Time For Neurobics: 3 Tips To Exercise Your Brain, From A Memory Coach
We talk a lot about strength training around here. But have you ever thought about strength training your brain? After all, "Our memory is like a muscle," top memory coach Jim Kiwk, author of the newly expanded Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. "We use it, or we lose it."
That's why he suggests practicing "neurobics" (or aerobics for your neurons) to enhance your brain capacity and fire up your memory. "Little things that don't take a lot of time, that challenge yourself in situations that are safe and not time-consuming," he explains.
Kwik is a force for accelerated learning—find some of his expert mental exercises below:
Turn off your GPS
Technology is convenient, no doubt, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't flex your memory muscles from time to time. So if you have a few extra minutes to spare on your walk or drive, Kwik suggests refraining from looking up your destination and relying on memory alone to get you there.
"I just want people to trust their brain again," he explains. "So many people lack confidence because they lack mental competence." You'd be surprised by how much you instinctively know your way around—even if you wind up taking a longer route to get where you need to go. (Who knows? You might even find your new favorite commute!)
"[Even] if it cost me a minute or two, it's worth it just to activate that part of my brain that might be a little bit sedated," he adds.
Use your opposite hand
Next, Kwik recommends using your nondominant hand, especially during potentially mindless tasks like brushing your teeth or eating. "When you brush your teeth with the opposite hand, it activates a different part of your brain," Kwik shares. Using your dominant hand feels like muscle memory, so switching things up may take a bit more brain power.
Not only that, but "it's a nice way to force yourself to be present," Kwik says. "By brushing your teeth or eating with the opposite hand, it forces you to focus on that activity and to be mindful instead of your mind distracting you… Doing something novel forces you to focus."
Make passive activities active
According to Kwik, you can make any activity more mindful—even something as simple as watching TV.
"I'm not saying you can't just sit back and enjoy a good film," he notes. But if you want to simultaneously exercise your mind, try to put yourself in a certain character's shoes. What would you have done in their situation? What can you learn from this character's journey?
You can practice this skill with any type of entertainment, but he finds fiction pieces especially helpful. "Fiction has been shown to improve your EQ, which is your emotional quotient," he explains. "Instead of just learning a lot of data, it improves your level of empathy, your ability to switch perceptual positions through a narrative, to feel what the characters are going through at any given time, and come up with creative solutions."
Take it from Kwik: Imagination is a valuable brain power.
Exercising your brain is easier than you think. According to Kwik, just tweaking small, everyday activities can have a profound impact on your memory and cognition. So go ahead and practice some neurobics today—chances are you'll feel stronger with each set.