7 Simple Brain Exercises to Reduce Depression and Anxiety
Your brain needs exercise just like your body does, but sometimes it can be tricky to find the time to work out between work, home, and family life. Luckily, there are exercises you can do right in your own home that can help you increase mental acuity, reduce stress and anxiety, and even possibly reduce symptoms of depression! Here are seven simple brain exercises to try on your own or with your children at home today!
As we age, our brains naturally begin to lose some of their processing speed. Scientists estimate that even those who maintain an active lifestyle will experience a 10% decrease in brain speed as they age. Fortunately, there are exercises you can do that could help preserve your brainpower and stave off Alzheimer’s or dementia. Here are some you can try today
1) Focus on Mental and Physical Wellbeing
If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s likely that your overall sense of well-being is suffering as a result. There are some fantastic mental health apps out there that can help combat these issues, but they need to be used alongside a healthy lifestyle. Mental exercises (like meditation) need physical exercise in order for them to be effective, so when possible, try to maintain a physical routine — even if it’s just going for a long walk every day.
Meditation reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and can even stave off some of depression’s symptoms. Start with a primary meditation practice that involves focusing on your breath. You can then expand into practicing mindfulness throughout your day — for example, focusing on non-judgmental awareness as you prepare a meal or listen to a colleague speak at work. When you meditate each day, try for 10 minutes in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
Exercise has been found in many studies to be a highly effective way of reducing symptoms of depression. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good. So get moving! Join a dance class, take up running or play football with your friends — just keep active! However, avoid overexerting yourself — as with any other mental health condition, talking to a doctor before taking part in strenuous physical activity is important.
4) Get Enough Sleep
One of depression’s signature symptoms is a lack of energy or fatigue. When we don’t get enough sleep, these feelings only get worse. In fact, a lack of shut-eye can make us feel so down that it may be impossible to see a way out — even with treatment. To reduce depression symptoms and help tackle stress head-on, start by getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.
5) Let Go of Stress
Meditation can be a great way to relieve stress, and it doesn’t have to take up hours of your day. Start by choosing a mantra that works for you; then, when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, repeat that mantra silently in your head several times as you focus on your breathing. You can also try listening to guided meditations from apps like Headspace. All it takes is 20 minutes a day!
6) Learn Something New
The brain thrives on new challenges. If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, try learning a new skill that forces you to think in new ways. Don’t know how? Take a class! Visit your local community college for a list of available courses. Always wanted to learn how to play an instrument? How about art? Or cooking? Give it a shot. It’s never too late to start something new.
Laughter really is infectious. A University of Arizona study found that women who watched a funny video clip had an increase in levels of salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies, which ward off illness, while those who watched a sad clip had an increase in levels of IgE antibodies, which cause allergies. Next time you’re feeling down or anxious, try watching something funny; it might cheer you up — and reduce your stress level.
Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness are natural — and expected — after a stressful life event such as a divorce or death. But if you’re feeling more depressed than you think you should be, seek help from your primary care doctor. Mild depression is sometimes treated with antidepressants, therapy, or both. Severe cases may require treatment in a hospital for several weeks; in some cases, patients have benefited from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which triggers seizures that affect mood.