You're working hard at a satisfying career. You're settled, more or less, in a long time relationship, and enjoy a fulfilling social life. You've established a comfortable routine with your family and friends. Life in general is going great.
Or is it? Could it be that your mind is stagnating?
The brain is an organ and, as such, it requires oxygen and exercise, just like the heart and lungs. Feed your mind and you'll feel emotionally and physically invigorated. It may be too soon to succumb to middle-aged worries about "using it or losing it," or to start fretting about Alzheimer's and other degenerative disease. Nonetheless, it's still important to focus on keeping your brain in shape.
By regularly engaging in the right activities, you can increase your memory, improve your problem-solving skills and boost your creativity. Here are some tips on how to keep your mind active.
Integrating select activities into your regular schedule will pay long-term dividends.
1- Read a book
Choose from classic literature, science fiction or career-enhancing business books and give your brain a boost. Pick up a novel before your next business flight or vacation. On top of the cerebral benefits, the escapism that comes from reading can be very relaxing.
Brain benefits: Reading helps you exercise your cognitive skills and increase your vocabulary. Do it regularly and you'll be amazed at the information you absorb, which will make you a more interesting conversationalist.
2- Take a course
Learn something new. Sign up for a cooking class, register for martial arts training or enroll in a wine tasting seminar.
Brain benefits: You'll be challenging yourself to absorb new concepts, information and ideas, and you'll hone your retention skills through memorization.
3- Learn a language
Attend classes, listen to tapes or date a woman with whom you can converse in another language. Instead of watching the same television programs you always do, take in a foreign language movie with subtitles.
Brain benefits: Learning a new tongue keeps your brain flexible and your mind sharp, helping to reduce the slowing of the thought processes that comes with age. It can also make your next vacation or business trip easier if you know the language.
exercise your mind
Sometimes, physical and mental exercise go hand-in-hand.
Lace up your running shoes and get moving. Even if you never plan to run a marathon, it will get both your body and mind in shape.
Brain benefits: Running will increase the levels of oxygen in your brain and flowing through your body. In turn, your body will release more endorphins, which will make you feel energized while producing a sense of pleasure and well-being.
5- Play golf
Escape to the links and spend a few hours in the fresh air counting birdies, bogeys and mulligans. Golf is a social sport and a great way to network and relax at the same time.
Brain benefits: Golfers get mental stimulation using their decision-making skills as they plan stroke strategies. As the sport involves the control of repetitive movements, it instills mind-body discipline.
6- Do yoga
You might be surprised at how strenuous yoga can be. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities.
Brain benefits: Yoga forces you to focus on controlling all your muscles and your breathing. You'll let your worries slide away, giving your mind a rest from stress.
7- Play pool
Rack 'em up, grab a cue and concentrate on your strategy. Billiard players must focus on the immediate, blocking out distractions as they plan their next moves.
Brain benefits: Strategic planning increases mental clarity. Concentrating on the immediate helps keep your mind sharp. Furthermore, this game of angles demands that players think in terms of physics, something most of us rarely do in our everyday lives.
Developing habits to fill the brief intervals in your day will also help hone your mind.
8- Play a game
Challenge a colleague to a game of chess at lunch. Invite friends over for an evening of cards. Besides the social aspects, such activities will keep your mind active.
Brain benefits: You'll use your memory and expand your powers of recall. You'll also test your mathematical skills and logic.
9- Subscribe to a daily newsletter
Whether it's a "word of the day," "quote of the day" or "this day in history" newsletter, receiving new information each day will add data to the hard drive in your head.
Brain benefits: The mental stimulation will increase your comprehension skills. The additional knowledge will also make you sound more worldly and intelligent.
Even extended leisure time needn't be downtime for your brain.
10- Grab the controller
Believe it or not, playing certain video games really can be good for your health. The operative word here, however, is "certain" -- choose games that involve strategy or problem solving. Playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City may be stimulating, but it doesn't do much for the mind.
Brain benefits: Problem solving and role-playing games will help you practice strategic planning. You'll also improve your hand-eye coordination.
11- Build a model
Remember the fun you had as a kid making model airplanes and cars? Recreate that by building a miniature model.
Brain benefits: Following all those written instructions sharpens your powers of concentration. Focusing on the task at hand will also be very relaxing.
12- Learn an instrument
Pull out your old guitar, sign up for piano lessons or rent a trumpet or a clarinet. Learning how to make music will stimulate your creativity.
Brain benefits: Reading music provides mental stimulation. Playing an instrument requires powers of recall as well as concentration to maintain tune and tempo.
13- Do a crossword
Stick The New York Times crossword puzzle in your briefcase, then get to work on it during your commute or while you're waiting for an appointment or a meeting to begin.
Brain benefits: You'll improve your cognitive skills and creative thinking as well as your word power and vocabulary.
14- Engage in a debate
A lively discussion can be invigorating. As long as you avoid letting it digress into an argument, you can have a lot of fun debating the pros and cons of an issue with a friend or colleague.
Brain benefits: You'll practice your quick-thinking skills, logic and creativity. Developing convincing theories on the spot will help you in your career and in your personal relationships.
boost your brain
Keep your mental faculties in tip-top shape by giving yourself plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation. Use your cognitive skills, test your powers of recall, improve your memory, and challenge yourself to be more creative in your thinking. You'll reap great brain-boosting benefits by keeping your mind active.