We all use tools in our work, and all of these tools need to be re-energized in some way over time. They need to be polished, sharpened, refurbished. They need new spark plugs or a tune up. Some times they even need new batteries.
We take these maintenance tasks seriously because we know that when the batteries are fully charged we get the full potential out of electrical devices and when the machinery has been maintained it lasts longer and works more economically.
Doesn’t it make sense then to do some regularly scheduled maintenance on our brain – a tool far more valuable than the rest?
It happens to all of us. We get in ruts, we build routines and we develop habits, and in doing so we often don’t use our brain the way we could. It is one of our most valuable and precious resources and it is time to re-energize it.
Here then are eight ways you can re-energize, re-invigorate and do some ongoing maintenance for your brain.
1. Ask Why? Our brains are wired to be curious. As we grow up and “mature” many of us stifle or deny our natural curiosity. Let yourself be curious! Wonder to yourself about why things are happening. Ask someone in the know. The best way to exercise our curiosity is by asking “Why?” Make it a new habit to ask “why?” at least 10 times a day. Your brain will be happier and you will be amazed at how many opportunities and solutions will show up in your life and work.
2. Laugh. Scientists tell us that laughter is good for our health; that it releases endorphins and other positively powerful chemicals into our system. We don’t really need scientists to tell us that it feels good to laugh. Laughing helps us reduce stress and break old patterns too. So laughter can be like a “quick-charge” for our brain’s batteries. Laugh more, and laugh harder.
3. Remember. Get out an old photo album or high school yearbook. Your brain is a memory machine, so give it a chance to work! Spend time with your memories. Let your mind reflect on them and your mind will repay you in positive emotions and new connections from the memories to help you with your current tasks and challenges.
4. Do a puzzle. Some of us like jigsaw puzzles, some crossword puzzles, some logic puzzles – it really doesn’t matter kind you choose to do. Doing puzzles in your free time is a great way to activate your brain and keep it in good working condition. Do the puzzle for fun, but do it knowing you are exercising your brain.
5. Play. Take time to play. Make time to play. Play cards. Play video games. Play board games. Play Ring Around the Rosie. Play tug of war. It doesn’t matter what you play. Just play! It is good for your spirit and good for your brain. It gives your brain a chance to think strategically, and keeps it working.
6. Learn something new. This one might seem obvious. Yes, we capitalize on our brain’s great potential when we put it to work learning new things. You may have a specific topic for work or leisure that you want to learn more about. That’s great. Go learn it. If you don’t have a subject in mind right now, try learning a new word each day. There is a strong correlation between working vocabulary and intelligence. When we have new words in our vocabulary, our minds can think in new ways with greater nuances between ideas. Put your mind to work learning. It is one of the best ways to re-energize your brain.
7. Write to be read. I am a big proponent of writing in a journal to capture ideas and thoughts. There is certainly great value in writing for yourself. I continue to find that my brain is greatly stimulated by writing to be read. Writing this article (and at least one per week) is one example and writing in my blog is another example. There are several situations and audiences for which I write each week. There are many benefits to me in doing this. The greatest isn’t visibility or marketing; the greatest is what it does to expand my brain’s capacity. Find ways to write to be read – in your church newsletter, by writing things for your kids to read, by capturing the stories of your childhood (see number 3 above), starting your own blog or whatever – just write to be read.
8. Exercise. We all know that exercise is important for your physical health. Our brain is a part of that body, so increasing our blood flow brings more oxygen to the brain – oxygen that is the fuel for that beautiful brain. When I exercise I get fresh ideas. When I exercise I feel better physically and mentally. Just add “improving my brain” to the list of great reasons to exercise.
This is a short but powerful list. I encourage you to apply at least one of these approaches starting today. Look at your to do list and your calendar. Put it on your list in ink.