How to Train Your Brain for Mental Agility and Sharpness

Unlock the full potential of your mind with expert tips on ‘How to Train Your Brain.’ Discover proven strategies for cognitive enhancement, memory boost, and mental agility.

After so many years of mental fortitude,

I wish I could say I knew,

How to think think think

All the positive thinks come true.

But honestly,

I still haven’t got a clue.

Most of us have our mantras — some go-to saying that struck us and then stuck to us. They are words you have at some point deemed worthy of being your guiding light.

Perhaps it is the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Or maybe it’s the simple words from your favorite blue fish: Just keep swimming. Or wisdom borrowed from the Force’s green Jedi master: Do or do not, there is no try.

Whichever phrase you fancy, the words you think say something about how you wish to be.

Our thoughts are immensely powerful. They influence our feelings, choices, actions, and inactions. If only our thoughts were a dam of positivity, flooding our mind with wisdom, faith, confidence, and hope.

But despite our best mantras, how often do you find yourself weakening to the dark side? The self-destruct, you-suck-tea-cups.

Consider all the input that influences the way you think — a spouse, a friend, a parent, a coworker, the media, music, television, podcasts, reviews, blogs, magazines, books, etc. — all of which shape your thoughts, without regard for intention.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. For every positive thought you have, how many of them carry worry, doubt, and fear? For me, it’s a lot more than I’d like. And here’s how I’m trying to change it along with the five phrases that inspired it.

Ways how to train your brain to think healthy thoughts:

1. Build a wall. Keep hammering away.

Construct a wall of words that you can live by and post them somewhere you frequent. (Mine is behind my closet door.) It’s affirmations minus the mirror. They are a collection of sayings that have left an impression for one reason or another.

Some come from personal notes, some from experts and authors, while others come from unexpected places in nature. Look at the wall daily — every morning and every night. Memorize them. Use them. Pass them on. Odds are, someone else needs to hear them too.

They say the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new, good habit. When you begin to think with words of fear, replace them with words of hope.

2. Meditate. Today is the day.

Did I lose you? Allow me to adjust the frame. Rather than an image of a monk, palms up before sunrise, imagine anything that brings your mind peace and presence. It can be any practice that moves your thoughts from the “to-do” list to the “to-not now” list — have no purpose on purpose.

My meditation of choice is going for a walk. For others it might be reading a book, taking a nap, yoga, or even playing Pickleball. Maybe the experts would disagree with me, arguing that the whole point of meditating is about stillness of body and mind, but if posing in downward facing dog helps you manage the mess in your mind, then I say “namaste.”

*Disclaimer: Mindlessly scrolling social media and news outlets is not recommended.

3. Write it down. You have to see yourself to change yourself.

I know — you don’t have the time. I know — writing isn’t your thing. It doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to carve a chunk of time, or buy a special notebook, or begin with the words “Dear Diary.” And against your primary teacher’s better judgment, nobody is even questioning your spelling.

But if you are serious about changing your thoughts, you have to see them first. Writing down your thoughts, in any form of reflection (bulleted lists, journaling, sketches, anecdotes, rating scales, etc.), allows you to exorcize waste and preserve treasures.

4. Develop awareness. Clarity makes all the difference in the world later.

Sort through your thoughts. Make a mental t-chart of what works for you and against you. Play a little game of “this is mine, that’s yours,” by identifying thoughts that grew from you and which implanted from somewhere else. Then, evaluate their validity — store the keepers and wring out the waste.

5. Choose your people with purpose. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are.

Certain people have the ability to bring out different sides of you. Your oldest friend brings out your childish side. Your funny friend brings out your silly side. Your thoughtful friend brings out your empathetic side. All good things. Thinking is contagious!

Unfortunately, the same goes for the undesired sides: the skeptic, the critic, the gossip. The more time you spend with someone, the more likely they are to rub off on you. Surround yourself with the people you want to emulate — people who inspire you, who challenge you to think better, and consequently, be better.

6. Rinse and repeat. You can’t win if you don’t play.

All athletes train. Muscle literally grows by repairing damaged fibers. Resistance is necessary to sculpt your body. Same goes for changing your brain. Your thought-life requires some heavy, even painful, lifting to grow stronger. It’s natural to yo-yo.

But if you stack habits that strengthen your mind, you’re more likely to bounce back. All in all, maybe it’s not really a process of training your brain. It’s more about taking the steps to accept it.

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