My grandmother always used to talk to me about mental fitness. She was an avid Bridge player, crossword puzzler, and stage actress memorizing pages of dialogue. Living into her nineties she stayed sharp as a tack. It’s in her honor that I’m starting on these habits at a young age. Just as any physical muscle in our body, it’s so important to exercise our brains. Not to go all ‘mom’ on you, but I wholeheartedly believe that screen-staring isn’t doing much good. So, whether done on a daily or weekly basis, I’ve come up with these five mental fitness activities that help me stay mind-healthy.
Let me just say that my math skills are abysmal but I manage to do (and love) sudoku. What I enjoy about either word or number puzzles is the fact that they force my brain to work in unusual ways. I have to think outside the box, rework answers, and be deliberate with how they’re completed. If you don’t get newspapers delivered, it’s easy to find online printable versions (here + here).
Even if you’re not at a Whitney Houston level of talent, stick with me here. Music is tremendously important for our cognitive development. While I was pregnant with Colton my friends, nurses, and doctors would recommend I either sing or have music playing a lot. From my understanding, it teaches patterns, instills rhythm, and somehow assists in ordering that rapidly-developing brain. But those benefits don’t stop at infancy. So pop in headphones, sing in the shower (everyone sounds good there), or drum up a new Spotify playlist to keep your mind churning.
I will lay it all out there and say that this is the hardest one for me. Screen reading is easiest, most convenient, and doesn’t feel like a real commitment. But those benefits become negatives when I’m more distracted, not fully invested, and straining my eyes at night. Lately I’ve been trying to pick up some friend-recommended reads and devote some chunk of time to flipping those pages.
learning one new thing each week
No need to go sign up for a college course, this one is simpler than it sounds. When it comes to learning something new each week, that could mean watching a YouTube video or trying some fun recipe. I like that this mental fitness activity breaks me from routine and, similar to sudoku, gets my brain working in different ways. (Note: Ted Talks are a great way to meet this goal!)
Whether you pray or just take time to rest and be still, I can’t speak more strongly to the practice of meditation. If I’ve gone days without my quiet time it’s very apparent. I find myself more easily agitated or frustrated by things. While this habit can be hard to work in with a baby, I’ve finally gotten around to making it my priority. If you feel you need some assistance in ‘being still’ try a breathing app on your phone.
What are some other ways you practice mental fitness in your own life?