How to Exercise an Open Mind

Simply put, all one needs to grow his/her brain is to do unique, random, different, and ridiculous things as often as possible. One hour of increased brain activity via thinking a lot or experiencing new stimuli can make you smarter, more energetic, more creative, and more sociable. Here are some of the endless numbers of activities that can stimulate your brain. The one key ingredient is to have an open mind.


Steps

  1. Stimulate your ears differently. Try different music you haven’t tried before: Classical, New Age, Zouk, Rap, Mariachi, Country. You don’t have to like it at first, but if you keep an open mind, you can still find it interesting. Listen to a radio station you typically don’t listen to.
  2. Stimulate your eyes in new ways. Look at different art sites such as DeviantART. Go to a cheap or free art gallery. Even if it’s bad art, it can still be stimulating and thought provoking.
  3. Learn about different people and lifestyles. A great gateway into this is Wikipedia, where you can read articles on a wide variety of practices, such as Swinging, Wicca, the Green Party, Conservatism, Anarchism, Sunnis, Tutsis, and the Yakuza. Consider how many members they have worldwide.
  4. While waiting (in line at the bank, a coffee shop, a restaurant, the grocery store, or waiting for someone to pick you up, or a show on TV to start), ponder things, calculate, memorize. You can, for example, memorize digits of Pi (you can get to 50 in a matter of hours, 200 in a matter of weeks), try and remember all of your high school teachers’ names, memorize Prime Numbers, get fast at reciting the alphabet backwards, the Greek alphabet (forwards and backwards), remember as many movies that Tom Cruise has been in, try Doubling numbers, start at 1, to 2, to 4, to 8, till you get to larger numbers than you can handle.
  5. Take unusual classes. Find a community college near you, pick up a catalog, and open your mind to learning things like Art History, Underwater Basketweaving, First Aid training, or Business Ethics. My local university offers many easy survey courses with no prerequisites, such as Vampires and Werewolves, Meteorology, Nutrition, Japanese Pop Culture, etc. How awesome would it be to know basic Meteorology? Learn different languages (Esperanto, Japanese, French, Arabic, Italian, Navajo, etc.) especially those with roots very different from your own (most Asian languages, for example, will challenge you to use tones to distinguish words – a skill not required by the Romance languages).
  6. If you exercise by jogging, biking, or walking, find new routes. Find parks where you live. Jog different neighborhoods (this is also a great time to try different music in your player).
  7. Join clubs based on things you have no knowledge of, such as a Scrabble Club, an Investment Club, etc.
  8. Watch movies in genres that you normally don’t partake in, such as Cyberpunk, scary, Anime, documentaries, stand up comedy (Eddie Izzard, Dane Cook, Mitch Hedberg). IMDb is a great site to look for movies that other people enjoy. They break them down by genre as well. Remember to be open-minded about things you don’t know about.
  9. Do crossword puzzles every day possible.
  10. Learn how to write backwards. Leonardo DaVinci, the quintessential Renaissance man and a jack-of-all-trades, wrote all of his notes backwards so that they could only be read with a mirror. Or try writing upside down. None of these is as hard as it might seem; you’ll soon get the hang of it.
  11. Try new clothes on the weekends that you would never wear otherwise.
  12. Browse Wikipedia or wikiHow and do things that you find there.
  13. Watch shows that you don’t watch or that you often discriminate against, even though you have never watched them. Do you hate the O.C.? Even if you still dislike it or find it comical, try it once or twice. Try a soap opera: It’s fun! Watch the Spanish channels; watch the religious channels; watch the Discovery channel; watch the Travel channel; or if you do watch all those channels, try not watching television at all for a week … Thus, you will have the time to try everything else posted in this page 😉
  14. Build ridiculous things like radios, legos, robots, trebuchets.
  15. Walk backwards through your whole house.
  16. Try foods you have never tried. Have you tried sushi? Have you tried Vietnamese? Mediterranean? Indian? Native-American? Cajun? Have you ever tasted a Boba? A shot of Wheatgrass? Have you smoked a hookah? Have you eaten durian or the Filipino delicacy, balut? Think it’s unhealthy? Do you know it’s unhealthy? Look it up.
  17. Learn to do a handstand. A backflip. A kip-up. Take martial arts classes. Try some Hip-Hop classes or learn a break dance move. Can you touch your toes? Work on it.
  18. Attend churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, trade union meetings, places of worship and meditation that you never have.
  19. Learn How to Spin a Pencil Around Your Thumb, solve a Rubik’s Cube, or try Cup Stacking. Don’t know what these are? Look them up. Learn!
  20. Face your fears! Are you computer-illiterate? Putz around on a computer for a while. Don’t be scared. You won’t break anything. Learn a programming language. Nothing is as hard as anyone makes it out to be.
  21. Build your own computer. Think it’s hard? You’ll never know until you actually do it. It’s somewhat ridiculous how many HowTo’s there are on building a computer.
  22. Rotate your own tires. Make a friend do it with you.
  23. Try skiing, snowboarding, jet skiing, Hang gliding, parasailing, surfing, and anything else that pushes the limits of your comfort zone!
  24. Learn to juggle. A great workout for your brain, eyes and reflexes. Are three balls too easy? Try five, or better yet, four. Try Contact Juggling for a different challenge.
  25. Learn to write with the hand you do not write with. Change your computer keyboard setting to Dvorak and type away! Or try to do other things with the wrong hand…how about ping-pong?
  26. Try making something new in the kitchen. Home roasted coffee, cheese, beer, and bread can be made inexpensively, plus you get to consume the results!
  27. Say out loud that you will stop yourself before quickly deciding against doing something new. This vocal affirmation will help you to challenge yourself more often.
  28. Open your mind to other political points of view. If you are a conservative, listen to Air America, read Alternet and watch some films of Michael Moore. If you are a liberal, listen to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly, read the Washington Times or InstaPundit, and watch Fox News. You may find it hard to stomach at first, but in time you might find a grain of truth in what your nemesis has to say. Even if you don’t, you’ll be able to argue with one of “them” much more intelligently.
  29. If you never play video games, play them every once in a while. Sure it looks mindless and you may yell at your kids for doing so, but believe it or not, video games can stimulate a wide variety of brain activity. Try new things!
  30. Play with magnets. It may seem like a child’s activity, but give it a try. For around $20 (thinkgeek.com has some fun magnet toys) you’ll find yourself strangely entertained while learning about magnetic properties and physics! Remember, you’re never too old to play with toys. 🙂
  31. Try blocking out one of your senses. Do everyday things, like cleaning up your room or using your cell phone, with a blindfold. It puts things in perspective when you are forced to “create” new ways of doing things you’ve already figured how to do.
  32. Play chess! It’s the poetry of the mind!
  33. Do the sudoku in the newspaper! They seem impossible at first, but go to http://www.sudoku.com or buy a book to get some tips on how to play. They aren’t as hard as they seem.
  34. Try to see another person’s perspective. What is important to that person? What is he or she self-conscious about? Is that person as open minded as you?
  35. Travel – Nothing exposes a mind to new things than becoming an outsider. You don’t even have to travel outside your country or state! How well do you know your own city? Have you tried using only a bike, or only using your own two feet and public transportation? (Ever considered what it’s like if that was the only means to get around, say if you were physically unable to drive around? Being a pedestrian once in a while will make you a better driver.) Go off the beaten path!
  36. Learn How to Read 12 Digit UPC Barcodes.
  37. Type Random things into google such as “I wanna be a NINJA” or “Yarrr”.
  38. Buy a Zippo lighter and learn tricks.
  39. Think of more things to add to this list!


