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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

To test your ability to come up with words in a certain family, try this exercise. Come up with 26 words (one for each letter of the alphabet) for each of the following categories. We have given you the first few to help you get started.

1. Animals (Ant, Bear, Cat, ....)
2. Jobs (Artist, Baker, ...)
3. Plants (Apple Tree, Bamboo, ...)

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As we go about our daily lives, we are constantly making decisions based on guesses and estimates. This exercise will help you improve your ability to make educated guesses about distance.

When you are estimating each answer, try to pay attention to how you are solving the problem. Are you guessing the whole number or are you trying to calculate it based on smaller guesses? Avoid using a calculator or pen and paper until after you have made your estimate.

1. Distance to the moon in miles
2. Length of a AA battery in millimeters
3. Thickness of a standard #2 pencil in inches
4. Height of a stack of a million dollar bills in feet

The answers are listed below in backwards order. Don't cheat!

(417, 0.29, 50.4, 238856)

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This exercise will demonstrate how important it is to draw your ideas, as opposed to simply writing them down.

Get out a piece of paper and draw a picture of a shoe. Make sure to draw in all the details such as the logo, laces, treads, etc.

Now, write a paragraph describing in detail every piece of your picture. Imagine that you are having a telephone conversation with an alien who has no idea what a shoe is. You might start with something like this, "This item is about 10 inches by 3 inches by 4 inches. The bottom is made of rubber and is in the shape of a..."

Which part of this exercise was easier? You probably found that it was very difficult to describe certain shapes or aspects that were easy to draw. Do you think the drawing or the text would more quickly convey the idea of a shoe to an alien?

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Close your eyes and try to imagine the taste of the following things. Once you get good at this, try to do it without visualizing an image of the item.

1. Apple pie
2. Hamburger
3. Orange juice
4. Carrots
5. Plastic

Make up your own items to repeat this exercise.

Does this exercise make you hungry? Studies show that just thinking about food can make your stomach think that it's about to get fed.

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Flow is a mental state that was first described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It is characterized by the ability of creative people to block out all distractions and fully immerse themselves in an activity. When someone feels like they are "in the zone" or "in a groove", it is likely that they are experiencing flow.

The unbroken concentration that comes from flow can be refreshing and invigorating. Extreme productivity and highly creative ideas are often the result of a flow experience. People come out of flow feeling happy and fulfilled.

Someone who is experiencing flow may lose their feeling of self-awareness. They will become completely absorbed by the activity and forget about themselves, sometimes ignoring bodily needs, such as eating and sleeping. They may also become unaware of the passage of time and may be surprised when they realize how much time has passed while they were enjoying the activity.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to get into flow on command, but it is possible to shift things in your favor. Reducing disturbances is very important. Each phone call, instant message or other distraction call pull you out of the flow experience. It is also important that the task you are working on posses most of these criteria:

1. The person must have active control over the task.
2. The task must have clear goals and expectations.
3. The task must give immediate feedback, such that mistakes can be quickly corrected.
4. The task must not be so easy that it is boring, but not so difficult that it is frustrating.
5. The activity should be intrinsically rewarding so that participation is its own reward.

To learn more about flow, you can read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow" at Amazon.com.

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