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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!

The Relaxation Response is a simple technique developed by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson to help reduce stress and prevent heart disease and other problems that can go along with it.

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Starting with your toes and moving up towards your head, relax every muscle in your body and keep them relaxed throughout the exercise. Now, focus your attention on your breath. Breathing through your nose, silently say the word "one" on each exhalation. When you find your mind wandering, gently but firmly return your attention to your breathing. With practice you may be able to get through an entire 10-20 minute session without having your mind wander. When you finish, sit quietly for a few moments before returning to your day.

This simple exercise is very effective at returning your body to a calm and relaxed state.

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The muscles in the shoulders are a very common place for people to carry tension from being under stress. One way to feel less stressed is to reduce this tension. This simple stretching exercise will help you do just that.

1. Start in a standing position with good posture and make sure that you are breathing properly throughout the exercise.

2. Slowly lift both shoulders up towards your head and hold for a few seconds. Release back to normal. Repeat a few times.

3. Slowly rotate your right shoulder in a circle (up, back, down, forward) a few times. Repeat with your left shoulder. Then switch directions and repeat.

4. Slowly tilt your head towards one shoulder and feel the stretch. Now move your head back to the center and go to the other side. Repeat several times.

5. Slowly turn your head so you are looking over your shoulder. Return to the center and then go to the other side. Feel the stretch. Repeat several times.

6. Remain standing and take several deep breaths before finishing.

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Similar to how Pavlov's dog had associated food with the sound of a bell, it's possible to program your mind to associate some stimuli with being in a relaxed and calm state. This can be a very effect way of coping with stress.

The first step is to find a trigger that you can use on yourself. It should be something that doesn't happen in a normal day. Maybe it could be sticking a finger in your ear, pinching the back of your hand, or taking a whiff from one of your scent canisters.

The second step is to associate this trigger with the state of being calm and relaxed. Try to conjure up a vivid memory of a time in the past when you were totally at peace. Try to recreate all the sounds, smells and images. Once you think you have a good visualization, program it into your mind by sticking your finger in your ear, or whatever else you have chosen to be your trigger. In the future, whenever you are naturally feeling calm and relaxed you should reinforce your trigger by doing it.

Now that you have programmed your mind to associate the trigger with a relaxed state, you can use it whenever you feel stressed. Simply activate your trigger and you will immediately start feeling more relaxed.

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Chronic stress can cause an imbalance in the neurochemicals that contribute to elevating our mood and reducing anxiety. Fortunately, research has shown that you can reduce the imbalance simply by smiling or laughing, regardless of your actually mood. When you smile or laugh, your brain gets fooled into thinking that it is happy, and releases the corresponding neurochemicals. Laughter has been shown to have the following benefits.

1. Lowering levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
2. Reducing blood pressure
3. Boosting the immune system
4. Improving respiration and circulation
5. Reducing pain
6. Reducing depression and improving mood

If you are having a hard time getting motivated to do something and you need a pick me up, try smiling or laughing out loud. It may sound silly, but it can actually improve your mood and get you thinking more creatively. So, when life gives you a frown, turn it upside down!

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Worrying about a problem reduces our ability to focus 100% of our attention on the task. One way to focus your attention is to answer the following questions.

1. What exactly is the problem? There is no sense in worrying about something if you do not know exactly what you are worrying about. Take some time to write down specifically what the problem is that you are trying to solve.

2. What caused the problem? Sometimes solving the immediate problem is not the correct solution because it does not fix the root causes. Try to determine if this problem was caused by something else.

3. What are all the possible solutions? Too often, one solution is proposed and time is wasted arguing about that one solution. Try having a brainstorm to find every possible solution before you argue about the merits of each one.

4. What solution is best? Once all the solutions have been laid out, it should be a pretty easy task to pick the best one and move forward with it.

If you are in a position where people bring their problems to you for help, this is a great strategy to help them solve their own problems. Simply, ask each person to answer these four questions before coming to you. It is likely that they will solve their own problem, but if not, it will make your job much easier.

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