Tips

  • Be open-minded. Read from the top to find out how.
  • Or read from the bottom to the top.
  • Be thrifty. Yeah, building a trebuchet is a $200+ project, so go for the Legos instead. If the university is $400 per credit, try the community college for $40 per credit.
  • If an hour a day is too much to spend, try a half hour, or just perform your morning routine differently (backwards? walk backwards? eyes closed?).
  • Be brave. Never be embarrassed. If your friends think it’s a bit odd that you are memorizing digits of pi, acknowledge that it is pretty weird… and awesome!
  • Don’t discriminate against trendy things. You wear underwear. That’s trendy. You are trendy. Deal with it. Think Abercrombie is too trendy? Ever walked in there? Maybe there is something you like.
  • Remember that “the perfect student is one who always stumbles but never falls.” Don’t give up! The Rubik’s Cube probably looks somewhat impossible until you’ve solved the white cross. Go for it. They’re $9.00 at Target.
  • Every decision you make in life is based on your belief system. To open your mind, start to list your fundamental beliefs, and for each one ask yourself why you believe it. Then ask yourself whether you could imagine being you if you didn’t exactly believe it any more, but believed something marginally different. Then marginally different from that. Pick a belief a week and work at it. If you are feeling really brave, and have a really good friend, ask them what they believe. Discuss how they acquired their beliefs. Understand this – your belief system is absolutely unique to you. Your friend’s belief system is unique to them. An open mind can see issues using many different perspectives – adopting many different belief systems as the lens to view the issue.
  • When travelling, you may consider but not often advised to travel with a partner. You will truly test a relationship this way. Each individual will be traveling with his/her prejudices. Proceed with caution. Traveling by yourself can be eye opening. You certainly get to know yourself pretty darn well. Every place has a safe place and a dangerous place. Don’t limit places because of stereotypes but use common sense when travelling. Always remember you are a guest in the host location.


Warnings

  • Be safe. Know your limits and push them gently.

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