Seven Ways To Train Your Mind

Seven ways to train your mind

The human body can be shaped. It is programmed to adapt to our environmental conditions. In our society, we have also designed many facilities to mold our minds. These facilities direct how our minds adapt so that we can achieve the goals we want to achieve. But to reach our maximum potential in mental formation, we have to challenge ourselves every day, we have to train our minds.

Mental training is one of the tools we have at hand to improve or perfect our mental processes. We can train our minds by performing mentally demanding tasks. Of course, we cannot deny that mental capacity also has a genetic component. However, there are still strategies we can use to improve what we have.

Training your mind is very similar to training your body. So to get the best results, we need to get out of our comfort zones. We must be strong and constant and overcome the difficulties step by step. Once we get used to a particular task, when we can do it automatically, it becomes routine and not training.

The following advice can help train your mind and maximize your potential:

1. Train your mind by exercising or doing other physical activity

Exercise that requires you to breathe more intensively has both mental and physical benefits. It mainly improves the connection between the frontal and medial temporal lobe. It affects our working memory and executive functions. The cognitive benefits of sport have a physiological explanation, namely that it is beneficial for the production of neurotrophins.

Neurotrophins increase synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis and vascularization of the brain. It reduces the loss of brain volume caused by old age, especially in the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and learning. To take advantage of these benefits of exercise, you should exercise regularly, about thirty minutes a day.

Cardio exercises can be adapted to each person’s abilities. If you are someone who has never done this type of exercise before, you can start with walking or doing fun sports like tennis or swimming. The cognitive benefits of playing a sport are also attainable into old age and act as a protector against conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Train your mind through exercise

2. Train your working memory

Working memory training is very helpful in boosting our cognitive skills. There are many exercises for working memory. One of the tasks designed for this type of exercise is the ‘n-back’. In this exercise you look at a screen where a figure appears and disappears. Later it reappears. You have to decide if it appeared in the same place as before. You can always increase the difficulty.

This task forces you to save recent information and compare it with current information. What is interesting about this task is that the evidence has shown that the skills acquired here can be transferred to other tasks, such as reasoning ability.

Any task that requires the temporary storage of auditory or visual information and its subsequent use trains working memory and is a form of mental training. For example, listen to a series of songs and repeat them in reverse order. Normally you should start with a medium difficulty and then adjust it according to your skills. It’s important to strike a balance between challenging training, but it shouldn’t be impossible or frustrating.

3. Leave your comfort zone

We need to do new things to strengthen our minds. We can start small. You may learn a new hobby that makes you think, such as learning to play an instrument. Or we watch a new show in French with Dutch subtitles. Once you feel comfortable, change the subtitles to French and then remove them altogether.

In short, the most important thing is to keep learning all your life. We all assume that children learn every day, because that’s what their age is all about. Children can also learn more easily and their neuroplasticity is at its peak. But as has been shown lately, it’s never too late to learn.

It makes sense that the activities we do are geared to our age and abilities. Of course, it should also be activities that we enjoy. Motivation is crucial in not giving up on the new activity, especially if it is not made easy for us at first. Other examples of activities that increase mental capacity are word searches, crossword puzzles, and sudoku puzzles. Playing chess, and even forming new social relationships, can also benefit the mind.

4. Read

Reading is one of the most efficient and cheapest forms of mental training. We don’t need technology or other resources for it. We can do it at home and it is also a fun activity. The sooner we get into the habit of reading, the better. That’s why it’s important to read to children and encourage them to read short stories themselves.

Reading stimulates many mental processes such as perception, memory and reasoning. When we read, we decode the visual stimuli (letters, words, sentences) by converting them into mental sounds that have meaning. This action activates broad areas of the brain.

Train your mind by reading

Reading can also stimulate imagination and creativity and help us build a new vocabulary. It’s a way to keep learning that’s fun and enjoyable. Of all the methods of strengthening our brain, reading is one of the most important. There are many studies that confirm that reading at a young age can lead to higher cognitive ability.

5. Living in a complex and rich environment

When we refer to our pets or animals in a zoo, we often talk about whether they are getting enough stimulation. This concept can also be applied to humans. For a human being, an enriching and stimulating environment would be one that is full of novelty and complexity. An environment in which changes take place that force us to adapt.

For example, a child growing up in an enriched environment is always surrounded by new information and activities. A family that plays the piano at home and also teaches it to the children, reads together, supports critical thoughts, leaves room for mental growth. Children benefit from an environment where they are faced with challenges and have to find their own solutions.

According to Stern, this kind of complex environment provides people with two kinds of resources. On the one hand, we have ‘hardware’ with more synapses and a larger branched distribution. On the other hand, we have the ‘software’, which consists of having more adapted cognitive skills. During adulthood, living in an enriched environment can be achieved by living an active life, both physically and mentally.

6. Improving Creativity

To improve our cognitive skills, we need to do more than math or memory exercises. Exercises that focus on unleashing creativity are also helpful. Music, painting, dance or theater are activities that promote creativity. They are also hobbies that can be done in our spare time, in the fight against a sedentary lifestyle.

Performing these types of activities helps promote greater mental flexibility and originality,  which is associated with the activation of specific neural networks. Creativity also positively influences resilience, helping us to cope with the losses and changes that inevitably come with adulthood.

Train your mind by painting

Creativity can have a positive impact on the cognitive level thanks to the  influence it has on other levels such as motivation, social relationships or other cognitive components. Any task that forces us to leave our routine and meet new people will impact quality of life, especially for the elderly.

7. Learning a new language

Language is one of the most complex higher functions our brain performs. It affects more areas of the cerebral cortex. Despite its complexity, humans have the innate ability to learn language, especially in childhood when the brain is more plastic. However, we can learn languages ​​throughout our lives. Learning a new language is a good form of mental training.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of bilingualism, showing that it leads to better selective attention and develops the habit of moving mental content. Learning two languages ​​from the moment you learn to speak and use them in the family, at school and in your social life is the most beneficial. When a language is learned after childhood, the second language will always be subordinate to the first.

The only way to generate linguistic automatisms without having to translate everything from the native language at once is to practice. It is therefore not worth learning a language for just two hours a week. It’s better for our brains to practice, especially by having conversations with native speakers of the new language.

Conclusions

Cognitive stimulation and maintenance of an active lifestyle can prevent neurodegenerative diseases and compensate for neurological damage. It increases our cognitive reserves and activates compensatory mechanisms. It is important to do mental training exercises throughout our lives, not just in old age.

Escaping your routine, being an active person, and wanting to learn and explore things can help you get the most out of your mind.  Setting yourself up with intellectual challenges and avoiding monotony and a sedentary lifestyle are the most effective forms of mental training. Use math and memory exercises, change your habits.

Train your mind by doing math calculations

Research on cognitive reserve has shown that the main factor influencing brain plasticity is the work performed throughout life, the habit of reading, the years of education, and the social network you have. So the brain is formed from the first year of life until our death, which gives us ample opportunities to intervene in its development.

Bibliography

Fink A., Grabner RH, Gebauer D., Reishofer G., Koschut-nig K., Ebner. (2010) Enhancing creativity by means of cognitive stimulation: evidence from an fMRI study. Neuroimage , 52(4):1687-95.

Redolat R. (2012). La estimulación mental como factor potenciador de la reserva cognitiva y del envejecimiento activo. Informació psiclògica , 104:72-83.

Redolat R. y Mesa-Gresa P. (2012). Potential benefits and limitations of enriched environments and cognitive activity on age-related behavioral decline. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience , 10:293-316.

Stern Y. (2009). Cognitive reserve. Neuropsychology , 47(10), 2015-28. 

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