Being in the military, and particularly serving in combat, requires constant alertness and high levels of cognitive functioning. Not only that, but the conditions of military life–adequate rest, good food, and plenty of physical exercise–are all conducive to good mental acuity. It is the return to civilian life where most vets often find their daily routines start to become less ideal for sustained cognitive high performance.
Having a sharp mind is important both in and out of the military. Below are 4 ways veterans can keep their brains high-functioning after they return to civilian life.
Gamify Your Brain Training
Cognitive stimulation is most enjoyable when it’s fun. The trick is to find things you like doing that require analytical and logical thinking and put your brain through its paces. Games like Scrabble, for instance, rely on your verbal intelligence and activate the language centre of your brain.
There are some great tools online, such as unscramblex.com, which help you maximize your Scrabble potential and give you access to more word combinations than you would otherwise likely be able to come up with. These tools also help build your vocabulary and improve your communication skills.
One thing military experience tends to ingrain in servicemen and women is a daily exercise routine. This is especially true for anyone with combat experience, since part of active duty requires you to be in “fighting” condition at all times. Many men and women leave the military and continue what ends up becoming a life-long dedication to fitness.
One of the most important things military veterans can do to keep their minds sharp once their service ends is to maintain those habits. The science behind the links between exercise and brain health is quite conclusive.
Keeping your mind sharp often goes hand-in-hand with keeping your mind calm. For many veterans who have been in combat, racing, compulsive thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder can consume their thinking. A sharp mind is one that you, to the greatest extent possible, are in control of.
There have been a number of studies done over the last several years on the benefits of meditation for veterans living with PTSD. Meditation can help refocus the mind and put you in greater control of your thoughts, thereby maximizing your cognitive performance.
Read and write
Essayist and poet Joseph Addison once said that “reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.” Reading, especially when combined with writing, is thinking. The more you read, the more you improve your ability to interrogate your thoughts and the thoughts of others, the better you become at engaging with ideas and information.
Military life is highly regimented. Depending on what you did as an enlisted man or woman, there might not have been much time left in the day for reading and writing. Once you return to civilian life, if you are not planning on enrolling in education, you will have to make the effort to read and write on your own time but it will be well worth the effort.
For most veterans, the time they spent serving their country was one of if not the most rewarding experience of their lives. The military is full of interesting jobs and cognitively and physically demanding work. Once back in civilian life, you are on your own when it comes to mental stimulation and exercising your mind. But if you incorporate the above practices into your daily routine, you will keep your body and mind in fighting condition long after your military career has ended.