I think it’s really important to exercise your mind on a daily basis because I believe that the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, has some basis here.
About a year ago or so I needed to do some work with a CAD (computer aided drafting) work with program I used almost every day for about seven years while I was a draftsman full time. I purchased a thirty-day licence, downloaded and installed it, and then started to do the work I needed to do.
You would think after seven years of experience with this program on a near daily basis I would be able to pick it up again, “just like riding a bike”. While a lot of the physical actions of what I needed to do came back almost instantly, when it came to perform the more complex and lesser used cognitive tasks that I’d done thousands of times in the past, it took a few minutes to remember how to do perform these tasks, and in a couple of cases I had to read the help files to brush up those particular commands and how they function.
Well that’s just interesting isn’t it.
The actions that I had to physically perform I recalled nearly instantly and could perform them just like I would hop on and ride a bicycle, whereas some of the cognitive tasks had to be revisited.
I used the above example as a way to explain why I think exercising the mind is important and I did this by illustrating how easy it is to forget how to do something specific when you don’t do it for awhile, and while memory is important, it’s not the only thing about the mind that needs exercise.
When I say that I think it’s important to exercise the mind, is more than just the ability to recall things easily, but to increase your reference set and how you access your memory.
What increasing your reference set does is allow you to have a greater understanding of something much faster by the ability to analogize whatever is presented to you based upon what you already know and all of different types of experiences you had.
How you use your reference sets the speed of how you access it. We’ve all had the feeling of a thought or idea “being on the tip of our tongue”, and this is where having an efficient memory recall is beneficial.
Exercising the mind is about being able to spot patterns in things, making assumptions, making associations, using thought frameworks and maybe most importantly, thinking creatively and using your imagination.
Here are some things you can do to exercise your mind.
Expand Your Reference Set
- Go and try some new things and experiences or experience what you know already differently. The more different experiences you’re exposed to, the better.
- Take a tour of a factory.
- Take up a new hobby.
- Try making your favorite dish five new ways.
- Get a part time job doing something way different than you’d normally do. Learning a new skill will give you an entirely new reference set complete with new muscle memory.
- Experience the people and culture around you.
- Meditate in nature and try to connect to the world using all of your senses.
- Watch movies or listen to music in a different genre than what you’re used to.
- Pay attention to the little things around you to see how everyone else accomplishes common tasks. Watching how people wash dishes is an interesting one.
- Change one thing when you do something, like wear a different pair of shoes when you go for a walk to see how it changes the experience, not just your comfort level, but your pace and body language and how it might affect the other people around you.
- Try playing a new sport you haven’t tried yet like disc golf or cart racing.
When you really pay attention to the differences of what you already know to what is new, you are inputting information into your brain in a comparative nature. This type of information can be recalled from memory extremely easy with speed.
Use your Imagination
- Just let your mind wander.
- Create a fictional story with what you don’t know for sure. Write it down if you want.
- Visualize the start, middle, end of a process. What it actually will look like.
- Contingency planning. Change some of the details of your plan to play out some what-if scenarios. What do we do if we get to the restaurant and it’s closed for some reason?
- Test your assumptions. Make a guess when you have one and then read a head to see if you’re right.
- Imagine a scenario you do every day, but from the point of view from someone that is not like-minded as you.
I personally like to play puzzle and platformer type video games, like Super Mario Brothers and Dr. Mario, but any types of games and puzzles are good to exercise the mind. Crosswords, word searches, Sodoku, all powerful with keeping the mind in use.
Test Your Memory Recall
Draw a place you’ve been, see if you can get everything on your shopping list without looking, memorize all of the important numbers in your life (drivers’ licence, social security, etc). Try to remember things out of sequence, forwards and backwards.
Other Considerations To Keep In Mind
Some other and possibly equal considerations for exercising the mind is also exercising and taking care of the body.
Normal day to day diet. I think we have all experienced the lack of cognitive abilities after a thanksgiving feast. In order to use the mind efficiently, you should provide it with a good fuel source and remove as many cognitive obstacles as possible.
Sleep. While exercising the mind is great, it also needs rest. Get as much as you need.
Exercising the mind is all about using it how ever you want to experience life. The more the better.
Have a great day!
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