Intellectual Wellness: 17 Tips to Brain Fitness

by Cassandra Shaw
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Intellectual wellness? You wonder if there’s such a thing. You eat healthy for your brain – fatty fish, blueberries, dark chocolate. You also exercise, that’s enough, right.

You’ve also heard so much about wellness and taking care of yourself. You dread something else, something new to have to do.

Yet, this is different. What if you don’t take care of your mind? What happens to you later in life? Will you forget your loved ones? You wonder if you should strive for something else to keep your brain fit.

Yet, you’re not quite sure what it entails. What’s the big deal of it anyway?

The big deal is intellectual wellness helps keep your mind from becoming mush. Your brain needs to be exercise like other muscles in your body.

Stimulating your mind is more than continual learning. It’s having creative and stimulating mental activities that keeps the neurons firing. Strong neural networks are denser and are more resistant to decline. They are also resistant to amyloid plaques linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (Rodriguez, DiLego, & Texeira, 2015).

Brain fitness helps to keep you better-rounded and mindful, too. You can start now to help improve and maintain your mind.

Intellectual Wellness

Various definitions of intellectual wellness abound. It is engaging in creative and mentally stimulating activities, which increases your knowledge. It does not occur once or a few times. Intellectual wellness should occur over the span of your lifetime.

Aging adults who engage in creative, challenging, and cognitively stimulating activities may prevent, slow, or even reverse cognitive decline. This could include computer games, reading, and crossword puzzles (Strout & Howard, 2015).

But is that all there us to it? You can play games and your brain is fine.

Unfortunately, no. There are other things you must consider for the health of your brain.

Get Oxygen to Your Brain

Oxygen is the brain’s energy to function. As you need air to breathe to survive, your brain needs oxygen. Your brain uses about 3X as much oxygen as your muscles. The cells in your brain need oxygen to survive and won’t survive without it. Even a minimal drop in the amount of oxygen they receive affects your brain cells.

Oxygen reaches your brain through blood circulation. You need to get your blood pumping. Aerobic activity is the quickest way to achieve this. If you’re a regular exerciser, or hate the word exercise, remind yourself your brain needs its energy, oxygen.

Exercise to increase your heart rate for blood circulation. This gets oxygen to the brain and releases hormones. This aids and provides nourishment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new cell connections. This makes it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Find your “runner’s high,” a rush of feeling good. This causes a drop in stress hormones. It provides more cell growth in the hippocampus. This is the area of your brain responsible for your learning and memory.

  2. Get yourself in the habit of including aerobic activity in your day.

    • You can stand up from your desk or take a break from your job and do some jumping jacks.

    • Try brisk walking (get your heart rate up) during a break, which you can do indoors or outdoors.

    • On your days off, try bicycling or playing a sport, such as basketball.

  3. If you lift weights only, you’re an anaerobic exerciser. Be sure to add in a bit of aerobic activity to get the heart rate up, which keeps the blood circulating.

    • Try circuit training.

    • Do a set of jumping jacks as you move from one machine to another.

    • Jog in figure eights from one machine to another.

  4. If you don’t exercise, try adding in some type of aerobic activity. Start with a few minutes per day.

    • Get up and do some jumping jacks.

    • Imitate jumping rope, which you can do indoors.

    • Run or jog in place.

    • Jog backwards through your house.


Get Social

When you interact with others, you get a boost of well-being. Be active in your social life. You are less likely to develop dementia than those who remain socially isolated.

Build your social connections. Have a solid social network. When you do, you are 50{44c8773cfc5435cd81ad20e0c4d9124b8149e87e023df21bb722cbe5a8d7cc51} more likely to live longer than those with limited social networks. Try these ideas:

  1. Join a Lifelong Learning Institute, such as OLLI. This includes a wide variety of activities from dancing to yoga to cooking to gardening and more.

  2. Attend social events with friends, with family, or at your religious institution.

  3. Join a book club. You might read one book a month and then get together for a stimulating discussion.

  4. Take a group tour somewhere, even if it’s local.


Give Your Brain Something to Think About

Activities that provide meaning to you can be more enticing for your brain to engage in. Think about things you like to do, even if you haven’t done them in a while. What gets the wheels turning in your mind? Here are some suggestions:


  1. Avoid a stagnate brain. Engage in memory games. This involves all brain levels of operation, such as receiving, remembering, and thinking. How good is your recall of an event or situation? How good is your recall of an event or situation?

    • Reporting back something interesting to another person.

    • Practicing for a presentation.

    • Practicing a musical instrument.

    • Practicing a dance routine.

  2. Avoid a routine of daily habits. Ever end up at a regular destination but don’t remember driving there? Your brain was on autopilot. Nothing is firing or stimulated. When you change it up, your brain has to stop and think. Change it up!

    • Since you now have to think about a new routine or habit, your brain has to rewire itself, so you get better at doing it. Think of your brain as practicing.

  3. Avoid procrastination. Putting off what you need to do does not stimulate the brain.

    • You need to reorganize something, but it looks overwhelming. Start with one small thing and feel that accomplishment. Then, your brain gets stimulated and you feel like you can do something else. Keep going!

  4. Avoid multitasking. Neuroscience has found that when your brain focuses on more than one thing at a time. It cannot fully give its attention to each one thing. This will fractionate your concentration, deplete your neural resources, and tire you out.


Let Your Brain Learn Something New

Learn something new. This is like getting out of a stuck routine. When you learn something new, you must practice, practice, and practice to “get it.” This is your brain making new connections, so it knows how to do what you are asking it to do.

You’re also helping your brain stay more flexible. This is the same as what you do with your muscles, tendons, and ligaments when stretching your body. Try an hour a day on something new:

  1. A foreign language

  2. A musical instrument

  3. An art, writing, or photography class

  4. A new exercise routine

  5. Explore cultural activities as this wakes up your senses.

    • Look for a museum, a local cultural center in your area, or travel to a new locale if you’re able, to experience new things. That new experience stimulates the brain.

A couple or a few, if not more, of these tips should perk your interest. If it does, that’s your brain telling you it wants to engage in it. Go for it!


Now It’s Your Turn

Not exercising your mind can leave you with the fear of losing your intelligence. Or worse, getting Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

But those fears don’t have to hold you back. Make a plan of action to improve and maintain your intellectual wellness. Today.

Use the tips above to create your own personal action plan for improving your mind – and then stick to it.

It may take weeks or months, but the sooner you start the sooner you’ll feel better.

You’ll feel new excitement. You’ll have confidence you’re doing everything you can to ward off Dementia or Alzheimer’s. And imagine thinking of the future and no longer having that fear.

So, take that first step. It’s easier and more fun than you think.

Improve your intellectual wellness. Enjoy your life.


Rodriguez, D. (Producer). [PACTV Video Share]. (2015, September). Building Community Episode 8 – Intellectual health and wellness (with DiLego, & C., Texeira, K.). Retrieved from:
Strout, K. A., & Howard, E. P. (2015). Five dimensions of wellness and predictors of cognitive health protection in community-dwelling older adults. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 33(1). 
Cassandra Shaw
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