Use it, don’t lose it

With a renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing in 2020, Najla AlTenaiji explains how brain training has improved her life immeasurably 

While I think we can all agree that 2020 has not had a huge amount going for it, I do think one enormous positive to come out of such a period is the renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing. While physical health has kept our gyms and pools full since the mid 1980s there has often been all-too-little attention paid to what’s going on inside our head. 

We all are well aware that healthy living first demands a healthy brain. Our brains control everything that we do, so it stands to reason that if the brain isn’t functioning well, then it is impossible to move forward.

After my accident, I had to go through a series of brain and arm surgeries – long periods of rehabilitation and physiotherapies were a regular part of life. It was helpful but boring. When I look back on that time the only moments of enjoyment were spent at the ‘Brain Gym’. This was introduced to me by my mental health therapist and consisted of everything from puzzles and games – word searches, jigsaws, vocabulary tasks, scrabble, cards, chess and mental maths to more creative work – word pictures, drawing memory maps, quote writing, sketching and painting – easy activities that never threatened to overwhelm. 

These Brain Gym exercises are specifically designed to help our brain function active and alert during the learning process.  These short, fun, repetitive activities promote efficient communication among the many nerve cells and functional centers located throughout the brain and sensory-motor system. A healthy brain conquer depression, anxiety, and teach better coping life skills.

In a short space of time, I found that doing these brain exercises boosted my memory and concentration, giving me a focus that soon made my daily tasks quicker and easier. I started feeling attentive and sharp.

The biggest thing that the mental health brain gym taught me was to trust myself. Trust that I could make the right decisions for myself. Trust that it was ok not to be ok (and that this is not a matter of strength or lack thereof). It helps me stay accountable for mindfulness and tracking my emotions.

Mental health supports the state of our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It impacts the way we feel, think, and act, making it important in all areas of our lives.

I recommend it strongly for all my Kintsugi fellows. By doing these you can think more clearly, perform better, and provide a much-needed boost to your morale. Far from being on the ‘hippy’ scale of things this is pure science – by stimulating your mind you will ultimately function at a higher level. Hopefully 2020’s legacy could be a good one after all. 


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