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People often reach a point in life where mental health becomes a concern. They worry about dementia and seek to stave off deterioration. This is a reasonable and healthy attitude.
However, many of the solutions/methods employed are unsound.
Scientific studies have proven that human memory is far from reliable. Even events that we imbue with great significance are always remembered partially. Plus, we change.
How we see the world alters as we grow, experience, reflect and re-evaluate. Could the viewpoint of a child conceivably be compared to that of an adult? Are your childhood memories remotely accurate?
Imagine that your brain is a very sophisticated piece of technology... It manages your whole body, it controls every function. You need to look after your brain.
This means eating the right food, resting, recovering, flexing the brain and employing it in a healthy manner.
News is a waste of time. An
average human being squanders half a day each week on reading about current
For brain health start with water, oxygen and nutrients. Drink around 2 litres of water every day, get plenty of fresh air and ensure that you consume healthy food.
Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine will not nourish your brain.
If your mind is continually anxious, worried, stressed... it is not at rest. It is permanently being taxed in an adverse way. This is not good.
School crams our minds with facts and figures, dates and numbers. We are trained to remember, to recite, to recall. This is fine to a degree but there is far more to the brain than memory.
Observation, sensitivity, awareness, critical thinking, abstract thinking, not thinking and thinking-for-yourself are not unduly encouraged at school.
School, college and university represent only one avenue of brain work. There are many others. If we go back to the idea of the brain being technology - how well can you use your brain?
Is it fast? Slow? Can you figure things out for yourself? Do you pick up new skills quickly? Are you a good listener? What is your attention span like? How well do you concentrate?
Your body can be seen as technology too... again - how well can you use your body?
Many people have jobs that offer very little in terms of brain work. After an initial period of adjustment, the needs of the job can be undertaken without undue brain power.
The brain operates on self-conscious autopilot. It is bored and not in any way being challenged to grow and change.
TV, the internet, news reports, magazines, newspapers and gossip all serve to provide us with a stream of information. We are given ideas, opinions, concerns, preferences, viewpoints, worries, anxieties...
Other people tell us what to believe and why. Our consciousness is trained, shaped and moulded by the mass media.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
If you want to make your brain healthy, do something different. Avoid stagnation. Find new ways to think, to use your brain.
The brain can and should be exercised every day. This does not mean crossword puzzles, sudoku, playing video games, surfing the web or reading pulp fiction.
None of these will improve your mental powers. Instead, you need a far more challenging and significant commitment.
Having a hobby can be very good for your brain. A hobby typically requires the person to learn new skills, cultivate different insights, refine and develop their craft.
Research, discovery and sustained enthusiasm over a long period of time are all good qualities for brain health.
Running, going to the gym and other common exercise methods will do a little towards mental health, but not an awful lot. They may improve focus, stamina and endurance.
However, these often take place at the expense of diminished physical awareness, poor sensitivity and bad poise.
Sport-based exercise methods, Pilates, yoga and most martial arts simply do not contain a challenging mental component. Tai chi does.
And the more in-depth your training, the greater the demands on your brain.
Meditation teaches the individual to bring the mind back to the here and now. To slow down, to see what is right in front of us. This takes patience and training to accomplish but is well worth the effort.
Qigong and tai chi both encourage meditation.
Emotions serve to direct us towards things we desire or to avoid adversity. Unfortunately, strong emotions are only meant to be experienced in short bursts.
Sustained anger, worry, upset can lead to serious medical problems and will re-shape how you see the world around you.
Expand your consciousness
There are volumes of books written about life, existence, perception and how best to use the brain. Seek these out. We have provided a reading list on this website to get you started...
If you don't want to buy a book, why not read our website and then look for other sources of insight?
Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill quite literally encourages the brain to change. To grow. Be patient, take it easy, avoid forcing but stick with it. Anyone can change.
Learn a new language
If you want to truly help your brain, then try learning something multi-layered and complex. Tai chi, playing a musical instrument or gaining fluency in a new language will all be challenging.
The history, principles and applications within tai chi represent the study of a lifetime.
Don't let people infantilise you
Avoid letting people do things for you that you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself. You do not need to be served. Think for yourself. Do things for yourself.
Invest in your future
You will be tempted to quit. This is understandable. Laziness is all about staying put and not changing. But remember: settling into a rut is the fast track to mental deterioration.
8 May 1998
Last updated 13 December 2019