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Stimulate Your Brain Through Fun Mental Exercises

brain exercise

Your brain is undoubtedly one of the most important organs in your body. It keeps you functioning on a daily basis and it controls everything. Sounds, sight, taste, hearing, touch, emotions, breathing, thoughts, and movement only begin to scratch the surface of what the brain manages. Remarkably, the brain is not stagnant. Throughout the course of your life, the brain will continue to grown and adapt, but that only occurs when you use it. Like other muscles and organs in your body, the more you use your brain, the stronger it will become. And just like those other groups, exercise is the best way to accomplish that.

Understanding The Brain

Although it only weighs around three pounds, the brain holds an estimated 100 billion cells with just as many connections. Consisting primarily of neurons, those brain cells spit out specific chemicals, or transmitters, to reach and trigger other neurons.  Those reactions continue over and over again, controlling all voluntary and involuntary reactions of the body. In fact, the brain is never truly turned off. Although parts of it rest, some involuntary reactions (like breathing) are continuous throughout the day and night.

The common myth is that the brain is fully developed at the time of birth, similar to other organs like the stomach or the heart. Although most of the cells are created at that time, the connections are not. The brain continually makes new connections throughout your life, particularly through infancy and early childhood. This is why meaningful interactions and experiences are so critical for young children. Because of the rate they learn, a three-year old’s brain activity can typically be twice the amount of an adult’s when they are compared.

Brain growth and development is not limited to infancy and childhood though, and it should not be treated as such. As an adolescent, the frontal lobe of the brain experiences a surge of development caused by internal stimuli. They will see an increase in physical growth, emotional responses, and of course, puberty. The transition from adolescent to adult also exhibits a time of brain development, although this time it is led by external stimuli. As an adult, the main factor of brain growth is plasticity, or the ability of your brain to respond and adapt to new experiences. These can occur physically, mentally, or emotionally; you just have to seek ways to keep your brain engaged and experience the world around you.

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Exercise the Brain Physically

You already know the many, many benefits you can receive from daily exercise. Better sleep, overall health, and fitness simply scratch the surface of the advantages your body receives; but, the benefits are not limited to the body. Your brain will benefit as well. Research indicates those that regularly exercise show less shrinkage of neural connections throughout areas of the brain that are crucial to learning, memory, and transmitting from cell to cell. Of course, any type of exercise is good; however, there are specific exercises to benefit certain areas of the brain.

  • Yoga and Pilates
    • The quiet, meditative regimen of yoga and Pilates promotes deep breathing, which feeds oxygen to your brain. It can leave you more alert, focused, and mentally refreshed.
  • Weightlifting, coordination and balance exercises
    • Exercises requiring you to focus on multiple tasks at the same time increase brain power and mental clarity.
  • Aerobic exercise
    • Recent research indicates participation in aerobic exercise at least twice a week triggers the neural connectivity which may increase the ability strengthen and correct a variety of mental deficiencies.

Exercise the Brain Mentally

Mental activities are another way to exercise the brain and increase neural connectivity. In lab studies, participants who engage in challenging the brain strengthen the connections and keep them from shrinking. Cognitive functioning increases and memory improves through consistent mental activities. This mostly occurs through activities that tweak and test your every day routines. Challenge yourself to mentally workout your brain.

  • Develop new skills.
    • Make it a point to learn something new such as languages, hobbies, musical instruments, and even sports.
  • Switch things up.
    • Use your non-dominant hand for daily tasks. Try to read your book upside down or left to right.
  • Use new senses.
    • Along with switching things up, try to use different senses. Turn the volume of the TV down and complete the dialogue or follow the action using the visuals only.
  • Experience and practice new things.
    • Anytime you have the opportunity to do something new, take it. See new things, even if that means taking a different route on the way to the store. Visit with people or study something new.

Exercise the Brain Emotionally

Neural connections are also strengthened through emotions, and emotional connections involve interacting with people. Positive emotions naturally release chemicals that stimulate your brain and keep you in a positive state.

  • Socialize
    • Take some time to socialize with your friends and maybe meet some new people.
  • Get involved.
    • Join your local civic, church, or community organizations.

The chart below offers a great visual way to find an activity and determine the type of workout you will receive.

Activity

Physical

Mental

Emotional

Walking with a friend

X

X

Play computer games

X

Read a variety of books

X

Memorize lists

X

Write your memoir

X

X

Work math problems

X

Learn new words

X

Play word games

X

Put puzzles together

X

X

Learn to play a musical instrument

X

X

X

Vary your routes

X

X

Turn off the TV

X

X

Throw away your calculator

X

Unfold your paper map

X

X

Fire up the romance

X

X

Switch your hands

X

X

Have a conversation

X

X

The human body has an amazing capacity and is designed to do way more than just physical activities. Your brain is the central manager for your entire body, including your physical well-being as well as your emotional and mental health. You have a responsibility to yourself to take care of every aspect of your body, including your brain. So, tune in and fire up your connections. Exercise your brain for your overall well-being.

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One comment

  1. Coming from a site with a decidedly Christian bent, I was shocked to see an article advocating pagan worship. While many think of yoga as simply exercise, the reality is that it is a pagan religious practice that worships various Hindu gods and goddesses; although admittedly corrupted by western influences.

    If you have any doubt, do the research. Here are a couple of quotes from http://www.yogajournal.com. This is site that promotes the use of yoga.
    “In the language of yoga, however, the major deities of the Indian tradition are literally aspects, or faces, of the one divine reality. Indian tradition worships reality as a single seamless whole, in which the Divine is not only transcendent and formless but also layered into the cellular structure of the world and capable of taking personal forms. Deities like Krishna, Shiva, Durga, Rama, and Lakshmi, according to this tradition, are more than symbols.”

    “According to Tantra, kundalini energy rests like a coiled serpent at the base of the spine.”

    Perhaps we should avoid the serpent. Eve listened to the serpent, and things did not work out too well for her.

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