When we think of wellness, it’s important not to think of it in such a manner that deals only with our body, as the mind is key to looking and feeling great. Of course, the link between the body and mind is nothing new. Many ancient practices, such as yoga, combine exercise with spiritual practices. Although we think of yoga as another fitness class here in the West, it can actually help you control stress, alleviate physical symptoms, and make you feel more serene. But what about actually training your mind for its own purposes? That’s possible, too.
Keeping Alzheimer’s Disease at Bay
According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the USA, with someone developing the disease every six seconds. Although it’s typically classed as a disease of the mind, it affects our bodies, too – if we can’t remember how to do basic things like taking care of ourselves, our bodies end up shutting down. Although the onset of dementia seems like a distant risk to many of us, there is plenty that we can do to keep our mental dexterity up. Passively watching movies and scrolling through Facebook is fine once in a while, but to keep a brain active, it needs to be trained.
Daydreaming, Reading and Playing Games
Taking active steps and making small changes can really help, especially when a person is being creative. Daydreaming or reading fiction makes people use their imagination. This is why researchers have found that doing so improves brain connectivity, and it may even help to be more empathetic. Changes in the brain are registered in the left temporal cortex, which is associated with receptivity for language, in addition to the brain’s primary sensorimotor region. Neurons active here can keep the brain feeling like it needs to be alert. To take things further, playing games is a great brain-training tool. According to a 2012 study in the journal Current Biology, video games boost brain activity by increasing attention span. This is because players become used to processing rapidly presented stimuli and can expand this ability across all areas of their lives. There are a multitude of video games genres to choose from. Text adventure games (or interactive fiction), such as 1983: A World’s Fair Mystery, will rely on that same creativity that reading does, as they combine fiction with gaming as players must choose the path of the game. On the other hand, eSports have seen a 43% rise in popularity, where people play titles such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike in professional tournaments, which will test their dedication and prowess at each respective one.
Although this isn’t widely known, not all sports require high physical energy, sometimes they require high mental energy instead. According to one definition pointing out the difference, “a mind sport is a competition with a set of rules for determining the winner, requiring intellectual prowess and skill.” There’s even an Olympics of mind sport – the first Mind Sports Olympiad was held in London in 1997, and there have since been over 1,000 tournaments with people competing from over 50 countries. There are a range of categories of games involved, from board games to chess, word games and card games. For instance, blackjack players need to choose between a range of strategies including doubling down, splitting or surrendering. They need to think quickly, stay focused and practice their memory. Poker is another incredible game for brain training, as it requires self-awareness and self-control in order to bluff, as well as empathy to “read” the other players. Playing poker helps with neuroplasticity, where we build and change the brain wirings based on our knowledge. Chess also relies on strategy, with players forced to problem solve on the spot and exercise their memory while their opponent is constantly changing the parameters of the game.
Mind Exercises Before Sleeping
Sleep has a number of incredible benefits, both mental and physical. Studies have shown that grades, athletic performance, concentration and a multitude of other important aspects of daily life are improved after a good night’s sleep. To function well, it’s advisable to be getting at least seven hours. However, sometimes sleeping is easier said than done. Mind exercises like visualization can help people disconnect and get restful sleep. For instance, you can achieve inner peace through imagining your favorite place and picturing quiet and stillness.
At the end of the day, if you really want to commit to a healthy new you, it’s a lifestyle. Once you start following advice to improve the various different areas of your life, your body and mind will follow – sometimes all at once!