On World Mental Health Awareness Day let’s ask ourselves how we can become ‘cognitively fit?’
Here are 4 steps based on neuroscience research in psychology and other mental health fields adapted and edited from The Harvard Business Review – to aid the brain stay away from depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mind-related disorders.
- Indulge in experiences that make your brain grow– for e.g., you learn a skill from someone say crochet or tennis this implies you re-creating mental imagery later to call in that experience as a method of learning.
- Work hard at play– i.e., to go on creating yourself endlessly (Henri Bergson). ‘Play’ engages the pre-frontal cortex (our most highly evolved and recently acquired brain areas), those related to incentive and reward processing, goal and skill representation, mental imagery and self-knowledge. Companies like Google and Apple, provide environments that encourage some kind of play, referred to as Zen dens, play spaces, and chat chambers. You must have a ‘stake’ in the play as ‘risk’ alerts the brain and activated capacities for both reason and imagination.
- Search for patterns– Challenge both hemispheres of the brain, the left (that which makes you carry out routine tasks); the right (less structured, more ‘poetic’ part of the brain). Expand the left by listening to different viewpoints, read new books and articles, visit places with a focused set of learning objectives.
- Seek novelty and innovation to trigger the right hemisphere of the brain like when you take up painting or a child studies language. Continuous new learning, having an open attitude, the Buddhist monks call an ‘beginners mind.’ A challenge activates the right hemisphere.