So far, I’ve been focusing primarily on physical health, and providing information and ideas about diet and exercise. But mental health is just as important, and the 10th and final law of the Primal Blueprint is “Use Your Mind”. Today I’m switching gears and sharing some of the things I have done to keep myself mentally stimulated and ward off cognitive decline or disease.
Learn a Language
I’ve been studying Spanish in one form or another for several years. I have worked with a private tutor, done levels 1 and 2 of Rosetta Stone, and now I use Duolingo.com. The latter is a free version of Rosetta Stone, maybe with a few less bells and whistles. You set a goal (mine is 10 minutes a day) and Duolingo emails me every day to prompt my practice.
Take a Class
High school and college maybe weren’t fun at the time; everything was so….mandatory. Also, the subjects weren’t necessarily of your own choosing! But taking a class as an adult about something that truly interests you feels so invigorating; it’s like bathing your brain in a cup of coffee. Ready to perk up and have something interesting to talk about? Take a class at a local college, take a cooking class, go to coursera.org and sign up for a free online course offered from esteemed universities around the world. Is there a class you could take for your job, maybe to expand your position or just shake off some boredom and burn out? As a massage therapist, I’m required to take 12 hours of continuing education every 2 years, and it really livens up my practice. I have a friend who is a server at a nice restaurant; she educated herself about wine and essentially created a sommelier position for herself. Never feel limited.
Consume Interesting Media
Everyone laughed at me a year or so ago when I discovered podcasts – apparently I was a bit behind the curve! But, seriously, do y’all KNOW about podcasts? Look at your smartphone. See the podcast app? You can subscribe to whatever you want for free and the episodes are just waiting on your phone for whenever you have time to listen. There are political podcasts, health podcasts, business podcasts, religious podcasts, true crime podcasts, and more. I rarely listen to music anymore but instead listen to stories, interviews and ideas on my daily commute. It’s also an incentive to go for a walk and makes a long drive something to look forward to instead of something to dread. I referenced Gretchen Rubin in my last blog about abstainers versus moderators; she has her own podcast, called Happier! For a peek at some of my favorites, check out my instagram post today at sarahstouchofhealth.
Read a book! Honestly I don’t read classic literature or anything particularly dense or difficult, but it still has been a boon to my vocabulary. Reading trains the brain to focus (and imagine) in a way that TV, movies, and the Internet just do not.
Try Something New
You know that disconcerting feeling where you’ve driven home from work but you can’t recall the journey? If you do the same thing over and over, eventually your brain is kinda on auto-pilot and not really problem-solving or processing. If you’re going to all the same places and doing all the same things all the time, your brain is really comfortable but not getting the exercise it needs….the equivalent of sitting on the couch in sweats!
I have always said Zumba is as much for my brain as my body because my instructor (see my blog interview with Sonja Zind) is really good about introducing new routines, so I’m constantly challenged to learn new choreography. Even then, every so often I’ll deviate from Zumba to try something totally new, like Buti Yoga, or kickboxing. I’m out of my comfort zone and have no idea what’s going on, but the novelty is good for my brain and my body.
This should be fun and playful. Explore a neighborhood or city you’ve never been to, eat a cuisine you’ve never tried, try a new workout, cook a new recipe. We crave novelty more than we realize. Now….go work out your brain!