The six pillars of brain health are food and nutrition, sleep and relaxation, physical and medical health, social interaction, mental fitness and physical fitness.
Looking specifically at our mind and how to keep it strong and healthy for optimal brain health is one of the six pillars of brain health called Mental Fitness. This article will provide five suggestions for improving your mental fitness.
The health of our brain is dependent upon its mental fitness. Think of mental fitness as you would physical fitness. Just as strength training with weights builds physical muscle, mental training with cognitive activities builds mental muscle.
It has long been proven that being a lifelong learner protects the brain from cognitive decline. There are several ways you can challenge your brain and strengthen the mental muscles.
- Consider the arts; music, paintings, immersive museums and cultural activities are all intellectually stimulating. Further expand these experiences by being curious and asking questions to understand more completely. This stretches your mental muscles and expands your knowledge.
- Brain games like word puzzles, Sudoku and other challenging puzzles are helpful at keeping your mind sharp.
- There are some very simple ways to challenge your brain that will get those mental muscles in shape. Try brushing your teeth with the other hand, take a different route to work or take your daily walk in reverse order- for instance if you always turn left out of your driveway try turning right instead. Notice how different the scenery looks.
- Because our day-to-day life is so left brain dominated, we could benefit from some right brain stimulation. The right side of the brain understands color and imagination, feelings and fantasy. Reading a story that transports you to another world is a great way to shut off conscious thought and allow your mind to roam among the fantasy. Video games, drawing, crafting or coloring are great for stimulating your right brain.
- Lastly, mindfulness and meditation are superior ways to not only calm your mind, but strengthen the mental muscles. Meditation is simply focused awareness. Being able to sit quietly just observing your thoughts for instance is one way to challenge your brain. This practice helps to calm the mind and allows you to become more aware of your thoughts. The more you practice being mindful, the easier it becomes.