Does your brain need a vacation? Tips to stay sharp! By Edi Osborne - CEO of Mentor Plus
This month’s MIM article on “Tips for Brainy Success at Work” has some great, practical ideas for enhancing performance in the workplace. In the article, they refer to the acronym S.E.N.S.E. and how important it is to attend to each of these areas of your life if you want to achieve peak performance.
Stress, Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep, Environment
I want to add one more, “S” at the end of this; Stretch your brain. Although the brain is not technically a muscle, scientists have discovered that, “the use it or lose it” phrase definitely applies. You can get more out of your brain by putting more (new content) into it. Yep, that’s right. Our brains are a limitless receptacle. However, the brain is also very efficient. To conserve energy, our brains build super neuron-highways for processing mainstream input a.k.a. habits. This is great if you don’t want to rethink how to do the same activity each and every time such as brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. At the same time, sticking to the same-old routines actually makes it harder for your brain to switch into high gear when you need it most. The way to overcome this efficiency tendency is to continually stretch your brain by engaging in activities that are new and challenging.
Two years ago, I wrote an article about “taking your brain on vacation” What is different about this type of vacation is that it is designed for brain uptime not downtime. For me, pushing my artistic right brain seems to make my whole-brain function better. To that end, each year, I take a week to immerse myself in learning about art. This year I took a master’s class in textile arts. It was stimulating and challenging. I learned a lot about perspective, composition, visual perception, and so much more. What is even more stimulating is thinking about all the ways I can apply this new knowledge to what I do every day.
A quick search on-line will demonstrate that Brain Games are growing in popularity. Beyond crossword puzzles, Suduko, and Words with Friends, there are brain game sites like Lumonisty.com and FitBrains.com (and dozens more) designed to improve everything from memory to cognitive skills. These games are being used to help ward off Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and help stroke patients recover. Taking just 15 minutes a day to engage your brain in a challenging/new activity can make a real difference in your ability to assimilate important information, fine-tune your critical-thinking skills, and improve retention.
Just as regular exercise improves your heart health, regular brain exercises improve your mental health. Here’s a list of options to help you get your brain revved up:
· If you are right handed, try using your left to do everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, cutting up food, throwing the ball for your dog, writing out your grocery list, etc. Left handers, switch too.
· Rotate the type of music you listen to.
· Switch out that novel for a biography
· Join a book club
· Take up a new hobby
· Sign up for an adult education class
· Sign up for a retreat like the ones offered at wwwEsalen.org My chiropractor loved his week of learning about song writing which was totally out of his comfort zone.
· Sign yourself up for that activity you have always wanted to but never got around to
· Sign up for an on-line watercolor painting class (or some variation thereof)
· Enroll in a creative writing class
· The list is endless – brainstorm this with your spouse, partners and team to uncover their interests and passions.
Stretching your brain away from the office will help improve your performance in the office. Encourage your team to do the same. You can set the tone for this by including a five minute brain game at the beginning of a staff meeting. Many institutions of higher learning encourage lengthy sabbaticals every 10 years of service. You might not be able to give your team 4-6 months off, but you could allocate $100 per employee per year to take a class outside of their professional development. All this will serve to enrich your life and those around you. Equally important, it will add to the bottom line of your organization. Burned out brains in the workplace are very expensive.