You’re working hard at a rewarding career. You’re settled, more or less, in a longtime relationship, and enjoy a fulfilling social life. Life in general is going great. Or is it? Could it be that your mind is stagnating?
The brain is an organ and, as such, it requires oxygen and exercise. Feed your mind and you’ll feel emotionally and physically invigorated. It may be too soon to succumb to middle-aged worries about “using it or losing it,” however, it’s still critical to focus on keeping your brain in shape.
By continually engaging in the right activities, you can increase your memory, improve your problem-solving skills and even boost your creativity. Here are some fun ways to keep your mind active.
1. Grab a cue and play pool.
Rack ‘em up, grab a cue and contemplate on your strategy. Billiard players must focus on the immediate, blocking out distractions as they plan their next moves. Strategic planning increases mental clarity. Concentrating on the immediate helps keep your mind sharp. Additionally, this game of angles demands that players think in terms of physics, something most of us rarely do in our everyday lives.
2. Calm down with yoga.
You might be surprised at how demanding yoga can be. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities. Yoga forces you to focus on controlling all your muscles and your breathing. You’ll let your worries slide away, giving your mind a rest from stress.
3. Play golf in the fresh air.
Escape to the links and spend a few hours in the fresh air counting birdies, bogeys and mulligans. Golf is a social sport and a great way to network and loosen up at the same time. Golfers get mental stimulation using their decision-making skills as they plan stroke strategies. As the sport involves the control of repetitive movements, it instills mind-body discipline.
4. Lace up your running shoes.
Lace up your jogging shoes and get moving. Even if you never plan to run a marathon, it will get both your body and mind in shape. Running will boost the levels of oxygen in your brain and flowing through your body. In turn, your body will release more endorphins, which will make you feel energized while producing a sense of pleasure and well-being.
5. Challenge a friend to a game.
Challenge a friend to a game of chess at lunch. Invite colleagues over for an evening of cards. Besides the social aspects, such activities will keep your mind active. You’ll use your memory and expand your powers of recall. You’ll also test your mathematical skills and logic.
6. Subscribe to a daily newsletter.
Whether it’s a “word of the day,” “quote of the day” or “this day in history” newsletter, receiving new information each day will add data to the HD (hard drive) in your head. The mental stimulation will increase your comprehension skills. The added knowledge will also make you sound more worldly and bright.
7. Pick up a book.
Choose from classic literature, science fiction or self-improvement books and give your brain a boost. Pick up a novel before your next business flight or vacation. On top of the cerebral benefits, the escapism that comes from reading can be very refreshing. Reading helps you exercise your cognitive skills and increase your vocabulary. Do it regularly and you’ll be amazed at the information you absorb, which will make you a more interesting conversationalist.
8. Take a course.
Learn something new. Sign up for a cooking class, register for karate training or enroll in a wine tasting seminar. You’ll be challenging yourself to assimilate new concepts, information and ideas, and you’ll hone your retention skills through memorization.
9. Learn a new language.
Attend classes, listen to tapes or date someone with whom you can converse in another language. Instead of watching the same TV programs you always do, take in a foreign language movie with subtitles. Learning a new tongue keeps your brain flexible and your mind sharp, helping to reduce the slowing of the thought processes that comes with age. It can also make your next vacation or business trip easier if you know the language.
10. Grab the controller.
As I mentioned in previous articles, believe it or not, playing certain video games really can be good for your health. The operative word here, however, is “certain” — choose games that involve strategy or problem solving. Playing GTA may be stimulating, but it doesn’t do much for the mind. Problem solving and role-playing games will help you practice strategic planning. You’ll also improve your hand-eye coordination.
11. Rent a classic movie.
Rent Shakespearean adaptations or other language-heavy period movies and treat them as an exercise; watch them with a dictionary and thesaurus in hand and make a point of understanding all the dialogue, even if it means pausing the movie chronically. Some options: Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet.
12. Learn an instrument.
Pull out your old guitar, sign up for piano lessons or rent a trumpet or a clarinet. Trying to understand how music is made will stimulate your creativity. Reading music provides mental stimulation. Playing an instrument requires powers of recall as well as concentration to maintain tune and tempo.
13. Build a model.
Remember how excited you were as a kid making model airplanes and ships? Recreate that by building a miniature model. Following all those written instructions sharpens your powers of concentration. Focusing on the task at hand will also be very relaxing.
14. Do a crossword.
Stick the newspaper crossword puzzle in your briefcase, then get to work on it during your commute or while you’re waiting for an appointment or a meeting to begin. You’ll improve your cognitive skills and creative thinking as well as your word power and vocabulary.
15. Engage in a debate.
A lively discussion can be invigorating. As long as you avoid letting it digress into an altercation, you can have a lot of fun debating the pros and cons of an issue with a friend or colleague. You’ll practice your quick-thinking skills, logic and creativity. Developing convincing theories on the spot will help you in your career and in your personal relationships.
Use your cognitive skills, test your powers of recall, improve your memory, and challenge yourself to be more creative in your thinking. You’ll reap great brain-boosting benefits by keeping your mind active.
“The mind is like a trunk: if well-packed, it holds almost every thing; if ill-packed, next to nothing.”