Don't Forget to Workout Your Mind
by Robin Sacks
Life is an obstacle course.
There are days when you move forward and, step by step, accomplish your goals, and there are days that involve crawling through the mud, jumping through hoops, and encountering people and challenges that constantly try to make you lose your balance and fall to the ground.
There are days that end with you standing on the podium, waiting to have a medal placed around your neck, and there are days when life feels like you are in an episode of Wipe Out.
Agility is defined as the ability to move nimbly with speed and ease. Life agility is about your body and mind being able to shift and change when it makes sense or is advantageous to do so.
We often think of agility as something that improves our physical fitness, but mental fitness is just as important and should not be neglected.
That's why mental agility is a must-have skill set; agility with your emotions, agility with your thoughts, agility with your choices.
Here are three ways to begin boosting your mental agility today!
1. Read. I was recently having a conversation with a friend about things to do during the coronavirus lock-down. When I suggested catching up on some reading, she said, "I haven't picked up a book in years."
As an avid reader, I cannot imagine life without books. Knowing how much I learn by reading, I cannot fathom how boring 'knowing what you know and not knowing any more' must be like. Reading awakens a whole slew of neurons and chemicals in your brain. Science proves that reading not only increases knowledge, and imagination, but it lowers stress!
Reading improves both your mind and body. Make a point of reading just a little bit every single day. It's easier than ever to do; go buy or borrow a book, get an e-book from the library, download a free audio book, find a website or blog you really enjoy and check in each day to see what's new.
Getting lost in a book, story, or article is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise your mind.
2. Pay attention. The fact that we need to be reminded to pay attention is mind-boggling, but it can be a real challenge. There are a ton of things happening around us all day, everyday. While we are able to pick and choose certain things to get through most days effectively, other things pull at our attention constantly...and often end up winning.
By consciously bringing yourself back into the present moment and simply observing what is going on right now - not yesterday, not an hour from now, but right now - you are in a position of mental power, because you are in control. You can't do anything about the past (it's over), nor can you do anything about the future (unless you do something right now to affect it). The only time you have total control is right now.
The more you pay attention, the more you will observe in the moment. The more you observe in the moment, the more you are able to learn and understand.
3. Try new things. Go out today and be really bad at something!!! That's how you expand your brain.
If you've never heard of the 'Nun Study' or watched Lisa Genova's Ted Talk about the research on what each of us can do to build an Alzheimer's-resistant brain, you need to. In a nutshell, science tells us that all of those crossword puzzles you're doing to "keep your brain active" are not helping your brain "get better" at all. Why? Because all you're really doing is recalling information you already know. However, learning new things increases neural plasticity and creates new synapses in the brain.
Simply put, each time you learn something new, you create and strengthen new neural connections. Your cognitive reserve increases, which means you have more to work with, even if you start losing some of them! Every time you learn something new, you literally expand your brain function, and protect against losing it.
Treat your brain as if it were a muscle. Like any other muscle in your body, the more you work it, the stronger it gets!