5 Ways to Think More Clearly: Brain Health and Mental Maintenance

Your friend texts you about their frustrating day, your taxes have to be filed, the radio spouts news of another disaster somewhere, and you still haven’t taken your car in for its oil change.  With the wonders of technology and high-speed interaction between us all, we’re finding it more and more difficult to keep our mental machinery chugging away at optimum performance.  What you need is scheduled maintenance.

Just like your car, your brain needs fuel and regular care to perform like you need it to.  If you drive your Ferrari too many miles without adding gasoline, it will sputter and quit on you.  If you go months without replacing oil and tires and hoses and belts, your Maserati will eventually respond with sluggishness or even more catastrophic ends.  Your brain is precision crafted—there is no substitute.  Here are five things to make sure your brain and mind keep humming along to serve your increasing needs:

1)      Sleep! Deprive your brain of sleep long enough and you’ll simply go crazy.  Your brain needs sleep to organize what’s happened during the day. Memories are processed and learning is cataloged during sleep.  Don’t get enough sleep, and you’ll simply not think clearly.

2)      Meditate.  Very different from sleeping, meditation is focused concentration on right now.  It gets your brain functioning in different wave patterns by clearing your thoughts and keeping your mind in the present—not worried about the future, not haunted by the past, but simply focused on right now.  Your brain finds peace in mindful meditation, and that produces rejuvenation.

3)      Experience beauty.  For some, this is the same as creativity, but not all of us are creative types.  Soak in what you find to be beautiful.  Some find beauty in the purr of an engine, others find it in a baby’s laugh.  This is what generations have referred to when they advise us to “stop and smell the roses.”  Whether you find beauty in flowers, in a fast pitch at a baseball game, or in the grandeur of nature, “beauty appreciation” is the brain’s opportunity to stop and function in a different mode.

4)      Experience the spiritual.  This isn’t your mother nagging you to go to church.  It’s an invitation to open your mind to awareness of something beyond the physical and visible.  For some this comes through study of quantum theory while others may experience it in religious worship.  The 12-steps refer to it as appreciation or awareness of a “higher power,” or something bigger or different than all of this and us.

5)      Veg!  In addition to sleeping and meditating, your brain needs time to let go and roam where it may.  You might “veg” by perusing Facebook or a magazine.  Some people might just exist for a period of time in front of TV news or a rerun of a mindless sitcom.  In men, “vegging” actually releases a hormone that produces a sense of calmness and can be useful to let go of the day’s stress.

While none of these five suggestions are helpful when practiced in excess, they each add to brain health.  So to prevent your brain from pinging or backfiring, give it a tune-up with these five maintenance activities, and your thinking will be clear and smooth

Kevin Bergen, MFT, is a freelance writer and the curator of  www.kevinbergen.com

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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