Dr. Theresa Nicassio Shares Brain Fitness Exercises
Dr. Theresa Nicassio registered Psychologist, and radio host of the Dr. Theresa Nicassio Show offered her expertise here in a Q&A about some brain fitness exercises to do while in quarantine.
Q: What are some brain fitness exercises to do while in quarantine?
A: Often when we think of brain fitness, we think it’s all about doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku. While these are certainly great options to stimulate your memory and reasoning centers, brain fitness comes in countless forms.
For example, did you know that ballroom dancing and playing sports like table tennis that engage your body bilaterally can offer wonderful stimulation to your brain? And that learning a new language or new skill like playing an instrument or knitting or learning how to write poetry can engage and build other cognitive capacities that perhaps you never even knew you had?
Even simple activities like learning how to create a new recipe or spending more time in nature, mindfully taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and physical sensations can heighten your sensory awareness and also help stimulate the centers of your brain that can help you better relax and perhaps better enable you to sleep more deeply.
Q: Are there better brain exercises to do?
A: This is a great question because we so often have the tendency to put pressure on ourselves with “Shoulds”. The best brain exercises to do are the ones that you enjoy most! Allow yourself to be like a preschooler walking into a daycare center, scoping around to decide what play area draws you most. Are you drawn to the sand tray area today, the coloring zone, the block-tower building area or the reading corner? Are you wanting to put together puzzles, learn how to do origami, or want to play imagination games with the puppets?
Literally any and every one of these options is terrific opportunities to stimulate that incredible nervous system that resides on top of your spine. If your heart goes pitter-pat and your eyes dilate when you just think about doing one of these activities, THAT is your absolute best option.
Q: What are some exercises for the whole family?
A: Playing cards and board games are a super fun way to exercise the mind. Depending on how much time we have to play, Scrabble, Clue, Yahtzee, Mancala, and Enchanted Forest are some of our family’s favorite board games and Hand and Foot is our absolute favorite card game. These types of games are fun and offer an opportunity to activate different mental centers, including the logic, mathematical, and language centers of our left hemisphere, as well as our visual-spatial and memory skills.
A hot tip is to set out a puzzle in a central location that needs to be put together. Just seeing those little pieces waiting to find their happy homes is hard to resist engaging with. Who can just look at a corner piece and do nothing about it? When it can feel like there’s nothing else to do, those little pieces give you that “come to me” look that can draw you in like a secret potion.
Q: What about some virtual brain exercises?
A: I have found the Scrabble app to be super fun and addictive game to do with my daughter and friends virtually. We also tried playing online games a couple of weeks ago for my birthday so that we could share the celebration with our daughter and her partner but weren’t very successful navigating the platforms we tried. Even though it was a bit of a bomb, we had a lot of laughs trying!
Q: What about your family Theresa?
A: Gosh, as you ask all these questions, Christine, I realize why we never feel bored in our home! In addition to the games, I mentioned earlier and my obsession with learning gardening wisdom from others and the earth itself, my partner and I have always been huge fans of lifelong learning. We especially love the mental stimulation we get from being in nature with our daily bike rides through the forest, creating gloriously delicious healthy meals from our garden, and capping off our evenings with our nightly Yoga with Adriene practice.
While it may sound funny, even playing with our pets is a great source of joy and mental stimulation. You never know what they’ll be doing next and novelty of any kind is a wonderful elixir for the mind.