Mental Exercises

Could mental exercises be what you do in counseling? Or could it be what you do in the exercise gym? What you do when you learn something new? What about memory training, is that mental exercise?

What about stomping on all those ants, or automatic negative thoughts, practicing prayer, and meditation, or biofeedback skills, or creating art or writing your journal.

They are all mental exercises, and according to Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, they change your brain, can make it bigger, like working out at the gym can do for your biceps.

In fact, regular physical exercise is an important aspect of mental exercise, it turns out.

The best kind of mental exercises, according to the brain fitness writers, are the kind that we do when we are learning a new language or learning to play a new instrument.

Language and music learning involve an increasing level of complexity and the opportunity to get about 80% of our challenges correct.

Mental exercises which do not meet those criterion are not the most effective mental exercises, so as a counselor, reading another counseling book will not be a mental exercise.

I know that we have been told for decades that cross word puzzles and vocabulary practice are the keys to mental sharpness across the life span, but new research is saying not so fast.

If we want to make sure that our mental exercise pays off over the entire course of our lives, perhaps it is important to take a look at what the brain fitness folks are saying about how to generate neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, tow capacities of the human brain which were unknown not too long ago.

I and all of us can grow new neurons on a daily basis, which enhance mental exercises, if I take care of the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrition, (omega 3’s and dark chocolate?) sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, which can mean learning a new language, learning how to play a new instrument, or even using one of the emerging computerized brain fitness programs.

So maybe before I worry about memory exercises for example, I do the work necessary for neurogenesis, build the platform for mental exercises, so to speak.

So if you are interested in knowing more about the pillars of brain fitness, then please check out a very well written e-book called Brain fit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D,neuroscientists at the University of Michigan. Their work is written for the layperson, with a sly sense of humor, though, so do not be intimidated by the credentials. Evans and Burghardt go through the pillars of brain fitness in some detail, beginning with the most important pillar, physical exercise.

The good news about the pillars of mental exercises is that we achieve the necessary progress for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity without having to undertake an Olympic kind of training regimen.

After all, our body is doing this for us everyday. But if I do not make some effort to address the pillars, then those new neurons emerge into a brain not prepared to fully maximize their use, so do exercise, eat lots of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, get good sleep, manage your stress, not just once a day, but perhaps heart beat by heart beat, and learn a new language, or a new instrument.

And if you do not have the time for an instrument, or a language, then check out some of the emerging computerized brain fitness tools designed to keep us developing neurons.

There are a couple which have some very interesting research associated with them.

If your are like to double check the marketing claims, then read the IMPACT study published in April of 2009, and look at the PNAS research in regards to the dual n back task, which is very exciting.

It appears that we are going to be able to do mental exercises of the appropriate kind right at our computer, between piano or French lessons, and increase our IQ while increasing visual acuity and cognitive reserve.

That all means that your 62 year old brain will still be sharp.Start_Here_Internet_Cash_Sniper
About the Author

Michael S. Logan is a brain fitness expert, a counselor, a student of Chi Gong, and licensed one on one HeartMath provider. I enjoy the spiritual, the mythological, and psychological, and I am a late life father to Shane, 10, and Hannah Marie, 4, whose brains are so amazing. http://www.askmikethecounselor2.com

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