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Sharpen Your Thinking, Engage Your Brain: Do Something Little

People periodically ask me about ways they can boost their intellectual wellbeing. The thing I tell them is: “DO SOMETHING LITTLE!” Most people think that they need to take a class, learn a new language, or spend hours doing something huge and heavy in order to sharpen their thinking.

What do I mean by “do something little?” I keep a learn to write letters book in my office desk drawer and get it out every once in a while, turn it upside down, and write. It was hard at first, but now when I’m talking to someone across my desk, I can write something so they can read it.

I sometimes shave or brush my teeth with my left hand. Love going to museums and just staring at things. I have lots of ideas.

Originally posted at http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/challenge-your-mind-and-body-to-sharpen-your-thinking-skills-201510298507 by Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter, here are some others:

  • Take a different route to work or the store.
  • Eat a bite or two of dinner with your eyes closed.
  • Listen to a new kind of music.
  • Do 60 seconds of jumping jacks (or any physical activity).
  • Sit in a different spot in your house or at a favorite restaurant.

“These require the brain to do some work, because it’s encountering something it hasn’t experienced before,” says Dr. Papp.

You can also look for activities that incorporate brain stimulation, physical activity, and social engagement, such as:

  • learning to play a sport or game (tennis, ping pong, golf)
  • learning to dance (try the cha-cha, the rumba, or the merengue)
  • taking a class on planting flowers or vegetables
  • learning tai chi, which has been shown to boost thinking skills.

If physical activity isn’t possible, consider taking a class in

  • painting (start with watercolors, then move to oils)
  • piano, flute, or guitar
  • writing short stories (or your memoir)
  • computers
  • flower arrangement
  • knitting or crocheting (handy for holiday gifts!)
  • a new language.

Or you can simply take part in any new activity that you find interesting, such as:

  • volunteering at a local charity
  • exploring a new city
  • joining a book club
  • trying out a new restaurant or new type of food
  • becoming a museum docent
  • helping out at a local school or day care
  • joining a collector’s club (dolls, stamps, memorabilia).

Angela K. Troyer Ph.D., C.Psych. at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201408/6-ways-engage-your-brain writes:

  1. Nurture your inner artist.
  2. Take up a new hobby.
  3. Explore cultural activities.
  4. Do old activities in new ways.
  5. Learn something new, just for the fun of it.

She ends with #6: Take the ultimate learning challenge. The surest way to engage your brain is to take advantage of formal learning or volunteer opportunities. You could sign up for a course at your local library, community centre, college, or university. You might learn how to speak a new language, or brush up on a language you used to know. Volunteer in a new organization, doing something you have never done before.

Agreed! While you can tackle the big things… start small. There are plenty of things you could be engaging in right now to keep your intellectual wellbeing up. Just start.

Do Something Little.

Jeff Frey is a co-founder of Wellevations. Learn more about Jeff here.