It is usual, if not necessarily ideal, to reduce the duration and intensity of our physical activities when we have fibromyalgia Unfortunately, in tandem with this is the tendency to reduce our thinking effort as well.
Our minds are mental muscles – if we don’t use them, we lose them. More correctly, if we allow ourselves to be mentally lazy, then little by little we lose the ability to think as we once did.
Now I know that in fibromyalgia our brain fog is not caused by being mentally lazy… but more by the effects of our diet, lifestyle, and environment on our bodies.
Things like poor digestion, chronic inflammation, and stress can really make us feel like we are losing our minds!
We may forget things more often and lose the ability to recall information as easily as we used to. Deductive and logical reasoning can become extremely difficult, and we may stop trying.
But you must not let the Fibro-Fog win… It can get better!
You must also remember, apart from the effects of fibromyalgia, there can be other causes of cognitive decline. In many cases, stopping further decline and even improvement can be achieved by incorporating brain exercises into your daily routine.
Your memories, thoughts, and desires are part and parcel of who you are. When you can’t remember them, it’s like losing your identity too, and that can be scary.
Before my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I believed I had dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s. I even went through all of the neuropsych testing because I “just knew” there was something wrong…
Well, there was something wrong… but nothing more than the Fibro-Fog & Fibromyalgia.
I felt hopeless and helpless. I couldn’t get my words out, I misspoke all the time, and I couldn’t go from point A to point B without forgetting why I was going to point B in the first place!
If you want to improve your fog start with these brain exercises to strengthen your mind and increase your brain’s cognitive reserves.
Brain Exercises to Boost Memory
Aside from eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and living a healthy lifestyle, brain exercises can help improve your cognitive ability and slow down any damage that might be exacerbated by chronic illnesses & aging.
Yes, just as physical exercises can tone your muscles and keep the body strong and healthy to prevent diseases, brain exercises can also strengthen memory and help to retain mental skills.
Here are some of the brain exercises that you can start doing now to boost your memory:
Solve Math Problems In Your Head
Mental math, or solving math problems in your head, can boost your cognitive abilities and keep dementia at bay. When you’re doing arithmetic without the aid of a pen and paper or a calculator, it requires the brain to hold more details and strengthen your working memory.
You can start with a simple math problem. Pick any two digits, add 7, multiply by 11 and subtract 8. You can start with any numbers that you want, then increase the level of difficulty by using three digits, then four digits, and so on. Make it more challenging by doing mental math while walking.
Play Jigsaw Puzzles
Playing jigsaw puzzles can challenge the brain and improve your eye and hand coordination too. Research shows that solving jigsaw puzzles can potentially protect you from cognitive aging. It also taps multiple cognitive abilities while you engage in the activity.
You can start with a small puzzle with 100 pieces, then increase to 1,000 pieces, and so on. You can also try to do building puzzles, such as the Eiffel Tower.
Sudoku is a number game that helps improve your short-term memory and concentration. It also boosts your logical thinking because you have to think ahead, follow new trials, and anticipate potential consequences. Studies show that number puzzles improve brain function, particularly in older people.
You can buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, download an app, or create a DIY puzzle on paper. Start with the easy level to familiarize yourself with the rules and patterns, then increase the level of difficulty as you get better.
Similar to Sudoku, crosswords or word puzzles can also improve brain function. Crosswords are a classic game that is mentally stimulating and can increase mental acuity. When playing crosswords, you tap into both your short- and long-term memory.
Several studies have looked into the benefits of solving crossword puzzles and found that this activity helps the brain to function better, making you think deeply, and helping you solve problems.
Doing it regularly, even once a week, can help improve your memory. Studies also indicate that crosswords are beneficial to patients with brain damage or dementia.
Memorize Your Grocery List
Memorization stimulates your brain function and trains it to hold more and more information. It also helps you develop critical and strategic thinking. Most importantly, it improves your ability to recall information.
You can strengthen your ability to recall a memory by memorizing your grocery list. Start by creating a list of the things you need to buy, but keep it in your pocket while shopping to test how much you can recall. When you think you’ve exhausted your mental list, check your actual grocery list to make sure that you have gotten everything.
Remember Details You Observe In Public
Observing people that you see in public and remembering a few details about them is also a good mental exercise. It’s called a 4-detail observation exercise, which is also called passive memory training.
To do this exercise, observe a person and take note of four details about them. It can be the color of their hair, the brand of their bags, the clothes they’re wearing, and the accessories they have. Then test your ability to remember by recalling these details later.
Practicing conscious observation allows you to create mental pictures and boosts your memory. You can start this exercise by observing just one person, then make it more challenging by increasing the number.
Draw A Map Based On Your Memory
Drawing a map from your memory stimulates various parts of your brain, including those tasked with logical thinking and creativity. It helps boost your focus and strategic thinking. You can begin this exercise by drawing a map of your neighborhood.
You might think it’s easy because you can navigate through it automatically, but you might be surprised by the things you miss. Increase the level of difficulty by increasing the scope of your map or by drawing an unfamiliar place. You can also do this exercise every time you visit a new place.
Practice Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is the visual representation of your thought process. It mirrors how the brain works in mapping out connections and triggering further associations.
Mind mapping can help improve your ability to recall information significantly, especially when you use a combination of images, visual-spatial arrangements, and colors.
Many studies have proven that mind mapping can improve your brain’s cognitive reserves. It encourages memory formation, a deeper level of processing, and creative thinking.
Start a mind-mapping exercise using a topic that you like or is fun for you. You can also use a story. Start with the main idea and branch out with further details. Use colors and images as necessary to help you with the thought process and creativity.
Meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years. Aside from helping you to relax, mindful meditation can also improve your memory. It’s brain network training, which makes the brain more efficient by repeatedly activating the core brain networks responsible for many cognitive functions.
It improves your concentration and working memory. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or of long duration to be beneficial. You can start with a simple 10-minute meditation every day, focusing only on your breathing.
Find a quiet spot at home, sit or lie down comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale normally. When any thoughts come in, recognize them and then focus on your breathing again.
Use Your Non-Dominant Hand
Neurobiologist Lawrence Katz said that using your non-dominant hand is an excellent way to boost your brain’s activity and keep it alive. Your non-dominant hand is linked to the non-dominant hemisphere of the brain.
So when you try to use your non-dominant hand more frequently, it activates that part of the brain, helping you think differently and be more creative.
You can do this exercise by using your non-dominant hand when you do your common activities, such as eating and brushing your teeth. You can also try to write with your non-dominant hand. It can be difficult at first, but that’s the idea.
The more challenging the exercise, the better it is for the brain.
My Final Thoughts
Where at all possible, it’s great to get out there and do brain exercises that don’t require looking at a screen. The extra physical effort will help with maintaining dexterity and mobility.
Activities that are proven to help boost brain reserves are learning a new skill, teaching a skill to others, learning a new language, dancing, learning how to play music, socializing, and practicing tai chi.
However, there are also many options for improving memory in free apps available for smartphones and computers.
Challenge yourself every day. Remember that the more difficult the exercise, the better it is in improving your brain memory.
Of course, don’t forget to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, and keep a healthy lifestyle.
And finally, stop saying you can’t. I can’t remember or I can’t think or I can’t do that.
Your body is listening to what your brain is saying and if you tell your brain you can’t… you won’t.
If you start telling yourself you can remember or I can think or I can do that … you will!
To learn more about how I help women overcome their fibromyalgia symptoms so that they can live the life they had before fibro Click Here to set up a complimentary coaching call!