Intellectual Wellness is about being actively involved and engaged in creative and mentally stimulating activities, in pursuit of lifelong learning as improvement of the self.
The intellectually well person enjoys expanding his/her knowledge and skills and stimulating the mind, whether through formal classroom learning or simply by reading books and pursuing hobbies. He/she values continuous intellectual growth and is passionate about challenging the mind with creative activities.
Our brain is a complex organ, which controls our body and state of mind. The brain requires oxygen and exercise, just like any other organs, like the heart and lungs. Feed your mind and you will feel emotionally and physically invigorated. By regularly engaging in the right activities, you can increase your memory, improve your problem-solving skills and boost your creativity.
Scientists believe that integrating selected activities into your regular schedule will pay long-term dividends by creating a ‘cognitive reserve’ that will help you stay sharp at any age.
Here are some tips on how to keep your mind active:
- Learn something new. Take classes to learn something you have always wanted to explore. Learn to play bridge, study a new language or attend a workshop. Learning a new language keeps your brain flexible and your mind sharp, helping to reduce the slowing of the thought processes that comes with age. It can also make your next vacation or business trip easier if you know the language.
- Never avoid breakfast, it is essential for your brain to function efficiently.
- Read often and different types of books. Reading helps you exercise your cognitive skills and increase your vocabulary. Do it regularly and you will be amazed at the information you absorb, which will make you a more interesting conversationalist.
- Remember and repeat groups of words. Memorise your grocery list or friends’ phone numbers.
- Meditate often and take deep breaths as your brain (and entire body) needs lots of fresh air.
- Eat foods containing omega fatty acids (known to boost intellectual stamina) such as flax and hemp seeds, and fish.
- Learn new words from a word-a-day calendar or dictionary.
- Exercise the opposite side of your brain, by using your left hand if you are right handed, and reverse.
- Avoid monotony. Consider the different possibilities of how something could have been done, and explore the consequences. This improves creativity.
- Learn an instrument. Pull out your old guitar, sign up for piano lessons or rent a trumpet or a clarinet. Learning how to make music will stimulate your creativity. Reading music provides mental stimulation. Playing an instrument requires powers of recall as well as concentration to maintain tune and tempo.
- Use the association technique. When trying to learn something, listen to your favourite song. This is an association technique where your brain connects what you learned to what you heard.
- Play stimulating games and solve puzzles such as Crossword, Sudoku and Scrabble. Also test and monitor your memory and attention with special computer games.
- Take a morning walk. Not only will it makes your mind fresh, it will get your body in shape as well.
- Play golf. Golfers get mental stimulation using their decision-making skills as they plan stroke strategies. As the sport involves the control of repetitive movements, it instills mind-body discipline. You can also consider playing pool as this game of angles demands that players think in terms of physics, something most of us rarely do in our everyday lives. Games like chess and cards test your mathematical skills and logic.
- Do yoga. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities. Yoga forces you to focus on controlling all your muscles and your breathing. You will let your worries slide away, giving your mind a rest from stress.
- Build a model. Remember the fun you had as a kid making model airplanes and cars? Recreate that by building a miniature model. Following all those written instructions sharpens your powers of concentration. Focusing on the task at hand will also be very relaxing.
- Engage in a debate. A lively discussion can be invigorating. As long as you avoid letting it digress into an argument, you can have a lot of fun debating the pros and cons of an issue with a friend or colleague. This will help you practice your quick-thinking skills, logic and creativity.
According to scientists, our brains continuously make new neurons throughout our lives and it does this in response to what we do in our lives. Neurons are important for transmitting and making connections with other cells. If we lose the neurons, we lose the power to think properly, to use our creativity, to learn and to memorise effectively. Exercise and brain stimulation is one of the best ways to keep making these new neurons. Using some of the examples above, you will keep your brain healthy and active for years to come.