alertness, memory-making, and information retention by constantly keeping your brain in Learning mode. Some ways you can do this:
- Set aside some time each day to read up on topics that interest you. World history, biographies, even the latest pop culture trends and news -- these all count.
- Ask a friend to school you on their passion, be it yoga, chess, or baking their grandma’s famous banana bread.
- Learn a new game. It’s never too late to master chess or bridge!
- Pick up a new hobby. Painting, completing crossword puzzles, or sewing are all simple ways to stimulate your brain.
- Shadow someone at work. Learning more aspects of your job outside of your experience will only make you more well-rounded.
- Learn a new language.
Shake yourself up out of your routine. (Brain Boosted)
One of the things your brain does best is recognize patterns. It makes them, and perfects them. That being said, there’s a lot to be gained by breaking out your regular routine. This “shakes” your brain up and activates other parts of your brain, forcing them into service when they’ve probably been sleeping. This leads to more new patterns and associations -- aka, more growth. Growth is good!
How to wake your brain up:
- Challenge yourself to write with your non-dominant hand.
- Sign up for an online class on a subject you never thought you’d pick up (or were always a little intimidated by).
- Learn a recipe from an exotic cuisine you’re intrigued by.
- Have sex a different way -- do it in a different part of the house or try a new position.
- Volunteer and spend time at an animal shelter if you don’t have pets at home.
- Change your bath soap or perfume -- seems minor, but our brains are highly sensitive to smells.
- Attend a live musical performance or watch a play.
- Make a new friend, or reconnect with an old one, over a cup of coffee.
- Travel! Introduce your brain to new sights, sounds, tastes, and perspectives.
Learn how to meditate. Mindfulness is an ancient practice that thrives to this day, simply because of its proven benefits. Learning how to meditate, even with the use of apps and YouTube videos, can greatly increase your brain’s capacity for focus and concentration. You’re giving your brain a chance of “recovering” from all the stimuli you’ve subjected it to, while clearing it of stress and anxiety -- things that can derail your mind’s full strength.