Make America Smart Again: Keeping Our Minds Sharp Amid the Pandemic
Stephen King warned us of the horrors of seclusion. Of all the villains that trap the protagonists in The Shining, Gerald's Game, and In the Tall Grass, isolation is what ultimately gets them. With loneliness messing with the mind, the isolated person becomes a threat to everyone, including themselves. When the pandemic struck, we witnessed these horrors ourselves. Suicide among school children escalated to alarming rates. Reports of anxiety attacks increased, affecting people of all ages.
Aside from putting a strain on our mental health, the lockdown also impaled our cognition. With hours spent on nothing but mindless internet surfing while Netflix plays in the background, your brain could gradually rot without notice.
How Doing Nothing Can Affect Cognition
When news of the quarantine broke, we were like hamsters left out on the street. We basically didn't know what to do. For a week or so, everything was on pause.And so, for days, we didn't do anything but sit and wait around. When bored, instead of picking up a book, many people opted for a reality show or an online quiz to know which Game of Thrones character they are. But studies show that our lazy contemporary habits are taking a toll on our brain.;
In a study on the effects of TV on 276 children, the duration of their TV viewing predicted a decrease in Verbal Intelligence Quotient (VIQ) a few years later. The longer they watched, the thicker their frontal lobes became-a manifestation of lower verbal reasoning ability. If you have the same habit of playing a mindless show instead of picking up a good book, don't worry. It's not too late. Here are a few ways you can re-train your mind to its optimum level again.
1. Learn Music
The discovery of multi-intelligence put a spotlight on the positive effects of music on cognition. From learning an instrument to simply listening to music, the results are always promising. Taking piano lessons is a good brain workout. It increases your motor skills, emotional skills, and even your IQ by a few points. Additionally, with a multitude of apps to aid your lessons, learning piano is much easier today.
Six-year-olds who took weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory Music averaged seven-point gains in their IQ scores. Their teacher, Canadian composer Glenn Schellenberg said that although small, the increase was significant because it was "evident across the broad spectrum of intelligence measured by the Weschler test," a highly regarded measure of cognitive ability.
In a study where 4,694 volunteers took up a new hobby during the quarantine, the highest IQ increase came from those who learned a new instrument, with an average increase of 9.71%.Furthermore, recognizing musical beats improves one's grasp of numbers and basic math, from fractions to recognizing patterns. Percussion instruments, like drums and xylophone, are a great way to be more familiar with musical beats.
2. Write a Daily Journal
Like reading, writing can only yield positive effects on your mind. Expressing your thoughts in a coherent manner can train your brain to think deeper and more creatively. It improves your focus and attention. By putting your emotions into words, your mood will improve as well.
The parietal and frontal lobes are stimulated when writing. The frontal lobe is responsible for motion, judgement, and problem-solving skills, among others. Meanwhile, the parietal lobe interprets words and language.;
Instead of opening the laptop, try to go old-school with a pen and paper. Studies have shown that writing by hand is good for the brain. The mere act of forming shapes and contours with the pen increases neural activity in similar ways that meditation can. Physicians even advise handwriting as a cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.
3. Play with Puzzles
Brainteasers have always kept minds sharp, from yesterday's bamboo puzzle boxes to today's Rubik's Cube.A thousand-piece landscape puzzle set can exercise various parts of your brain at once. It engages both the left and right sides of the brain. While the left side of your brain is using logic to put the pieces in order, the right side is thinking of creative ways to form the picture faster. Rubik's Cubes improve your memory and push your visual and spatial reasoning to the limit.
Studies have shown how jigsaw puzzles can be a protective factor for cognitive aging. Brain impairment is one of the inevitable things that come with age. But constantly working on brainteasers can at least make this process slower.
A Sharp Brain Keeps the Doctor Away
As the head of our body's internal organs, the brain has the huge responsibility of processing information and stimuli and transmitting signals to the rest of the body. It's important we give it the daily exercise it needs to stay fit.