Each day without even thinking about it, we walk, lift, bend and breathe. Whole-body fitness includes exercising our minds. Without strong brains, we face cognitive decline. Exercising the brain not only strengthens neural pathways but also builds new ones. Neural pathways are where our memories live. The goal is to strengthen pathways with good habits, thoughts and actions.
Here are some tips I recommend for exercising your brain and creating strong pathways.
Mind. Working on puzzles can improve your mental speed and short-term memory. Study a foreign language or build your vocabulary by learning a new word each day. This will improve concentration and focus and even helps develop new areas of your mind. Read something engaging to activate not only the part of your brain that comprehends words, but also areas of your brain where imagination thrives. Your mind can travel in the pages of a great book. You can also travel to somewhere you have never been! Traveling and experiencing new places is thought to improve and increase mental stimulation.
Soul. Have relationships with people who lift your mind higher. Smile more. Appreciate simple things like wildflowers, birds, wildlife or moving clouds. Express gratitude. Practice mindfulness. Although it is called mind-ful-ness, this is the art of making your mind less full. Why does this help? When you are in a deep state of meditation, mindfulness or prayer, this slows down brain activity. This restful time helps our brains increase their own plasticity because while you are resting, your brain isn't. Your brain is actually reorganizing itself. This is a healthy way to exercise your mind while also resting your body. You should also breathe with intention. Breathing not only transports healthy oxygen to our brains, it also ignites electrical activity which helps us remember things. Take a moment right now — yes, right now — and try some deep breathing and focus on the moment you are in. We do not breathe fully as much as we should. Try to take in deep breaths to the count of five, hold five, and release five at least five times a day. The oxygen is so nourishing to our brains. There is some research that says even just 30 minutes of simple meditation and breathing can increase the amount and density of gray matter in our brains. The gray stuff is the part of the brain that is most associated with learning.
Body. Exercise your physical body. Your brain is part of your body and exercise is not only good for your exterior, but it is also good for your brain. How? When you increase your heart rate and blood flow, you actually release more oxygen to the cells that live in your brain. Take a quiet walk. Notice things all around you when you are walking. It is not about the destination, but the journey. The
Power Of Music. It has been said that if you want to firm up your body, head to the gym. If you want to exercise your brain, listen to music. I would like to suggest that music can be intertwined in all of the above. Music is a very important part of my life and can also help you exercise your wholeness. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, music provides a total brain workout. Their research has shown that listening to music reduces anxiety, blood pressure and pain, as well as improves sleep quality, mood, mental alertness and memory. “There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does,” says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.” Brain pathways strengthen when they are used and diminish when they are not. According to Harvard, music activates all brain regions and networks. They further explored that listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion and reward. In two recent studies (USA and Japan), it was explored that music not only helps our minds recollect stored memories, but it also helps us forge new pathways to create new and lasting memories.