By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
When you work out your muscles, they become stronger and you feel better physically. When you expand your emotional range, you feel more connected to those around you and humanity as a whole. However, physical and emotional wellness aren’t the end of our journey, as you can see on our wellness wheel. We also need to consider our mental well-being, which means considering intellectual wellness. What is intellectual wellness? In this post, we’ll explore what it is and how you can improve yours.
Intellectual wellness is nothing more than engaging in creative, mentally-stimulating activities, building your knowledge, and sharing your knowledge with other people. Reading a book about meditation could be considered engaging in intellectual wellness. Explaining the knowledge you learn to someone else also falls into that category.
The brain is like a muscle—if you don’t exercise it, it won’t grow. In fact, it will atrophy. Learning for the sake of learning (because you want to, not because you’re told to) is important, but you must learn through multiple methods, such as reading, speaking with other people, writing, exploring, and sharing your experiences with others.
One of the simplest ways to work out your brain and improve your intellectual wellness is to read. The benefits of reading include the obvious—fiction allows you to escape to new worlds, for instance. However, there are less obvious benefits, such as the chance to learn new skills and challenge old beliefs. The right wellness book can also help you address key pain points in your life.
Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to reading only self-help books. Branch out! Challenge yourself to try new genres and subgenres. You never know what you’ll find to love, and every book will push your brain to form new neural pathways that support better intellectual wellness.
Don’t just read for the sake of working your brain, either. Read for enjoyment. Read for the love of the subject matter or the topic. Doing something you love has ramifications that go well beyond mental stimulation and growth, and can affect emotional and physical wellness, too.
Journaling for mental health is also important. While it might seem simple and straightforward, this activity can offer a wealth of advantages and benefits. Journaling can be used as a form of therapy, allowing you to work through complex emotions and even deal with serious trauma.
However, it can also be used to unlock creative ideas, codify learning, and even help you better deal with difficult people and situations in your life through analytical processing. Yet another important benefit here is the ability to support better emotional health by tracking triggers and symptoms to control them, or at least minimize them by changing the environments, activities, and people you interact with during the day.
Again, the brain is like any other muscle. It needs to be used to build strength and endurance. Of course, you can’t do sit-ups or pushups with your brain, but there are lots of ways you can engage it through mental exercises. One great option is to complete puzzles; they challenge your brain to think around corners and to see things in new ways.
What sorts of puzzles? Almost anything will work. For instance, a good crossword puzzle can stimulate your brain very well. You should also consider Zen koans, a traditional Zen practice for mindfulness, or even put together physical puzzles during your spare time. Logic games, smartphone apps, and even some video games can also stimulate your brain in this way.
Improving mental performance isn’t relegated just to intellectual activities. Nootropics are “smart drugs” that help improve your ability to think and even the speed at which your brain processes thoughts. You’ll find both natural and synthetic options out there, and they actually have a long history of use.
One of the most widely consumed nootropics is caffeine—that morning cup of java stimulates your brain and helps you process information faster. Creatine is another example. It binds with phosphate in the body, providing a “super fuel” for brain activity.
Of course, caffeine has its downside. The “crash” can leave you feeling drained and more tired than before you had coffee. Creatine, L-theanine, and other supplements can also be problematic, largely because they’re often combined with caffeine. Instead, consider something like the Four Sigmatic® Mushroom Elixir, which can stimulate brain activity and improve intellectual wellness, but without the crash that comes from caffeine-laced energy drinks or coffee.
The right bedtime routine can also help bolster intellectual wellness and mental health. For instance, make sure you turn off your screens (smartphones, TVs, tablets, etc.) at least two hours before heading to bed. Use the bedroom just for sleeping, as well. If you regularly watch TV while in bed, you give your brain mixed signals about the purpose of the environment. Finally, try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Creating that sort of routine helps ensure that you’re able to sleep more deeply.
We’ve explored intellectual wellness and provided you with critical tips to help improve your brain health. Remember, the brain is like any other muscle. It needs stimulation to become stronger and more powerful. From puzzles to reading, journaling to sleep health, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your intellectual wellness.
Most of all, be committed to learning and development. Engage others in conversation regularly. Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new each week and push boundaries. You’ll be surprised at the results!