Exercises for our body are essential. They build strength, improve our immune system and help us live longer. Similarly, exercises for our mind are crucial too, as mental health is very important. The way we take care of our body every day, we must do likewise for our mind too.
The brain is involved in everything we do, so, like any other body part, it needs to be cared too. Exercising the brain to improve memory, focus or daily functionality is a priority for many, especially as they get older.
Mental training is now a part of many training programmes. Whether it's in the field of sports, academics or singing, we like to be 'mentally prepared'. We recognize that winning a match is not just dependent on how physically fit we are but also how mentally prepared we are.
For instance, it's often noted that when a team plays at their home ground, they are likely to win and feel more motivated. Whereas for the opposing team, that becomes discouraging and difficult to stay mentally 'strong'.
Mental training is based on the idea of neuroplasticity - that the connections between neurons in the brain are plastic and changeable and can adapt to new situations. Everything we think influences what we do and how we behave in our daily life. The way we train our mind greatly affects our level of achievement, optimism and general pleasure.
Exercises to Strengthen the Mind
Mind training can help enhance memory, response time and logical skills. Although research shows that the relationship between brain training activities and cognitive skill function is complicated, exercises can significantly reduce cognitive decline in the long run.
On that note, here's a look at six exercises to strengthen the mind:
1) Concentration Exercises
Mental concentration exercises are often powerful tools to strengthen the mind. It's a well-established workout to remove distracting objects when a child has their exam. Other simple exercises that can help enhance your singular focus are:
a) Take a book - any book - and count the words in any paragraph. Then count them again to make sure you counted correctly. After you have practiced and are comfortable with one paragraph, gradually increase the number of paragraphs.
b) Think about inspiring words, phrases, sounds or anything that motivates you, and focus on it for as long as you can. That can enhance your concentration and engage your neural pathways.
Mental practice refers to repeating something in our minds without any movement from our physical body. Meanwhile, imagery is a very focused and specific type of mental practice.
Imagery uses all our senses to create an experience in our mind. By utilizing all our senses, we're able to regulate our emotions. Many athletes use imagery to control their anger, anxiety or pain. When used effectively, visualization or imagery can make the learning process more exciting.
3) Brain Foods
Paying attention to your diet can truly pay off, whether you want to optimize your nutrition during your workday or stay focused in a business meeting.
Maintaining your memory, concentration and focus may be possible by eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains nutrients which improve brain function. Like all other organs, the brain cannot work without energy.
The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy (in the form of glucose) in the blood to the brain. That can be realized by incorporating more whole grains and fresh food into your diet.
The greater the processing of a particular food, the lower its nutritional value and lower its power to improve brain function.
4) Working with Complexity
Whatever mental exercise you do, your brain should push you outside your comfort zone. It doesn't matter if it's simple for someone else; what matters is that it's complicated for you. Brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
5) Self-talk and Affirmations
Often the difference between the best and worst performance is self-talk and thoughts we carry around with us. Most of the time we're unaware of the talk that we have with ourselves.
Negative thoughts often lead to negative feelings, lower self-esteem and poor performance. Saying something like "I can do this" can boost your mind and help you perform better.
6) Breathing and Meditation
Regulated breathing not only relaxes you but also energizes your brain, muscles and cells.
Breathing fully sets the stage for other mental and physical responses that cue your body to prepare for any incoming stress. The purpose of meditation is to relax you passively but make you more focused positively. Focusing on a phrase or repeating it multiple times can calm your nervous system and regulate your emotions.
There are many brain training games and exercises available online that can make your brain healthier and faster. However, one must be careful, as these exercises can have different effects.
Recent research has found that brain exercises can have specific effects than general ones. For example, they can help you improve in a particular activity but not necessarily in others.