Our brains naturally like to be active. When we are not keeping them busy, they wander to subjects that might be stressful, and there happen to be a lot of sources for stress in the world today. During this unprecedented time of social distancing, where we have to avoid meeting in groups or standing too close to each other, a lot of activities that would otherwise keep our brains occupied are suddenly off the table. More now than ever it is important to keep our brains busy especially with the extra downtime. But what can we do to keep the mind working?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TAKE CARE OF MY BRAIN?
The choices we make impact our minds just as much as they do our bodies over the long term. Good choices, such as exercising and keeping a healthy diet, can help our brains stay healthier for longer. Unhealthy habits, such as tobacco or excessive alcohol use, on the other hand, can lead to earlier cognitive decline.
During a time of pandemic and economic anxiety, there are many reasons for us to worry. Worry leads to stress, and stress is another part of our lives that can be damaging to our brains. High levels of stress hormones can kill brain cells, resulting in shrinking of the brain over the long term. If we do not keep our brains busy, they can fixate on whatever is troubling us, leading to more stress and anxiety.
When we have to practice social distancing, our daily routine may be disrupted. However, with this disruption comes time to do some of the things we have always been meaning to try. So rather than a burden, think of it as an opportunity to take up new hobbies or rekindle old ones.
FIVE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR BRAIN ACTIVE FOR IMPROVED BRAIN HEALTH:
- Try to Maintain a Daily Routine. Studies have shown that maintaining a routine can limit stress. If you are working from home, for example, try to keep the same morning routine as if you were going to the office—shower in the morning, change into work clothes, sit at a desk, keep a regular lunch, and avoid distractions. If you are not working, then create a realistic routine for yourself that you can maintain. Perhaps have a healthy breakfast, exercise in the morning, prepare a meal for the family in the afternoon, and spend some downtime with hobbies that keep your brain working.
- Exercise. Exercise can help maintain our physical as well as our mental health. With social distancing, going to the gym may no longer be possible. However, there are many forms of exercise you can practice at home. Stretching, body weight exercises, and cardiovascular exercises can all keep our brains healthy. Take advantage of the spring weather and go for a nice walk around your neighborhood, run along your favorite trail, or bike ride around the less busy streets in town.
- Get in Touch with Your Creative Side. Many people have ideas for projects that never happen due to lack of time. Well, social distancing grants us that time. Create that online blog or video series you have been planning. If you are interested in the arts, start investing time into creating collages, paintings, or other crafts. While restaurants have taken a back seat, feel free to experiment with the healthy meals you prepare. Creativity can keep your brain working and off the stressors of our times.
- Put Time into Hobbies that Stimulate your Brain. Our hobbies can help maintain our brain health and lower our risk for cognitive decline. If there is a series of books you have been meaning to try, now is a great time. Activities that challenge the brain, such as crosswords, word searches, Sudoku puzzles, arts and crafts, and puzzles are great uses of time that will pay off in the short and long term. Playing board games with friends and family at home can keep your brain working while maintaining a social connection.
- Stay Socially Engaged. Humans are social creatures, and social distancing does not mean social isolation. Not being able to gather in large groups or get too close to each other should not particularly mean a halt to your social relationships. Technology has given us video calls, and in a time when gathering together is not an option, seeing each other as we talk is an important way to maintain that connection.
Keeping your brain busy can help you deal with the day-to-day stresses of our times as well as the boredom that comes with spending the majority of your day at home. It can also help keep your brain healthy for longer and reduce the risk for cognitive decline as you age.