Millions of us live and work in big cities. We are exposed to thousands of faces, sounds and smells, on a daily basis. One thing I love about London is the “thought of the day” written on large notice boards at busy train stations. By simply switching our attention to the small but numerous positives around us, we can make some stressful situations, such as rush hour, happier. City life might not be for everyone, however, it’s essential for some of our careers so, here are a few tips to keep your brain sane amongst the city chaos.
1. Avoid brain isolation
Do you walk around with headphones? Music is sometimes a nice compliment but it’s not beneficial to routinely ignore the world outside of your headphones. Try leaving them at home for a change and see what you learn. The cognitive benefits of absorbing the surrounding city stimulus are plenty. Mentally you connect to the rhythm of the city. You become more energized by taking in the traffic, the people and the conversation. Physically you are actually helping your hearing, as continually exposing your eardrums to loud music is not beneficial long term. Who knows, you might see something that ignites an idea or urges you to start a new conversation. Instead of relying on music to pass your travel time, rely on the stimulus around you and let your mind wander. By simply opening yourself up to the city surroundings, you open up your world of possibilities.
2.Be aware of what you see
So many of us have a habit of staring at the ground as we walk. Did you know that it actually stimulates part of our brain when we look at different faces? We activate the “facial recognition” region of the brain known as the “fusiform gyrus.” So just by simply looking up rather than looking down, you can give your brain a bit more of an exercise when walking through the big city. Further, big cities are cultural melting pots. Everywhere you walk you can find a little quirk to brighten up your day. Whether it’s street art, a witty quote on a pub chalkboard or a beautiful building, these little positive stimuli are waiting for you, around every corner, you just have to be aware of what you see.
One of the best and least stressful ways to get around big cities is by walking. Exercise in all forms stimulates blood flow, strengthens your cardiovascular health and helps to focus your mind. Walking requires coordination, even though we don’t feel it our brains need to make a series of neural connections each time we walk. So, whenever you can, try to walk more, maybe get off a stop earlier, or don’t order the Uber. By choosing to increase your walking time your body and mind will thank you.