How Spring Cleaning Can Exercise Your Brain

April 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

image One of the simple (and perhaps slightly wacky) pleasures of my life is trying to figure out how even the most mundane of tasks can be done so that they help stimulate  the brain, trigger new neural growth, and maintain old memories and skills.

This week’s focus?  That odd urge so many of us get this time of year, to clean out the corners and cubby holes of our homes.   So in between my own dust-triggered sneezes,  I’ve been pondering how spring cleaning could be used to exercise our brains.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1.  Refresh Old Memories

Digging through closets, project boxes, and even dresser drawers always seems to trigger old memories.  Whether it’s a box of old family photos, a blouse you wore for a special date many years ago, or scraps of wood that came from the birdhouse you built with your father many years ago,  don’t just skip over these items. Let the memories flow, and see just how much you do remember about each item.   The very process of remembering strengthens the memories, and makes it more likely you’ll hold onto them in the future.

2.  Change Your EnvironmentRearranging furniture, changing color schemes, adding new pictures and generally shaking things up forces the brain out of it’s habitual ruts, and creates new neural pathways.  So if spring gives you an urge to redecorate, go ahead and indulge.  Pick up fresh flowers.  Light a scented candle.  Buy a new lamp. Move the TV. The more you enrich your environment with change, the better for your brain.

3.  Make It Physical

Spring cleaning can be hard work.  For best brain benefit, focus on that.  Stretch just a little further to reach that top shelf.  Put a little more oomph behind that paint roller. Push that vacuum cleaner with a bit more enthusiasm.   And during your breaks, go for a quick walk around the block, check out the neighbors new flower beds and note what *they* may be throwing out as part of their own cleansing ritual.  Yes, it’s nosey, but it’s also curiosity…  and taking an active interest in changes to your environment stimulates your brain.

3. Think Creatively & Compassionately

As you sort through boxes and shelves, separating things you no longer want or need, think creatively about the potential of those items.  Before you trash them, think about whether or not they be used by someone else, and how.   Sometimes items you may consider useless may wind up being re-purposed by others, and local resale and junk shops cater to customers that may be looking for the exact item you’re ready to be rid of.  So recycle and donate as much and as creatively as possible. It’s good for the environment and the community, it stretches your brain, and encourages connection to the people around you (which is also good for the brain).

5. Be Mindful

While you work, try to keep your attention fully on your task.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present, and focus on what’s around you.  Make a mental note of the scents (dust, furniture oil, paint, that new curtain smell, flowers blooming outside) the feeling of the air (cool and crisp breezes, or warm soothing still) the quality of the light (has it changed since winter passed? is the light in the room natural or artificial?) and pay attention  to your physical movements as you work, each muscle involved, how each joint is being used.

Mindfulness, as a practice, is particularly challenging, and based on some studies of Buddhists, making mindfulness  a habit may have many brain benefits.

There you go.

Five ways to make spring cleaning perk up your synapses.
Can you come up with a sixth way?

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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