It’s Not All Fun and Games…But Some of It Is
In this series on getting your brain in gear, we’ve looked at pursuing your dreams as one way of engaging your brain cells in new activity. We identified those dreams, organized and assessed resources to fulfill those dreams, and talked about how the process is often more valuable than the product.
We then took a slightly different direction by talking about the role music and movement play in optimizing brain activity. I say “slightly” because all of these elements work together. Each activity boosts your brainpower, putting another activity within reach.
Today I want to present a few differing activities. In these waning days of winter, with Seasonal Affective Disorder in full bloom, I want to provide a few options to engage your brain without the long term commitment of say, writing a book or learning to play an instrument.
Here are five opportunities you can start today. You may already have all you need stuffed away in some closet.
1. Play a Game- Strategy games are optimal for activating your thinking skills. These can include other people or you can play individual games such as Sudoku or a crossword puzzle to challenge your reasoning skills.
2. Work a Jigsaw Puzzle- Jigsaw puzzles require sorting, categorizing, visualization, and pattern recognition to name a few brainteasers within the box. Yes, you may have to eat on TV trays for a few weeks, but the process is worth it and the finished product yields a sense of accomplishment.
3. Change Your Routine- I clearly put this one in the middle because I don’t want it lost in the mix. All of us have experienced changes in our routines during the pandemic, but by now we are settling into new ones. It may be time for a few new elements. For example, if you usually exercise after work to unwind, try splitting your exercise up and do some of it in the morning to get your body going. Or if you are a morning person already, try adding something to your evening you don’t usually do. If you find yourself sitting at the computer working (or exploring social media) for long periods of time, set an alarm to remind you to get up and do something, anything, different. Routines are comforting, but they can lull us into a state of boredom and brain inactivity.
4. Read-Of course I suggest reading. I won’t push it so far as to suggest you read one of my books. (You can find them on Amazon for yourself.) I will suggest you read across genres to extend your knowledge, worldview, vocabulary, and problem solving skills. Every few years I set out to read the complete works of Shakespeare. Some of it is quite challenging. I’m simply not into “sprites” and “fairy queens” and some of the magic he puts forth. But each time I read, I learn something new about myself or themes ever present in good writing. I will be honest here. I haven’t made it through every one of his works in the span of a single year. But I am getting there. And the journey is interesting.
5. Research Your Family History- This one is very specific. Your family. Not mine. Not some historical figure. You think you know it all? I doubt it. Lately, I’ve watched a PBS show called Finding Your Roots with host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. One of the elements of the show I enjoy is the historical context he brings to the family tree he researches. My oldest daughter is in the process of researching both her and her husband’s family. What a gift for her sons. I’ve supplied information I have and have listened as she fits pieces of the puzzle together. She will find several people with the same name and systematically eliminate some of them based on their birth year (“This one can’t be her, Mom, unless she had a baby when she was in her eighties.”) or one person she found was married to someone other than our relative for over fifty years. It simply wouldn’t fit. She found an inscription in one of her great-grandmother’s high school yearbooks that helped her find another family member.
So there you have it. Jumpstart Your Brain by engaging in some fun and games. Be sure to let me know how this works for you! Leave your comments below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also let me know if you want to sign up for my newsletter. If you do, I'll send you my best-ever brownie recipe.