How To Sharpen Your Mind In 15 Minutes or Less Every Day
I was reading a post about the benefits of meditation the other day. The guy was expounding upon the reduction in stress, depression, and the host of other things one hour of meditation can do.
And that was where the record scratched for me: “One hour?”
That is a long time to sit and not think about anything. In today’s world, self-improvement is on all of our minds. The idea of becoming better versions of ourselves, of breaking the cast and becoming something more, is quite attractive. Who doesn’t want to level up?
The world is moving quickly around us. Finding time to enhance ourselves is fleeting.
So, let’s take an à la carte approach. Here are a few quick and easy ways to improve your mind each day; a menu of items to choose from.
The Creativity Drill
This is a rather simple exercise that you can do in 5-minute bursts throughout the day, which can easily lead to a strong boost in your creativity.
And all you need to do is think. It might be tricky at first but you can get better at it with time.
The words snail and slug have quite a bit in common. But what about the words snail and beach? Less so but perhaps related a little.
How about snail and motorcycle? Far less in common. How about snail and red? Even less. Now, how about snail and romance? Not much in common.
The idea here, you want to think of two words that have the least amount of things in common.
To go full swing in this exercise, you will think sequentially of new words. After romance, you would try to think of the least similar thing to romance. And the next word would also be as far removed as the previous word as possible.
So you could think: snail, romance, stenography, sales, memory, state, flash, alphabet.
Search your brain to go as far away from the previous word as possible. It might hurt a bit at first. It is a bit like mental weightlifting, which is the idea.
You can do this while you do other mundane tasks throughout the day.
Use it or Lose It
It isn’t just that mental exercises are good for improving the mind, they are good for protecting it too. Numerous studies have been conducted that reveal the importance of mental activity and aging.
Among the common studies are ones that suggest doing crossword puzzles, other games, and reading as being beneficial to your mind. In fact, many of these studies point to the positive correlations of these activities and preventing the onset of things like Alzheimer’s.
Another one is called Dual N-Back Online. Studies revealed that it has been proven to reduce dementia in patients. And while many of you don’t have to worry about that now, it wouldn’t hurt to try out a game in your free moments.
You have lots of options. There are games in newspapers. You could play scrabble with a friend. Or review the endless options of mentally challenging exercises that are available online. They have games that are designed specifically for each thing you struggle with, such as memory, cognition, spatial reasoning and beyond.
And even if you are extremely skeptical of these studies, it wouldn’t hurt, would it?
Do You Even Squat, Bro?
For all the stereotypes that have been spread regarding dumb jocks, exercise is actually quite good for your mind.
It increases blood flow to the brain. It reduces stress, which we know is terrible for the brain, not only killing brain cells but also impairing cognition. Exercising also fosters brain cell growth and protects existing cells from deterioration.
Even if you only did a brisk walk for 15 minutes a day, you would feel physical and mental benefits. And it beats the hell out of another 15 minutes on the couch.
You can compound this activity by listening to podcasts and learning while doing it. Tap into your inner nerd-jock.
On That Meditation
I actually do meditate, despite my shot in the intro at the activity.
I tend to do it in several week stints, when I’m having a lot of stress, feeling tense, with my back bugging me. Finding time to sit in a chair, have just a fan on, and tune your mind to nothing is literally medicinal. I’m feeling guilty now for not doing it more.
Rewind two months ago, to a time when I was helping my dad do farmwork during a visit. Specifically, we were working on his tractor. I asked him, “Have you ever tried meditation?”
He said, “No — what is it?”
And after I explained it, he gave a curious shrug. It seemed pretty strange to him. I can’t blame him. My dad is a retired, long-time military guy. He is definitely a “guy’s guy”. He probably thinks meditation is for hippies. But I digress.
The point I’m making is that you should keep an open mind. Meditation can be a godsend for some people. It is a great source of stress reduction and can kill off anxiety if you just do it for 15 minutes a day.
And honestly, even 5 minutes will do you some good. You’ll be amazed at how calm and still you feel when you are done. It will increase your attention span and focus, enhancing how you perform in other, everyday activities.
With all of these screens and notifications and everyday stressors, it can be profoundly helpful to just slow everything down.
Expanding Your Knowledge Base
I’m going to give you two versions of this tip: boring and less boring.
The boring version is very potent. A man I know went to prison for a number of years, decades ago. He had no quality reading available to him, only a dictionary. He made it a point to learn a couple of words each day.
The man in question, who had only high school education, had an awesome vocabulary — that didn’t involve using “too big” words to sound smart.
All you have to do is take a few minutes each day, to write down a couple of words, write them in a sentence. Then repeat them.
Retention is our goal here. Make it a point to use the word during a conversation with someone that day. And also review prior words in the following day’s exercise.
The less boring version: Read one article a day about nature, psychology, self-improvement, literally anything. Spend 5 to 10 minutes reading it. Then, write one to two sentences that summarize what you learned.
Ensure you keep this summary on one single document. And it is really important to limit that summary because this list will grow.
Each day, add a small new summary, then make it a point to review the prior ones, for at least a week or two after they were written. Doing this will solidify the information in your mind.
To further cement the information in your mind, try to recall a memory from your life that ties into what you learned. Doing this each day will expand what you know, making you not only more knowledgeable but more interesting to talk to.
Lifehack: don’t be boring.
What is the least productive thing you do every day? For me, it is checking useless notifications on social media apps.
Starting today, you could easily cut some of your wasteful activities and carve out 15 minutes to do something productive with your mind. That 15 minutes, compounded over time and persistence could result in noticeable gains in your mental capacities.
Make sure to put a reminder somewhere in the house that you frequent. I leave a word document open on my computer, so that when I log in, it is right there in front of me, reminding me to do my exercise.
Even if none of the activities I’ve outlined appeal to you, try doing something, something, that actually uses your mind (reading, writing, learning) rather than sitting on that couch and letting the TV feed images to you.
You have a beautiful mind, don’t let it go to waste.