We tend to separate our mind and body as two separate entities, but in my opinion they are one in the same. For some reason we accept the idea that as we age our minds become dull, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Surely, like me, you’ve met people well into their 60’s and 70’s who are just as mentally sharp as someone in their 20’s. Granted, they are the exception, but they do exist. The one common denominator of all of these people that I’ve personally met is that they continue to challenge their minds to learn and perform.
The more I’ve learned about mental performance, the more I’ve found that we need to treat our brains similar to how we treat our muscles. Our brains need regular exercise, adequate rest and proper nutrition to perform at their best.
I never had to really challenge my brain too much until I got to college. I remember having study sessions that would literally make my brain sore afterwards. It was during this time that I started to grasp the concept of treating my brain like a muscle.
Then in the couple of years following college, something odd happened – I felt myself becoming dumb.
Well, I wasn’t really becoming dumb, but I noticed that since my brain wasn’t being challenged as much it was decreasing in performance. I didn’t memorize things as easily, creative solutions didn’t instantly come to me as they normally would and overall I just felt like I had lost my mental edge.
I realized the work I was doing at the time wasn’t mentally challenging and I was no longer studying 5-7 different subjects at a time.
Fortunately, I was able to turn things around and I’m going to share with you how I did it.
Use It or Lose It
Like our bodies, our brains need constant use to remain sharp.
Obviously we are always using our brains, whether we try to or not. What I mean is that we need to challenge our minds on a regular basis.
I’ve always got about 3 books that I’m reading at any given time. A lot of people like to read one book at a time, but I like flip back and forth between different books – whatever I’m in the mood for.
Although I’m not in school anymore, I still read to learn. If I can gain just a handful of insights from any book than I consider it a good investment of my time.
I’ve noticed that the more I read, the better my mind performs in general. Even when the subjects I am reading about aren’t very relevant to my life.
Just like in the gym, when I take breaks from challenging my mind, I noticed it starts to get more sluggish. If I write every day, writing gets easier and easier. However, if I take a break from writing, even for just a few days – I find it harder to get started when I write again.
Our mind is either improving, declining, or staying the same – and only one of those sound good to me.
What do you need your mind to perform best at on a daily basis? Do you require creativity or do you need a mind that is very analytic? Maybe you need/want both.
Figure out some ways you can exercise those abilities and try to do them on a daily basis. It won’t take very long before you notice a very sharp increase in mental performance.
It could be as simple as writing a certain amount of words, doing a puzzle, coming up with lists of ideas – whatever you want. Just be sure to do it regularly. Also, you don’t need to spend money on any of those programs that claim to improve your brain with different games and activities. (Although, there’s nothing wrong with that.) There are plenty of ways to exercise your mind for free.
The downside is that if you stop exercising your mind, you will quickly notice a decline. That’s why the saying is use it or lose it.
Rest & Recovery
Similar to how our muscles need to recover from training, so do our brains.
That means getting an adequate amount of sleep each night! (6-8 hours for most people)
Our minds struggle to be clear and focused when they don’t get enough sleep. We all know that, but we tell ourselves things like sleep is overrated or there isn’t enough time in the day.
Make time. Sleep is that important that you should plan around it.
In addition to getting enough sleep, give your mind breaks throughout the day. If you find yourself stuck on something, go for a short walk to clear your mind. (Even if you work in a cubicle, find an excuse to walk around the building.)
I like to go for a quick walk or lay down and close my eyes for 10 minutes, but I don’t fall asleep. I find that this refreshes me more than a nap does.
Figure out something you enjoy, that relaxes your mind, and do that whenever your mind is getting groggy.
You wouldn’t force your body to stay on a treadmill for hours on end without a break, so don’t expect to do that with your mind.
One of the basic ways to improve brain performance is to give our brains proper nutrition.
Many people don’t know this, but our brains need essential fatty acids for optimum health. Fortunately, these are very easy to find.
Nuts, avocados, salmon and fish oil supplements are all great sources.
Also, blueberries are supposed to be one of the best foods for our brains. Animal studies researchers have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as or
Another source of nutrition for the brain is from nootropics. Although many people are skeptical of these supplements, they are rapidly growing in popularity.
What draws a lot of people to them is the evidence that certain nootropics can improve your brain health over time, while also giving a temporary boost in performance.
I wouldn’t say that nootropics are mandatory or anything, but they are worth taking a look at.
However, we NEED to have quality fat sources in our diets for our brains to be healthy – with or without nootropics.
The same way we ensure we eat enough protein for our muscles, you want to cover your bases on your essential fatty acids for your brain.
Exercise, rest and nutrition – it all sounds like a regimen for the body, but the mind and body are not separate. When we treat our mind as a muscle it gets faster and stronger. If we are lazy and neglect care for our minds, our mental performance will reflect that.
It’s all about creating healthy habits and then enjoying the benefits of those habits.
I’d love to hear about what you do to exercise your mind and stay sharp. Let me know in the comments.
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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