As we get older, it's inevitable that our mental skills won't be what they were when we were at school, because, well, we're not "exercising" our brains in the same way, or at the same frequency as we did when we were children. But, that doesn't mean that we can't change that, because we most certainly can. This is a guide to ways that you can improve your mental skills in later life (by later life I don't mean you have be 80, I just mean, after you leave formal education!)
Now don't think that I'm suggesting that you hi-jack your son's Playstation 3 and start kicking ass on some beat-em-up game, because whilst games like this certainly do challenge our brains and keep them active, there are much more friendly games that are specifically aimed at keeping our brain and mental health in top condition!
Brain Training (and it's many successors) is a game available for the Nintendo DS that encourages you to exercise your brain through a series of games. "Inspired by the work of prominent Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, Brain Training features activities designed to help stimulate your brain and give it the workout it needs like solving simple math problems, counting people going in and out of a house simultaneously, drawing pictures on the Nintendo DS touch screen, and reading classic literature out loud." (Braintraining.com) The games are not only fun, but can be played against others, thus encouraging interation that is always a good thing to aid the improvement of mental skills.
-Reading and Learning New Skills-
Reading is a brilliant way of stimulating the mind, especially if you are reading about something that is new to you. Learning new skills through reading is an excellent way to get those brain muscles working.
Step out of your comfort reading zones, and read things that you might consider boring; read everything in the newspaper, read your child's text books, read an article in your magazine that you would normally have skipped over.
And the good thing about improving your reading, is that it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Check out your local library, and see what they have to offer, but don't feel that you have to stick to fiction, check out the biographies, or history, find something new and maybe you'll find yourself a new hobby, which is another way of improving mental skills, because doing something new could be working parts of your brain that may have been neglected before!
-Turn off the TV-
I know for some people that this is a hard one, but trust me when I say, that too much TV is not doing your mental skills any good! When we watch TV, quite often, our minds turn off (not literally, that would be worrying) and we never really fully watch TV; we become more "passive" you could say. This is because things around us distract us: the ironing, the kids, the husband (or wife), the cat trying to smash all your crockery! Instead spend time keeping your brain busy, concentrate on your chores, rather than doing things distractedly. You'll also find things get done quicker too!
-Go for a Walk-
Fresh air is always a good thing for your mind, and going walking somewhere new is even better. When we see new things we're filled with awe and interest in things, that keeps our brains active. Falling into routine and doing the same walk everyday, and seeing the same things, the same faces; not only do you get bored, but your brain does too!
Ever notice that you get headaches after having too much sugar? That's because your brain doesn't like it. Eat healthily, get plenty of fruit, vegetables, and nuts or "brain food" and you will feel great, your brain will love you, you'll be more aware, and overall you will feel a lot better for it.
Similar to the Brain Training of before, there are so many different games that you can use to exercise your brain on a daily basis; puzzles in the local paper like the Suduko, Crossword or Word Search all challenge the brain and force you to think, whilst concentrating. Rubix Cubes have a similar affect; they might frustrate us at times (potentially a lot of the time) but they're doing our brains a lot of good!
-Give your Brain a Break-
One of the most important things that you should do to improve your mental skills, is give yourself a break every once in a while. There is nothing worse, for your mental health, than being stressed out and close to exploding. Don't think that you have to be working your brain every second that you can to keep it healthy, because this is probably causing you more damage than you realise!
So, take twenty minutes as often as you can to just relax. Take a bath with candles and dim the lights. Read your favourite book. Have a go on the Nintendo DS. Mediation is perfect. Listen to calm music and just chill out!
Dr Kawashima's Brain Training