Mind Over Matter: Challenging Your Brain during the Pandemic

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The pandemic has been very difficult for everyone mentally. People are anxious about contracting the novel coronavirus or their loved ones falling victim to it. While some nations are starting to roll out vaccines for the public, there’s a new source of worry: a new strain found in the U.K. that has increased transmissibility.

This constant worrying, along with other stressors, can affect the brain. You’ll find difficulty in managing your stress. But mental health is just as important as physical health. Thus, you need to put extra effort into taking care of your mental well-being.

You can do certain activities that challenge your brain and keep it healthy.

Mindfulness Training

We’re bombarded with different kinds of content every day: the news, social media updates, and work. This information overload can be stressful. This is where mindfulness training comes in.

Mindfulness means being aware of your surroundings and focusing only on the present. It’s often practiced through meditation. In a comfortable position, you’ll do a few breathing exercises. You can focus on the sound of your breath so that you don’t get distracted.

The good thing about this practice is it’s free. It can be difficult, though. It’s not always easy to stay put, do nothing, and think about nothing. Still, mindfulness will help you clear your mind and relieve stress. In the long run, it can help you decrease your risk of anxiety and depression.

Recreational Activities

Recreational activities like physical exercise and sports require cognitive skills. These include focus, hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, and decision-making, among many others. Thus, engaging in these activities will help you challenge your brain. These activities will improve your body’s response to stress by lowering your cortisol levels and producing dopamine and serotonin.

boy reading a book

You can walk or run around your neighborhood. Make sure you put a mask on and observe social distancing to ensure your safety. You can also play sports with people under the same roof. Some sports facilities, such as bowling centers, are upgrading their facilities to safely re-open. But the risk of contracting the coronavirus is still there. As an alternative, you can play sports using video games. You can play tennis, ping pong, bowling, and other outdoor sports at home using a Wii console.

Household Chores

You can also do household chores to keep your brain working. Surprisingly, some chores benefit the brain. In one study, people who washed their dishes mindfully reduced their nervousness by 27%. Australian researchers found that the smell of freshly cut grass helped animals prevent damage to their hippocampus. You can also practice cognitive skills while you’re doing chores, whether it’s separating the laundry, doing dishes, and so on. Also, chores make up for a great distraction. If you solely focus on the tasks you’re doing, you won’t be able to think about anything else.

Learning Something New

You can spend your free time at home by learning something new, such as a hobby or a language. Learning something is a great way to challenge yourself mentally. Even a simple task like lettering can work out your brain. You’ll have to think about how much pressure you need for your strokes and how you will lay out your design. Learning a language has the same effect. It’ll also help you improve your memory.

The effects of the novel coronavirus on brain health can’t be ignored. The effects are even worse for those who have contracted the virus, as it can lead to neurological disorders. But the brain is malleable. It can adapt to changes in the environment. If we challenge our brain regularly through simple activities, we can improve its health.

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