Numerous (almost innumerable) medical studies throughout the decades have revealed that the more active you keep your mind, the greater your mind will function in the years to come. The mind isn’t a “muscle,” however, it is an organ that can be developed, conditioned, and exercised in order to carry out preventative maintenance. Your risk factors for decreased cognitive function are improper diet, consumption of alcohol and/or legal or illegal drugs, inadequate sleep, overwork, and high stressors.
Meditation (as outlined in numerous articles at ReadyNutrition) is a way to help your mind overcome the stressors, and I had recommended it at least twice per day: once in the morning, and once in the evening. Meditation can be in complete silence, or listening to quiet, soothing, relaxing music. I may not have mentioned it before, so I will add regarding music that it should be instrumental in nature. The music should be of a type that is soothing and relaxing without any words. The reason for this is that lyrics and words tend to steer your mind toward something and make it think in a manner that is not necessarily relaxing.
When you listen to light or soft classical music, or musical instruments with soft tones and no singing, you free your mind from the human “word,” so to speak: you don’t introduce into your mind something that will cause it to focus upon or associate it with a concept embodied within the word or words. Meditation is a time for your mind to escape from the confines of day-to-day activity and to relax, not be channeled into some form that limits it and perhaps even adds more stress by associating thoughts that are negative with a word that may happen to pop up in the song with lyrics.
So, that is what can be done to relax your mind. Now let us discuss what you can do to strengthen it. Some things may interest you, and some may not. You’ll have to decide for yourself. Reading is very beneficial to mental acumen. When you get up in the morning, it can be a very productive stimulus toward beginning the day. When you go to bed, reading just before going to sleep can help you to fall asleep more quickly and smoothly. Before I go to sleep, I try not to read anything that can be classified as “current event” oriented, or day-to-day news/problematic. I try to read short stories and light fare that enable my mind to rest. Perhaps this will work for you. Short stories by Jack London, or Ray Bradbury, or such are some ideas.
Next, we have exercises that we can perform mentally. Crossword puzzles, word quiz books, mathematics problems, and word trivia books are excellent tools to use to fine-hone your mental “gymnastics” and practice “exercising” your brain. Research this on your own, but it is proven that such things help to strengthen your thought processes and “work” your brain productively. They stimulate mental activity. The brain has billions of cells and neurons that in many ways “atrophy” from lack of use, misuse, or abuse, the latter especially when drugs or alcohol are introduced into your system.
It is part of your preparedness for your later years…not just right now, while you’re young and either resemble Payton Manning or Emily Blunt in youth and strength. You’re doing these things to prepare for later, to keep your mind healthy later in life. When you do these word challenges, keep a dictionary beside you and look up any word that you don’t know or understand. In addition to strengthening your mind, you will be increasing your vocabulary and learning new things.
Just as a “matter of fact,” I tend to pick up the dictionary each day and look up words…either to confirm what I already know, or to find a new one that I haven’t heard or one that I’ve forgotten about. Inadvertently, I always end up looking at multiple definitions and cross-referencing what I was originally searching for with other words in the dictionary. A good dictionary has a wealth of information right at your fingertips.
Word games such as “Boggle” or “Scrabble” are games you can play with your family to work on the concept as a team. It is a cheap but productive way to spend an evening, and translates into true quality family time. In addition, you are all going to benefit from the increased vocabulary use (especially the kids), and the fun of challenging one another with the words. In this last case, a “weird” word is attempted and you find out whether it is really a legitimate word or not by using the dictionary. I stress it is not a way to “kill” time, but a way to invest your time in something that is worthwhile.
So, present challenges to yourself each day that are beneficial challenges with the development of your mental acumen. Sharpen each other’s “iron,” and you’ll find that your mind will work better and more efficiently. It is something that will benefit you both in the short term, and in the long run. Take care of one another! JJ out!