It’s fair to say that when it comes to physical health, we all know that exercise is beneficial. This fact has been proven time and again, to the point where it almost feels like a cliche.
When it comes to mental health, it seems that there’s no such clarity, no single thing that is accepted to be beneficial. There are countless guides to keeping your mind healthy, and they can all be very useful, but it doesn’t quite seem possible to focus on a single concept that is always beneficial to health.
In truth, however, it is possible – and the single concept that can encourage a healthy mind is the same as the requirement for a healthy body: exercise.
What does mental exercise mean?
The concept of mental exercise is a relatively simple one; it essentially means challenging your brain.
It may seem that the brain is continually challenged by the act of living, but this isn’t quite the case. For most of us, each day is largely the same. We get up, we go to work, we come home, we relax, we go to bed – sure, there are mental challenges, but the outright familiarity means that our brain doesn’t have to work that hard. We follow the same patterns and the same routines the vast majority of the time; patterns and routines that our brain is mostly able to perform on its version of auto-pilot. This means that true mental exercise is doing something outside of the normal.
What constitutes “mental exercise”?
Doing or learning something new is by far the best example of mental exercise. New things force our brain to abandon its comfortable, reliable patterns and forge new connections, ideas, and solutions. You could try learning a new language, take up crafting, or even revisit that maths or physics concept that always puzzled you in high school and try to learn it anew.
Other forms of mental exercise include activities that require a lot of thinking; brain training, for example, working on puzzles, or completing jigsaws are all excellent examples of this.
What are the benefits of mental exercise?
Mental exercise is seen as an excellent way of ensuring your mind is fit and flexible for as long as possible; in fact, forms of mental exercise are often used in Alzheimer’s care as the benefits are so well-established in the medical community. Older people who remain active mentally are much better equipped to keep their spark for longer.
In addition, mental exercise could also help to slow down time – which sounds bizarre, but scientifically, stacks up. Have you ever noticed how time seems to move faster the older you get? It’s thought that this is because that our lives become fairly predictable, and there are fewer mental markers of difference as we go through our standard lives. By engaging in mental exercise, and particularly if you choose to learn or do something new, you create new markers, which can help to slow down the speed at which time seems to pass.
Exercise isn’t just good for your body – as the above demonstrates, it’s good for your mind too. By ensuring you keep your mind active, you should be able to enjoy life to its fullest – and be able to make the most of each moment, too.