How the best brain exercises work

There’s a guy named Michael. He likes to socialise, go for walks and spend time in his garden. He also enjoys solving crosswords (in pen) and doesn’t own a GPS.

Who is this gentleman? He sounds old-fashioned – is he from the 1920s?

Or is he an author and leading neuroscientist with great ideas about strengthening your brain?

Dr Michael Merzenich talks a lot about ways to exercise the brain. He wrote a book about it and created online brain training games. There’s a lot of content that he covers, but if I were to distil his message, it would be this:

Your brain is just like any other part of your body. Use it the way it’s intended and it will grow stronger. Neglect it or use it inappropriately and it’ll decay.

The modern world is different from what our pre-historic ancestors faced, but our brains are the same. Our nature assumes that we’ll spend our lives roaming the plans, negotiating with rivals, foraging and wrestling antelopes. Instead, we spend our days with low physical activity and high mental strain, toiling over abstract concepts instead of spears.

Our brains are flexible, obviously. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t function in the world we created. But, and I’m sure this surprises no one, our society isn’t optimised towards our brain health.

So what should we go? Return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle? That cure doesn’t seem practical. What we want is something that keeps the comforts of technology while challenging our brains in a healthy way.

Fortunately, we already use the best brain exercises every day. Socialising is more than just small talk – it engages your whole brain as you use language, anticipate the conversation and read subtle cues. Light physical activity does similar things with a different suite of mental skills. Navigating (without GPS) uses visual and spatial intelligence to solve complex problems. Memory games improve your focus so you pay attention.

And try new things every day. The brain finds patterns in complexity – if your world becomes predictable, your neural architecture unravels.

If you do these things every day, your brain will grow healthier. You’ll probably live longer and it you’ll lead a richer life. But if you wanted to enhance these exercises, incorporate hypnosis and meditation.

Depending on how you do it, hypnosis can be socialising on steroids. A skilled hypnotist creates meaningful conversations wherever they go. They move beyond the small talk onto topics that you really want to discuss. It’s in this phase of deep talk that the best hypnotic work gets done.

Hypnotists engage your memory, imagination and attention. The trance state works these like a bicep works with weight. You can relive (not just remember) all your best memories, notice new details in them and explore your inner world.

If you need motivation to exercise, hypnosis can make physical activity something that you crave. You’ll look forward to it and enjoy it more in the moment.

And there’s nothing more new than when you experience new ways of thinking.

Are hypnosis and meditation the best mental exercise? Maybe, maybe not. They should be a vital part of your training regime, though. Trances use your mind the way it’s supposed to be used. It strengthens parts neglected by the modern lifestyle. It rounds out your mental skills and bolsters your brain’s health. If you haven’t tried hypnosis before, give it a go while you’re healthy enough to get its full benefits.

This article says nothing new to my Awakened Thought subscribers. They know how hypnosis can work with simple activities that exercise your brain. Each month focuses on a new set of skills that you use every day. See what a gym for your mind can do for your health:

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