Eating healthy and exercising are important facets of improving your physical health and wellness. But your physical health is only half of the equation. With that in mind, your mental health is just as necessary.
And while a self-care massage and warm essential oil bath can be important when you de-stress and give your brain a break, it’s equally important to keep your brain active, sharp, and exercised to help avoid long-term problems in the future.
Let’s take a look at the importance of daily mental stimulation, as well as different ways that you can keep your brain happy and healthy for as long as you can.
What Is Mental Stimulation?
As the name implies, mental stimulation is anything that stimulates, enriches, or activates the mind. You can stimulate your brain by doing pretty much anything, but there are certain activities that make those neurons (aka brain cells) work just a little harder.
Learning a new skill, working at your job, hanging out with friends, playing a round of golf, or doing a wordsearch are all great ways to stimulate the brain — almost anything you do that requires thoughtful interactions can stimulate the senses and keep you feeling sharp.
Why Is Mental Stimulation Important?
Keeping your cognition in check is just as important as going to the gym. Even though your brain can’t do pull-ups or tricep extensions, you can still exercise your mind for lifelong benefits.
Reduces the Risk of Cognitive Decline
One of the most important reasons to stay mentally stimulated is to reduce the risk of brain disorders down the line. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders are not something that you can totally prevent, but by taking steps now, you can enhance your chances of staying sharper for longer.
Physicians advise adults, especially elderly individuals, to engage in mentally stimulating activities to reduce their risk of dementia. There are multiple studies that suggest keeping the brain active can help to avoid cognitive decline with age.
Your brain is a muscle, so exercising it with logic games, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and more to keep yourself sharp, now and later!
For some of us, it’s hard to remember the last sentence we just read in this article (no cheating!). And while memory is a key feature of our cognition, it is one that often flees quickly – especially with age. However, playing brain games and keeping your mind sharp might be able to keep memory in check for longer.
While there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that memory games actually improve your memory, it’s still helpful when it comes to stimulating your mind and keeping it active.
Learn a New Skill
When you work to challenge your brain as much as possible, you’re doing more than just firing those synapses — you’re also teaching yourself valuable new skills that you can use for the rest of your life!
If you engage your brain by trying to pick up a new language, learn a new hobby, or start playing an instrument, you’re getting all of the mental benefits of stimulation while simultaneously loading up your arsenal with new talents and gifts that you can share with the world!
What Are Some Ways To Stimulate the Brain?
The best part? These benefits can generally be felt without needing to switch up your routine too much. In fact, much of what you do each day is already pretty mentally stimulating. But, if you want to send those neurons into overdrive to keep yourself as sharp as ever, here are a few ways to do it!
Games are a fun way to pass the time, but they’re also a fantastic way to stimulate your mind. Board games with friends can combine social interaction with positive stimulation, but you can also play solo video games, card games, logic games, word searches, and crossword puzzles to stimulate your mind.
Games that require memory, reaction time, logical thinking, or strategy tend to be a little more effective at mental stimulation than others. However, playing any type of game will work your brain!
Spend Time With Friends
Going to a bar with some friends or hanging out at the park might not seem like something that’s good for you. But having a social support system is one of the best ways to stay stimulated, happy, and healthy.
Research has shown that having a social network reduces anxiety and depression while also lowering stress levels. When you’re around others, you’re constantly engaged in conversation, which is a great way to reduce boredom and support mental and emotional wellness, which heavily contribute to your overall cognitive health.
So hit up the group chat and head on over to your favorite hiking trail. Or, invite everyone over for a game night to experience the mental benefits of games and social interaction all in one!
While physical exercise has immense benefits for your muscles and body, it is equally essential for keeping your mind healthy. Studies have found that exercise improves mental health by reducing depression and anxiety while also enhancing self-esteem and cognitive function.
When you exercise, you release a number of different chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Not to mention, the positive effects of working out, such as increased muscle mass and decreased weight, can help to improve your confidence and self-image. The benefits are really nonstop!
But we also know that the thought of going to the gym isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. With that said, exercise doesn’t need to be a chore. Try attending a group fitness class with other people to implement a fun social aspect. Or, play a sport you love, take a hike, or go swimming with friends to keep your body moving without feeling like you’re actually doing any work.
Eat Proper Food and Nutrition
The stuff that you put into your body has a direct effect on your mental well-being, and you can stimulate your mental wellness by nourishing your body with the right foods.
Eating foods that are high in antioxidants is great for mental stimulation, as these can work to combat oxidative stress. Foods like berries, fatty fish, broccoli, coffee, and nuts are high in nutrients that can work to support brain health.
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Mental stimulation refers to anything that enriches your mind. And while keeping your brain just as active as your body is important for immediate wellness, it’s just as necessary for long-term health, too.
Playing board games, hanging out with friends, exercising, and eating right are effective ways to keep your brain stimulated. Mental stimulation can help keep your memory and cognition sharp, even as you age, so what are you waiting for? Go give those neurons a challenge!