One of the side-effects of the quarantine has been a renewed emphasis on physical exercise at home. And rightfully so. Being confined, especially in the earlier days of quarantine, meant that we lost a lot of our daily activities. But as important as physical activity is to your health, it’s also important to actively exercise your mind.
A study of close to 3,000 participants over the age of 65 showed that cognitive training resulted in “experiencing protection from age-related cognitive declines that lasted at least five years.” Basically, exercising their brain kept their mind more active and prevented cognitive decline. You don’t need to take part in a study to see the benefits. There are simple and somewhat unconventional ways to keep your mind active.
3 unique ways to exercise your brain as you get older
There are different ways to go about mindfulness exercises that can potentially keep your mind active and improve your cognition. Not all of them are complex. In fact, most are simple and don’t involve much effort. Others are a bit more nuanced and will require more extended focus. Whatever your level of comfort, there are ways to go about exercising your mind without much friction.
1. Use your memory to draw a map of your neighbourhood
It’s funny because you think this should be easy. You’ve likely lived in your current neighbourhood long enough to know the streets, but you may be surprised when trying to replicate those streets by memory. Include as many landmarks in your drawing as possible. When you’re done, take a quick walk or scan of the area to see how you did. Challenging your mind in this way activates different areas of your brain. After you’ve done your current neighbourhood, try other places you frequent.
2. Use your non-dominant hand
This activity is simple, even though it may seem a bit strange. Neurobiologist Laurence Katz suggests that using your off-hand can increase your brain’s activity. At the very least, it challenges you to think actively and pay attention. Using your strong hand is the default. When you’re forced to use your off-hand, it takes concentration to form letters, draw or perform whatever other activities you can think of.
3. Try something completely new
We don’t mean trying a new recipe. When we say try something new, we mean something you’ve never done before. Studies have shown that trying something new can activate and improve your memory. When adults in the study took a memory test after learning new skills, they performed better than their counterparts who didn’t learn any new skills. Admittedly, this is one of those exercises that will take some commitment, but the results will be worth it.
Try these everyday activities to exercise your brain
Exercising your mind doesn’t have to be brain surgery. Sometimes, doing everyday activities can go a long way to keeping your mind active. If you’re looking for a more laid back approach to brain training, try these:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Painting, drawing or other types of art
- Colouring book
Notice that we purposely left out watching television. While you may gain knowledge watching certain shows, sitting in front of a TV is a passive experience that doesn’t stimulate your brain as much as any of the activities we’ve mentioned. Active experiences mean your brain is forced to engage and make decisions. That’s what you should be going for.
What about meditation?
Yes, meditation is another form of mental exercise that can have many benefits. Research has shown that meditation can improve focus, memory and even things like empathy. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, where you use breathing techniques to be present and aware of your body and mind, have many of the benefits we’ve described. Meditation can be done on your own, but if you’re trying to keep yourself accountable, join an online meditation class for seniors.
Sign up for Boomerang’s wellness workshops
It’s easy to forget about your mind. It’s always “on,” so to speak, so we take for granted that we need to be consciously doing things to keep it in the best shape possible. The extended period of isolation we just went through doesn’t help, so it’s even more essential to find different ways to actively train your brain.
Boomerang hosts several workshops that focus on active mindfulness. Next time you think your brain might need a little pick me up, sign up for one of our wellness workshops.
View upcoming mindful movement classes for older adults.