Our minds are like precious real estate, and the brain is like the headquarters or main office of a company.
Most of us would like our minds to be prime property. Brain health, re-training, mindset, attention deficit and positive thinking have become pressing topics recently, to address trauma, loss, dementia, challenges with social behaviour and some giving up on life.
I’m no doctor, ok? Today’s post shares some activities that help sharpen the brain on a surface level. There are 2 guests – a psychologist and a clinician (both from the U.S) who will share solid steps, insight and encouragement based on years of study and professional experience working with clients, in upcoming interviews that I’ll add to new posts for you.
Why mostly phone-free activities?
A lot of us could do with a break from our pinging, ringing pocket-sized mini-computers. It’s also becoming common knowledge (driven by extensive research) that increased ‘smart’ phone use can lead to decreased brain health. From affecting attention, concentration, social relationships, organization, time management, eyesight and sleep pattern, the ‘smart’ phone – while propped in the palm of a hand can also simultaneously cloud the mind, dim the mood and emotionally disconnect the one scrolling on it.
I share this as someone who once ran this blog strictly from a phone for a year, ok? Though I have now trimmed it down to 15 – 30 min. phone-screen time a weekday and barely (if at all) on weekends, these gadgets come in handy. Not a fan of their influence on social behaviour and addictive nature, but…they can come in handy.
When it comes to working on projects for any length of time, try using a desktop or laptop more often than squinting at the phone – easier on the eyes and better for the posture.
For now, here are my homemade 7 phone-free activities to sharpen the mind
Reading requires concentration. When you’re reading something interesting, you can subconsciously ‘lower the volume’ on external sounds once it’s not too noisy.
This activity helps us to focus in on the message, be at ease in purposeful moments of stillness while giving the brain a workout and without feeling restless
The nature of what we’re reading makes a big difference on the end result sometimes but things like looking through assignments, thumbing through recipe books, studying for personal growth or an exam, doing research for a healthier lifestyle, a thesis, paper, article, project, or book can all help sharpen the brain when we pace ourselves well and remember not to overdo it.
Reading online is still something, but every now and then, give your eyes a rest from the screen, shoulders a reset from being hunched over, pick up a physical book and enjoy the tangible activity of walking through words printed on pages. Annotating could take things up a notch too.
If you’ve never seen this, it may be a lot like when you first open Trello – my preferred project management app. As in – “what am I supposed to do with this?” kind of thing. A puzzle, grid, squares, some pre-existing numbers and a brain workout to figure out the missing digits without repetition in the same rows. You can play it online or on paper but since we’re looking at mostly phone-free brain activities, here’s a link to learn and a light reminder to try the paper version.
For the most part, this is most productive when done on the desktop or laptop but if you’re like me, when you’re on the home stretch of a manuscript, proposal, script or project outline, you print out whatever’s typed to review it with a pencil, pen, set of highlighters or page flag stickies. Sometimes we miss typos, grammatical errors or sentence structure adjustments when we’re staring at the screen, and you pick them out when they’re printed out.
- meticulous eyes
- a type of typo-ecolocation
- sentence structure skills
- information correlation
- consideration (both to the writer’s intention and reader’s comprehension)
- flexibility and decision-making with clear action: making room for real-life lingo while still having a knack for trimming off the fat when it comes to lengthy lines and clear messaging.
A word editor is like an audio engineer who often spends a lot of time with the project behind-the-scenes. Just as the engineer’s skill and meticulous approach is critical in the end product after the songwriting, rehearsing, recording, and producing, the word-editor is key when it comes to the final presentation of the product.
Did they pick up or miss that glaring typo on page 1 or that ‘green’ note in bar 2 of that song? Yes, we can re-print and re-record that first run or release but ideally, would rather not. And so, the editing process requires purposeful pockets of time, concentration, research, care—driven attention, a knack for correction paired with precision and rest in between so you can think clearly.
While every cog in the wheel has a purpose and a part in the collective, editing takes the spotlight today just because it matches well with this blog post topic.
How long do you spend on your phone in one go? UP FOR A #PHONEFREEWEEKEND ?
Scrabble, CrossWord + Word Search
Memba that quiz near the back of those inflight magazines we used to get in the seat pocket? Not the ‘find 6 differences between these 2 pictures’ one. It used to be 3/4 way into the newspaper too; maybe it was your grandma’s favourite. Those CrossWord and Word Search puzzles that you either liked, chose between, flipped past, or never quite understood why people did.
Well, doing them (and picture puzzles) can help sharpen the brain. And in times like these, when the word ‘fun’ leaves room for interpretation, CrossWord or Word Search rounds can be a light activity that serves a healthy purpose beyond the few minutes to half-hour or so it takes to do them. Picture puzzles would have to be on this list too.
I’d been meaning to buy one of the Word Search books that some major local supermarkets display on racks near the closest aisle to the entrance, and finally got one (just Bds.$2.40 | Usd. $1. 20 avg.) the other day. They’re online too, but remember today’s theme – phone-free activity.
One round of CrossWord or WordSearch is healthier for the brain than one absent phone-scroll. I have no numbers or stats on that; just a little experience and observation.
We aren’t meant to know or understand everything; that’s not in our portfolio but let’s not take the gift we’ve been given in the shape of a brain for granted, and let our phones and tech outsmart us.
Critical thinking and knowing what you believe and why you do is key.
‘Memory’ Card Game
We used to play this game in school days. Once you have a pack of cards and at least 2 people present, try this fun game that involves concentration and good memory recall (which isn’t always a good combo when it comes to life and growing forward.)
Here’s a short YT video showing how the game is played. They’re only using a few cards but you can also use the full deck depending on the level.
Spread the cards in columns (facing down) and you each take turns flipping over 2 cards at a time. Eventually, you’ll see a match to one card you flipped before. When it’s your turn again, you try to remember where you saw the paired card/same number-different suit to the one you just saw and set them aside when you do. Count how many pairs each person gathered at the end and there you have it.
Foods that are rich in omega3, vitamin k, curcumin or antioxidants help nourish the brain. Boosting the brain with food can look like:
- topping up on green leafy vegetables
- increasing intake of fatty fish, flaxseed, blueberries and pumpkin and moringa seeds
- including more green tea, turmeric, eggs, coffee (apparently – yayyy!) and walnuts into your day
I’ll add physical exercise (especially something involving coordination) to the overall list too.
Any more phone-free activities and their benefits towards brain health you can think of and want to share?
Up for a #phonefreeweekend challenge starting this week? We’ll be writing something bright about our weekend and publishing it on your blog, or posting 1 pic on social media (on a weekday) sharing the moment. Remember to use the hashtag #phonefreeweekend