Friday, June 25, 2010

How do You Grow Your Mind?

There has been talk over the last few years about challenging or "exercising" the mind in order to aid in avoiding Alzheimer's disease, among other things. You may have also heard of those individuals living to great age explaining that they have "kept their mind young" as a secret to living to that age. Any way you look at it, using and challenging your mind is just as crucial as exercising your body.
The terms or concepts of Mind and Body or Mind/Body/Spirit are also being used a lot. The concept is a useful one, but now it seems to have just become a marketing term and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. What does it really mean? It's stems from an age old questions and one in which philosophers and psychologists have wrestled with for centuries. Is the brain separate from the body? Is the body just a machine run by the brain? Are they connected? The answer is most definitely. The mind and the body - and the spirit - are inextricably linked. What you do to one affects what happens to the other. So when I say exercising your mind is just as crucial as exercising your body, it's more than just point of reference.
It's necessary to grow all parts of your self. When you grow your mind, chances are you'll make improvements to your body (or they may even happen with little effort). Work on improving your body and find your mindset improving as well. Now your spirit. Ever notice that when you exercise your body regularly that you feel better, your thoughts are clearer, your mood improves, you are kinder to others or more tolerant, and you have more patience? There are all kinds of physiological processes that can be described to explain all of this, but do you need to know that in order to know it's just better? All you need to know is that everything in your life seems to improve. That's all that's important. Then use that to keep doing what you're doing.
It can work the other way as well. Grow your mind and chances are you'll find junk food no longer appealing or you may find giving up soda much easier. You may stumble on a class or be motivated to go for more walks or develop a meditation practice. The question is, how do we grow our minds? We all know what it takes to exercise the body, but do we really know what exercises our minds?

Write something. The act of having to articulate your thoughts and put them together in a coherent fashion can really cause you to think.

Take up a class in something new. Knitting, acting, dancing, book clubs or language classes are good ways to make you think.

Read a non-fiction book. Fiction books are great, but truly are more entertaining. Better yet, get a how-to book and learn something new.

Avoid the news. We think news educates us, yet it's really just depressing information that adds no particular value to our lives. Does knowing who got murdered really help you? Does hearing about the latest politician test your brain skills or just your patience? Can you live without it? Probably.

Help someone else. Volunteer somewhere, anywhere. Go to your kids school, the local shelter, build a house for someone or visit an invalid or someone elderly. You may be surprised by the skills you learn but more importantly the perspective you gain. That could be the most important learning of all.

Do you have examples of how you grow your mind? Please share!