Wise Up: 6 Tips To Keep Your Mind Busy

The holiday season is many things to many people: a time of family and friends, of giving and receiving, of quality time with loved ones, and a whole lot of eating. But unless your family is particularly prone to philosophical debate over the dinner table or backgammon over breakfast, the one thing that might not be nourished over this busy period is your mental acuity.

Neglecting your mind over the holiday season only makes the return to work more difficult and stressful.

Keep your mental agility up to speed with these tips.

Learn another language

Learning a foreign language is among the most mentally stimulating activities we can do. As English speakers, we are often led to believe that there is simply no need to learn other languages. This is both false and lazy. Whether you want to expand on your high school French, become fluent in Mandarin for business or pick up some Arabic phrases for an upcoming trip, learning a language uses parts of your brain that won’t be stimulated by anything else.

Not only will you be introduced to a whole new way of speaking, listening and thinking, but you’ll even gain a deeper understanding of your first language. Don’t be surprised if the cultural immersion required enriches not only your future travels but also your entire life.

Do Sudoku

This well-established mental stimulant is a classic for a reason. A simple yet surprisingly difficult numerical puzzle – although, rest assured, it doesn’t involve any mathematical calculations! – Sudoku is renowned for improving problem-solving skills and sharpening mental focus. Download a Sudoku app or simply get cracking in the newspaper’s Sudoku delights and get your brain ticking.

Cryptic crosswords

If you thought crosswords were challenging enough, wait until you meet their kooky, seemingly unpredictable cousin: the cryptic crossword. As disjointed and surprising as the question and answer may seem, each cryptic crossword follows a standard set of rules that are easy to learn yet flexible enough to stay challenging. Expect to be kept in a state of suspense and, sure, sometimes downright surprise at how intricate the connections are, as you draw on every pop culture reference and obscure etymological fact you ever learnt. It is practically mental gymnastics!

On non-fiction

For many, the holiday season calls for a quick, easy novel for maximum escapism and minimum thought required. But if you challenge yourself and reach for that non-fiction book on your shelf you’ve been meaning to read for ages – be it history, science, or whatever else – you’ll reap the rewards in knowledge and insight.

Track your roots

With extra time on your hands, and family within close reach, the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge in some family history research. It might seem like an obscure recommendation, but the rapidly booming world of genealogy, practised by millions of avid family historians around the world, proves that tracing one’s roots is a fruitful task.

Not only is the necessary research and problem-solving great for your mind, but you’ll learn about the past – and your own family background – as you go, increasing your knowledge as you sharpen your detective skills. A challenging yet stimulating holiday task.

Personal project

Finally, we all have that one dream project we’d love to do if only we had more time, money or knowledge… Start now! Whether it is a novel you’ve always wanted to write, a website or blog you’d like to publish, a start-up company to get off the ground – use the holiday season to focus on that idea that has been niggling at you all year long.

By indulging your creative urges, you foster personal growth and gain experiencing in creating and implementing new ideas. This creative, self-directed process is an invaluable skill for work and other aspects of your life, not to mention enriching in its own right. Embark on that challenging, rewarding pet project now.

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Lucy Dunbell is a proud maths geek and science nerd whose mind is kept busy all year round thanks to her challenging yet rewarding degree in actuarial studies.