I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed with everything that’s going on in their life. Everything that’s on their plate. All of society’s changes over the past several years. I feel like my life is out of balance, and it’s often difficult to figure out where to start making changes. Huge overhauls aren’t always possible, but it is possible to make small changes that will add up over time.
A new deck published by Laurence King Publishing called Brain Gym: 40 Workouts to Boost Your Brain Health provides bite-size ideas and exercises to help your brain health, which will have positive lasting effects as well as immediate boosts to both your brain and your body. (And your house and your productivity and your life enjoyment and…)
What Is Brain Gym?
I know Brain Gym as a movement-based program that keeps our brains healthy and flexible. My aunt has done and taught Brain Gym over the years, and what I know from her makes me think that these cards are not at all affiliated with the official Brain Gym program.
But, regardless, this deck of Brain Gym cards will expand the range of ways to keep your brain healthy. They help you take your brain to the gym, essentially, and remind you to tend to any neglected corners of your mind.
Purpose of the Cards
This set of 40 cards (and accompanying instruction and information booklet)—written by Dr. Sabina Brennan and illustrated by Andy Goodman—provides mental and physical exercises to practice that will reshape your brain as well as provide an understanding of how your brain works and how it is arranged. Each card includes a fun graphical representation of the exercise, instructions on how to implement it, and the science behind how and why it helps, as well as listing connections to other cards in the deck that you can work on in tandem to dig even deeper.
The cards cover six categories: Work, Rest, Play, Attitude, Thinking, and Feeling. Each card has a unique name such as Curiosity, Routine, Sleep, Journal, Activate, Self-Belief, and Bias.
If you read a bunch of cards at once, you probably won’t get the most out of using them. So instead just pick one a day and really focus on and delve into what it is asking you to do. If that card doesn’t speak to you that day, set it aside and pick another.
Some of the cards that really speak to me personally and address what I need to address in my life include: Declutter, Monotask, Daydream, Nature, Laugh, Passion, Connect, and Joy. I look forward to putting those in heavy rotation.
If you’re not sure where to begin, the booklet includes weekly “exercise” plans that will focus your efforts.
Are They Any Good? Are They Fun? Who Are They For?
Yes, generally, and (almost) everyone, respectively.
During these past few years, even those of us who have (so far) escaped catching COVID have experienced plenty of extra stress, difficulty concentrating, and brain fog. But since we don’t always know what to do to alleviate these problems, Brain Gym exercises are a fantastic place to start.
Having written my own advice book and read several others, as well as being surrounded by people who give great advice, I find this deck to be a great summary of some of the best advice out there for how to live your best and most rewarding life.
These Brain Gym cards don’t just tell you what to do, they tell you why it works. For those of us who like to understand the world and need to know the reasons behind advice and best practices, this card deck is set up perfectly. The cards are also a great way to promote neuroplasticity in your brain in a self-contained, well-packaged, easy-to-use box. I find them to be a very helpful reminder of why and how to keep my life balanced, with concrete things I can actually do about it.
I really love how the science behind how each exercise is helpful to you is written right on the card. You don’t need to go look it up in a book or on the internet. Each card has everything you need, and the science explanation is a convenient reminder of why you are doing the exercise.
The author recommends that you pick a new card every day or revisit your favorite cards as desired. You’ll have an easier time fitting Brain Gym exercises into your day if you attach them to something you do already, like making breakfast or brushing your teeth.
And don’t skip reading the included booklet either—in it, you’ll learn a ton about how our brains work and how they work with the rest of our bodies. It’s fascinating stuff, all written at a level that’s approachable and not full of scientific jargon. Here’s one of my favorite sentences:
“Your perceptions of the world are essentially your brain’s best guess, based on its interpretation of a multitude of incoming signals and its perceptions generated from information accumulated over time.”
The booklet also dives deeper into the card categories and how all of the areas are important to keeping your brain healthy. Both it and many of the cards also discuss the ever-important adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin in our bodies and brains.
I love the art in this card set. It both feels modern and reminds me of art from the 1970s, which gives it a timeless quality.
Just as we exercise our bodies, we need to exercise our minds. The Brain Gym: 40 Workouts to Boost Your Brain Health cards are easy to read and understand, and will help you and possibly your whole family broaden your skillsets for coping with everyday life’s challenges. The cards are ideal to add to your box of mental health tools. I’d suggest using them for ages 10 to adult, but parents can facilitate their use with younger kids. Also to note: sex is mentioned in the product’s text, so preview as needed before passing anything along to your kids.
Brain Gym: 40 Workouts to Boost Your Brain Health is available now for $16.99.
Note: I received a sample for review purposes.