We spend a lot of time in our minds. Being able to think, problem solve and create is a wonderful gift, and it’s an area we can strengthen by giving our minds a little positive attention. It’s also good for our mental health, boosting our ability to work through depression, anxiety and overwhelm.
Our minds are plastic – they change, heal and grow. I know this because after a bacterial infection in my own brain and heart muscle (mycoplasma fermentans) left me with serious damage, I have regained cognitive function, balance (still can’t wear high heels but I no longer fall over for no reason), the ability to plan and work with numbers, and to write – all things that went seriously screwy in me for a while there. Hooray for neuroplasticity.
Look after your mind. It’s a precious and miraculous thing, and it can serve us well our whole life if we nurture it. Here are some ideas to help you do that: (image by africa)
- Stop multi-tasking. Do one thing at a time. Devote your entire awareness to that one task. When it is finished, move on to the next one. This builds concentration and focus skills.
- Create a master list book – a place where you can keep all of your tasks and points to action. Date new entries, and cross them off when the task is completed. Having a book with all of those lists in one place helps you manage stress and your time. It also builds trust in yourself and your ability to complete tasks. Once again, complete a task before moving to a new one. If the task is big, break it down into smaller chunks and write those into your list book.
- Daydream. Give yourself permission to go wandering around in your imagination. Visualise different possibilities and outcomes for yourself.
- Read books and vary what you read. Try biographies of people who inspire you, travel books, novels, cook books, self-help, new writers, classics, children’s and young adult and everything in between. Ask for recommendations from friends, librarians and book sellers. Read outside where you’d normally choose. (image by graur codrin)
- Take a class to learn something new. Choose things that are far from what you do every day. If you’re an accountant try jewellery making or Japanese cooking, if you’re a masseuse learn a language or numerology. Find things that challenge you – if it’s hard and stretches you a little that’s a good thing. Brains need to be used, or they rust!
- Journal. Journalling gives you an avenue for clearing out what troubles you, for dreaming and creating, for aspiring and designing. It’s a great form of therapy and self-work.
- Exercise – oxygenates the brain, and improves balance, hand-eye co-ordination and circulation.
- Practice gratitude. Keep a positive mental attitude and count your blessings.
- Crosswords, Sudoko, Jigsaws, Logic Games and other puzzles. All these things make you think! Look for things where you can scale up your ability over time by moving from beginner to more advanced levels.
- Meditate – it creates space in your brain, and de-clutters your mind.
- Play card and board games that require you to think and strategise. Tactics, forward thinking, analysis and logic are all developed when we play games against others. (image from Flickr by Domiriel)
- Eat a diet rich in essential fatty acids, protein and fresh fruit and vegetables. Take a vitamin supplement that includes a strong level of B group vitamins, as well as C and E. Drink plenty of water.
- Engage in stimulating conversation and strong social networks. This can be through a club, social outings with friends, or even the internet. Where you can, meet face-to-face. Physical connection with other humans is a basic requirement for well-being.
- Peaceful pastimes such as yoga, gardening, art, or playing a musical instrument. These put us into the same brain waves as meditation, allowing us to be relaxed and focused at the same time.
- Stop smoking, stay hydrated, wear a hat in the sun and don’t overheat, lose weight to cut risk factors for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Be safety-conscious. Wear a seatbelt in the car, and a bike helmet when cycling, skating or carting. Don’t speed, drink and drive or text and drive. Be careful at heights. Use a helmet when playing cricket, baseball or other contact sports. Strokes and head trauma rob us of mental function and most of these situations are preventable.