Keep Your Brain Working While On Lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols set in place during this period has called for some major changes in our daily lives and may even call for some changes in how we think.
We've all heard of the term "use it or lose it" right? Well, the same goes for your brain. Well more so, your brains' ability to function at its best. It's been shown time and time again, that a lack of stimulus for your brain, can make it "lazy" and ultimately lose some key functionality. Keeping your brain exercised and stimulated constantly is the key to keeping it sharp and fresh, even in old age.
Arguably, cognitive decline, even age-related cognitive decline, might be a result of a lack of training and stimulating your brain, learning new skills or keeping your brain active. As we age, we generally fall into a basic daily routine of going to work, doing the same medial tasks over and over and then following those routines every day. You may feel productive, but your brain might be bored senseless.
Following the same routine daily, forces your brain to switch to 'auto-pilot'. In most cases, you don't learn anything new during your standard daily routine.
So how can you change this?
Well, even though lockdown has posed some major issues for the sanity of most, it could mean a chance to reset and refresh your brain for when we're allowed to tread freely in society once more.
Scientists generally use the term “cognitive reserve” as the common finding of our memory and thinking skills to be more resilient in those who routinely engage in cognitively challenging activities like education or learning new skills.
As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have come up with a few activities which will assist in keeping your brain active and exercised as much as possible.
1.) Switch Things Up
Our daily lives rely on various cognitive functions which include memory, language, problem-solving, planning and processing.
Throwing a few different activities at your brain throughout the day can assist in all these and offers the chance to activate different cognitive pathways in your brain.
For one, crossword puzzles will be great for language and short-term memory skills. You can even get the family involved with a game of Scrabble.
Going back to some old-school games, Tetris is a great speed exercise for your brain - or even a good old FPS (First Person Shooter) keeping your trigger finger ready, boosting your reaction and processing speed even taking care of some built-up aggression during the lockdown.
2.) Be Smart And Set Goals
Don't make things impossible and keep track of your progress when setting goals. These goals can range from completing certain tasks within a given timeframe, learning a new skill or getting better at an existing skill.
Every time you achieve one of your goals or think it's time for a change, revise them and set your bar slightly higher than before. This will keep your brain challenged and also increases your dopamine response when you achieve increasingly difficult goals. Keeping you happy and sharp.
3.) Set Time Aside For Brain Workouts
Just like it's important for you to set aside time for physical workouts, setting aside time for brain-related workouts is just as important. Treat it as "gym-time" for your brain and set aside 30-60 mins of workout time for your brain, in which you challenge your brain with some tasks - these can range from math problems, reading, learning a skill or practising a skill.
After you've completed your brain-pump session, try and reflect on what you've exercised and how this will be applied in a real-life situation. This may assist in gaining and retaining these skills and makes it easier to apply them in daily activities.
4.) Identify and Overcome
It might be difficult to reach certain goals sometimes, however, the harder and more challenging the goal is, the more likely it is that you'll sharpen your cognition and skills.
However, it does sometimes happen where we simply don't meet our goals. It's vital that we don't break ourselves down when this happens and rather take the time to reflect and get to the bottom of what prevented us from achieving it.
Reflecting on these barriers and how you can overcome them can even be a challenge in itself and may even help your brains' problem-solving skills. For example, if you find yourself being distracted easily as a barrier, isolate yourself during those times - keeping away any potential distraction by switching your mobile devices off for the duration of your exercise or activity.
5.) Two Heads Are Better Than One
Just like having a gym partner, having someone doing brain exercises with you is a great way of excelling and will even make these tasks more fun and interactive and can even increase your efforts. Some friendly competition is always great, keeping score and going head-to-head with a family member can even help you overcome some of the previously mentioned barriers.
If you don't have anyone at home you can engage with, technology is your friend. You can arrange a video-call with a friend or family member to join in either on an online video game or even joining in on similar exercises and keeping score or timing each other.
Keep Challenging Yourself
Yes, social isolation and lockdowns aren't great. But, we can change our outlook and mindset during this period and keep our minds as active and resilient as possible.
Get the family involved with some board-games, challenging cognitive functions, switch on your gaming consoles or dive into a book or two. As long as we know, it's vital to keep our minds healthy during this period, not just our physical health.