Being stuck inside can easily lead us to get caught in a debilitating rut. Vegging out in front of the TV and binge-watching a new series or, worse yet, the news is a temptation most of us are dealing with on a daily basis. Well, as nice as it feels to check out (Netflix) or constantly check in (the news), there is only so much of this a mind can take before going to mush.
It’s up to us to keep our brains active, engaged in thoughtful endeavors, and away from being constantly panicked. So, just like with physical exercise, mental stimulation is something we should all be working into our daily routines. Not only will these activities keep the brain keen, but they are also good ways to enjoy the people we are with, or to focus on ourselves from time to time.
They can be done solo or with loved ones, but puzzles are great mental stimulation. Jigsaw puzzles do fit into this category, but this also means lots of other brainteasers, such as crosswords, sudoku, and word searches. These are readily available online (click the hyperlink), and there are versions suitable for all intellectual levels.
Some of us love books, others love movies, but there is no doubt that reading is good for the brain, regardless of whether the subject matter is academic or not. If novels or memoirs aren’t your thing, find an article or website that is, and read something from it every day. Another great thing to do with reading is to take turns reading aloud with a loved one. It uses different imaginative parts of the brain.
Source: grotos/Creative Commons
Games make us engage our brain, both keeping up with what’s happening in the moment as well as devising strategies to win. Now is the right time to visit that forgotten closet shelf of (or free online source of) board games and learn how to play them. It’s the right time to get out the cards and teach the kids to play hearts or poker or solitaire.
While many brain activities involve rather sedentary situations, physical exercise, too, is an excellent way to get some mental stimulation. The physical act of getting our blood pumping and our lungs taking in air stimulates physical responses in the brain. Furthermore, exercise increases positive brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, to put us in a good mood. That’s just good for everybody all the time.
5. Hand-Eye Coordination
Of course, for many, the inclination for hand-eye coordination would be to turn the game console on and get into a serious long-term quest. While some gaming could be positive, it’s also a good idea to turn off the technology and go old school with this: practice an instrument or learn to juggle. For those who really want a challenge, try doing everyday tasks with the less dominant hand.
6. Cook from Scratch
Cooking from scratch is an all-around activity that gets us moving a little—chopping, stirring, lifting—as well as thinking a little—measuring, timing, monitoring. Plus, it engages our senses because we have to judge what’s going on. We have to flavor to taste. We can smell the enticing aroma or the burning casserole. We can see a golden crust or rich red sauce. We hear the bubbling boil. We feel the heat. And, we get a delicious meal!
As important as engaging with community is, we also need to engage with ourselves. We should check in with our own mental state on a daily basis, and we should do things we know relieve stress and benefit us. Meditation is tried and true. It puts us at ease, keeps us focused and gives us energy. Plus, it gives us a place to go without the distraction of life inside and outside the house, a little place just for us.
Being mindful about your mind is more important now than ever, so all should include at least a couple of these activities on our agendas. Who knows? We might even have some fun with them. Be well.
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