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The best exercises for the brain

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

When you work in a creative field, you need to exercise your brain often. Because that is the equivalent of a football player going to the gym and working on his physical fitness.

If you don't exercise your body, your muscles atrophy and you will struggle to get any physical work done - like running or cycling or climbing up a hill. And if you don't exercise your brain, you will struggle to get any creative work done - like writing, or creating music or painting.

I was reading about Kumail Nanjiani's life, a big part of which is now a hit motion picture called The Big Sick, and came across a line from the movie. For the uninitiated, he is a Pakistani muslim guy in the US who is in love with an American white woman. When he meets her parents, her father asks him in a serious tone, "So what's your take on 9/11?" And he responds, "It was a tragedy. We lost nineteen of our best guys."

No wonder he's a successful stand-up comedian, that cracked me up.

Stand-up comedy is the simple act of turning everyday biases and observations into humour. And it is no mean feat, of course. Which is what makes it an excellent exercise for the brain.

To be able to create humour from the things we see and hear around us and to elicit laughter in response, is a tremendously taxing exercise for the brain and one that gets a lot of neurons firing.

And to do this, you need to be opinionated, or in the least be able to recognise the opinions of other people that are opinionated. Which is another key aspect to improve on in order to be a successful creative. All successful creatives tend to be strongly opinionated on certain topics that concerns them.

This is a hard exercise, of course. But there are others that you can substitute it with to get your neurons firing just as much.

What Tim Urban does on Wait But Why is an equally challenging exercise for the brain - to take a complex topic like Brain Machine Interfaces or Arranged Marriages and explain them in the simplest of terms such that a six year old will understand exactly what the concept is.

I don't do either very well.

Before my brain atrophies, I want to start doing this.

Since I'm quite ahead on my goals for this blog for the year, I'm going to dedicate the final three months of the year exploring these two exercises. 

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