10 Simple Brain Exercises to Recharge Your Mind
In honor of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share my top 10 brain exercises for building a better brain. These are 5 simple strategies I use every morning to jumpstart my brain and body, and 5 techniques I use throughout the day to recharge.
Morning jumpstart – movement, mindfulness, motivation, meditation and mirth.
1) Get moving – for brain exercises to work, the brain needs sustainable oxygen for energy. So getting up and doing some simple physical activity such as stretching, walking, or even a quick cardio workout helps! It can stimulate our energy and help us think more clearly. Both cognitive performance and metabolism are enhanced for several hours after intense exercise. So if you have time to get to the gym or outside for some aerobic activity, power it up.
2) Mind your mind – Our brain is constantly narrating the world around us. And if we’re not careful, our survival instincts can pull us into “stinking thinking”. Spend a few minutes becoming aware of your inner dialogue and shift your mindset in a way that focuses on things that are positive. Write down a few things you’re grateful for or looking forward to. Count your blessings, write in a journal, or do some mindfulness meditation to get your brain on the right track.
3) Power up your purpose – Consider your motivation for the day. Before you even think about what you want to do today, spend some time thinking about who you want to be. Now focus some mental energy in that direction. This will help you concentrate energy and attention in the direction of your most important values and goals, before checking off items on a to-do list that will never fully go away. Pay attention to what’s most important first, and revisit this throughout the day.
4) Meditate – Spend a few minutes really concentrating on your focus phrase or personal mantra for the day. Who do you want to be? Focused, energized, powerful, clear, kind, patient, present, engaged? See if you can actually feel the emotion that goes along with that power word or phrase. Let it wash over your brain and body with the energy to support the change you want to see in yourself. Phrases like “Be here now”, “I am enough, I have enough”, and “Just breathe” can help calm your natural stress response. This, in turn, triggers more beneficial brain nutrients and endorphins that build a better brain.
5) See funny – One of the best brain exercises to calm and sooth a busy brain is to find something funny. Humor triggers beneficial brain chemicals and actually encourages the reduction of toxic stress hormones. It also improves our ability to think clearly and rationally. You don’t have to “be funny” to appreciate what’s humorous in your environment. Start training yourself to see more funny around you by recalling something funny from the previous day. Share funny stories with friends, or reach out to others to share funny experiences, comics, photos or videos each morning. It’s contagious! (You can also visit www.beyond-funny.com for some of our funny ideas!)
Daily Recharge – turn down the noise, take breaks, change your tune, balance blood sugar, move more
6) Our brain is constantly scanning the world around us to see what needs our attention. In today’s constantly connected, 24/7 work world we are being bombarded with noise competing for our energy. And it’s not just sounds we need to worry about. Take a look at your environment, and identify ways you can turn down stimulation. Things like decreasing bright lights, excess noise and distractions, and second-hand stress. Set boundaries, and eliminate multitasking as much as possible by turning off technology when you’re not actively using it. Be proactive, not reactive, with your time and energy.
7) The human system is designed to oscillate, but if you look how most people spend their day, we are stuck in a flat-line! We perform best by focusing on a simple task for no more than 60 minutes at one time. We see vast improvements when we break projects up into smaller sprints rather than trying to push through yet another marathon. Try to break your day up into 20 – 25 minute sprints whenever possible, separated by strategic recharge breaks. Then do something that uses your energy in a completely different way to cross-train your brain. Shift from logical, analytical mode to something more creative. From brainstorming to physical activity. Or from quiet focused time to social interaction just for fun. These short recharge breaks will help restore your energy so you can get more done in less time.
8) Music is a great tool to shift the brain into a different state of mind. Different types of music can enhance unique brainwave patterns that actually stimulate the release of neurochemicals. These are designed to support a variety of brain functions such as creativity and insight, focus and concentration, and memory enhancement. If you want to utilize a deeper form of brainwave optimization, you may want to experiment with binaural beats such as Holosync. Listening to music for just 3 – 5 minutes can shift your brain into a more calm, focused and creative state of mind. This will help balance brain chemistry throughout the day.
9) One of the quickest ways to put your brain into fight or flight mode is to give it signal an energy shortage by going too long without eating. We are designed to eat something with healthy fat, protein and carbohydrate at least every 3 – 4 hours throughout the day. Go too long without food and you might not feel hungry. But your cells will be running on borrowed energy from stress hormones that are toxic to both the brain and body. Keep healthy snacks handy, such as mixed nuts, seeds, a healthy nutrition bar (my favorite is KIND) or even a small piece of dark chocolate to tide you over until you can get a balanced meal.
10) Just because you got moving in the morning does not mean you’re done with brain exercises for the day! Studies have shown that even when people exercise vigorously in the morning, our health and performance suffer when we sit longer than 4 hours in a day. The best way to optimize our brainpower is to take breaks that includes some sort of physical activity. You don’t even need to break a sweat! Just get your circulation going, boost metabolism, and if possible, get some fresh air to stimulate healthy brain nourishment. If you want to boost your ROI, grab a friend or colleague and share some funny stories. Get more bang for your buck!
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