By: Megan Piersol, DPT
There are many ways that you can help keep your brain healthy with just daily activities. When you start doing the same thing over and over again, the brain turns to auto-pilot and tends to not have to stay sharp or work as hard. Ever drive home and realize that you weren’t paying attention and just went through all the motions? That’s your brain on auto pilot. Your brain needs “change ups” to help keep it working better and healthy. A few tips to keep your brain sharp are as follows (understand that the options are endless and using imagination is even better!):
Take different routes on your way to and from work or other destinations you travel frequently.
Use your opposite hand to do things such as eating, brushing your teeth, texting, playing a game or sport, etc. As an added bonus, eating with your opposite hand will make you eat slower and you will be less likely to over indulge and will pace yourself better.
Change up your workout routine. Exercise is a healthy way to keep your brain working better. Studies have indicated that 5-10 (some say 30) minutes after a good cardio routine is the best time to study or teach your brain something new. After exercise, your brain is saturated with blood and ready to learn. There is a reason that CA schools adopted the “Health Start???” Program where kids exercise before going to class. Changing up your work outs will also help the work out stay fun and less boring. If your brain gets bored or used to the same thing over again, it just goes through the motions and you lose the benefits. There are several ways to work one group of muscles, so find new exercises to work towards improving the muscle(s) you are wanting.
Work on puzzles (jigsaw and/or crosswords), scavenger hunts, mazes, and other things that create a mental challenge to the brain.
Read. This might be best done from an actual book. Yes, they still exist. If you stare at a computer all day and then stare at a tablet to read, your eyes will fatigue and your brain will be more “unfocused.” Whatever you use to read a book, make sure you stay out of that slouched posture and don't hike your shoulders!
Explore a new area. Pick a town/city and just spend the day walking around exploring the sites.
Get lost! Try to find your way back without help. You might find new paths you would have never taken and sites you would have never seen.
Put your phone away and engage with that person next to you. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from a person.
Pick a topic and research it. Go further and teach your new found knowledge to someone.
Hand write a letter to someone and see if you can keep it going. It will also keep that excitement of having to wait for something.
These are just a few suggestions. The options are endless. The more you provide your brain with exercise, fun challenges, new discoveries, and variety, the healthier it will be.