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What Are Neurobics?

These mental exercises are really any activities which are designed to work the brain in new ways. The term "neurobics" was invented by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin to describe them, and it includes many practices that help the brain stay fit.

Some specific types of sensory stimuli and activities, especially those that involve non-routine actions and thoughts, produce more of those chemicals that encourage growth of new dendrites and neurons in the brain. These are generally non-routine activities. Routines become so automatic that actions are done largely unconsciously (ever get up in the morning and walk to the bathroom before you're really conscious?). Such automated or unconscious actions require less activity in the brain, and exercise it less.

A neurobic activity, on the other hand, should do one or more of the following:

1. Involve one or more of your senses in a new context.

2. Involve your full attention, at least briefly.

3. Break your routine in some significant way.

Here's a short video on the subject that also has a neat coin trick demonstrated (you can try it as a way to exrecise your coordination and brain):

Neurobics don't need to be complicated, or require that you set aside special times. In fact, if they follow the guidelines above, many simple brain exercises can be worked into your normal day.

Examples of Neurobics

Spend time in a new environment. Go to a new park, or a new store. Travel, by the way, seems to slow age-related mental decline.

Smell new odors in the morning. Have new odors, like a bottle of mint extract ready to smell first thing in the morning, to "wake up" your brain.

Take a shower with your eyes closed. Your other senses become more active when you cannot see, and a shower engages several senses.

Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. This is difficult for some of us, and requires full attention the first time you try it.

Put on different clothes. Ever notice how you feel differently when you wear different clothes? You may think differently as well. Give it a try.

Learn to read braille. This is a tough one, but learning to read with your fingers definitely involves one of your senses in a new context. Or, you could try learning American Sign Language since this also uses your fingers.

Respond to a situation differently. Catch yourself in a normal and mostly unconscious response to a situation, and choose to respond in a different (and preferably better) way.

Find a new route to work. It doesn't have to be a longer route - just different. You may even find a faster way to work once you break your routine.

Act confidently. In a situation you are unsure about, choose to act confidently. You'll notice that your mind gets very active once you adopt the assumption that you will know what to do.

Distinguish coins using only your sense of touch. This brain exercise can be a way to kill time when waiting for an appointment. If you really want a challenge, see if you can distinguish paper currency denominations by touch.

Leave the lights off in the house. Get around your home by memory and feel. This certainly fully engages your attention, but be careful of course.

Following the simple guidelines above (full attention, use senses in a new context, break your routine), and you can invent your own neurobic routines. Have some fun with these brain exercises - having fun usually fully engages your attention.

Relevant page: More Neurobic Exercises

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