How to wake up brain and body

Routine is great but can be a precursor to boredom. And boredom is bad for the brain. Here are some simple ways to light up both sides of your brain and reinvigorate your creative self – whether you’re fit and healthy, battling limited mobility or struggling with dementia.

Music to your … brain
How many times have you heard people say, ‘I wish I’d learnt a musical instrument’. Well, it’s never too late. When you learn to play a musical instrument later in life, you wake up your brain and provide it with a complete workout.

You’ll be boosting hand-eye coordination and focus, stimulating your sense of rhythm (and therefore improving your mathematical skills) and activating both sides of your brain.

This helps to stimulate the growth of new healthy neurons and keep you feeling sharp no matter what your age.

If you’re learning to play a wind instrument such as recorder, flute, clarinet or saxophone, you’ll also notice how much calmer and happier you feel. Your stress levels will drop.

Choose whichever instrument ignites your interest. Piano, guitar, recorder, drums and ukulele are all great choices.

Model building
If you love intricate craft or you’re an engineer at heart, you could consider model building. This addictive and rewarding hobby will have you using your hands to create a variety of models – cars, planes, trains, ships and more that you can give to loved ones or display proudly at home.

As you work step by step through the product, you’ll notice how much your focus improves and stress and tension dissolve. Learning or rediscovering this skill will also stimulate your brain and encourage the growth of new neural pathways, giving you a stronger, healthier brain.

If you want to start simple or you have some limitations, you could try your hands at Lego. The range of options, from the simple to the very complex, is extensive. As you grow in confidence, you could start following instructions to build specific items. You might also treat yourself to a model kit from a hobby shop.

Arts and crafts
Painting, knitting, crochet and drawing are all rewarding hobbies.

Each provides an opportunity to channel your thoughts and emotions. As you focus your mind and allow your creativity to flow, you’ll also notice how your stress diminishes. There’s a reason why crafts are known as creative meditation.

Such activities also help boost your skills of observation, improve your hand-eye coordination, give you an opportunity to socialise and can even relieve pain.

Start by looking for a community arts class in your area – there are bound to be a number of free or low-cost classes to help you get started.

Writing
Writing is another fun creative hobby that provides many cognitive, mental and physical benefits, including an improved memory.

The act of writing lights up areas of the brain and lets you express yourself. You might consider writing a series of short stories from your life experiences or be totally creative

It doesn’t matter if your grammar is terrible or your spelling needs work, just let the words flow and you’re likely to feel a great sense of satisfaction, focus and freedom. You don’t even need to show your writing to anyone else if you don’t want to.

Write about your life, your kids, your grandkids or that big dream. Write poetry, fill a journal with your thoughts. Play with words. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it brings you joy.

Gardening
Gardening encourages you to get outdoors, helps you stay fit and healthy and – even if you are restricted to a few pots on a window sill – offers a supply of seasonal herbs and blooms.

The natural light will help lift your mood, give you a real sense of connection with nature and even help improve your cognition. As you become engaged with the activity, you’ll also slow down and lower your stress levels.

Cooking and baking
There’s a deep connection between our memories, emotions and food. Our mouths water when we remember our mother’s delicious apple pies or our grandmother’s crunchy fresh bread. The smell of steak and kidney pie cooking in the oven might take you right back to childhood.

That’s one of the many reasons cooking is a great hobby for all ages.

Additionally, the repetitive actions associated with chopping vegetables, kneading dough or pastry and rolling out a batch of our favourite biscuits stimulate many parts of the brain. This includes those parts associated with memory and movement. These simple pleasures are also soothing and can reduce stress and anxiety and help arthritic fingers.

What hobbies have you tried? What have been the benefits?

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Written by Ruby Clarkson

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