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Keep your mind active

Vicki Hermansen | Aug 31, 2020

Active

Staying active typically means keeping physically fit with exercise or some kind of athletic endeavor. But there’s an important component to staying active that most people neglect: keeping your mind active.

In fact, exercising your brain may be one of the most important exercises a person can do.

“Our brains continually change and build new connections throughout our lifetime,” explains Lori Desautels, assistant professor in the College of Education at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. “You’re never too old to do this, because brains are built from experiences. And if there are no new experiences, brains will atrophy.”

For Kiwanis club members who are devoted to service, Desautels says it’s important to remember to take time for yourself. Adults in the workforce with busy social and volunteer lives often put their needs last.

“Compassion for yourself, self-care, is anything but selfish,” she says, noting it’s important to keep you fresh. “If you’re too tired, you will have little to give.”

Desautels suggests these methods to initiate self-care for your mind and soul:

Bring novelty to your life. When you step outside your comfort zone, you invite activities that stimulate thinking. That includes doing things that at first might feel uncomfortable. Activities could include art, needlework, crochet or music. These activities help to calm stress-response systems.

Read, study and learn. Read books of interest, study different places and try new technology. Curiosity and anticipation are important to keeping minds active, and because our brains are wired for survival, we are motivated for the next new experience.

Take a breath. Breathing is one tool that can regulate your nervous system. We often take shallow breaths and don’t pay attention to our breathing. Take three deep breaths with an extended exhale and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Desautels suggests this exercise twice a day.

Try mindfulness. Use focused attention practices as mindful exercises and incorporate your breathing. Sit or lie quietly and focus on a stimulus such as music or even the sound of birds for 90 seconds. This exercise will cleanse your body of negative emotions. Don’t have a sound you like? Try it with the tastebuds, and put a grape, raisin or gum in your mouth. Focus on the taste and achieve the same results.

Have fun! Fun comes from two things: interests and passion. Tap into what interests you and what you’re passionate about, something you love but don’t take the time to do. Try cooking or baking.

Get out of your rut. Change up your routine. Humans are such habitual beings, doing the same things the same way, over and over.

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