As organic beings, the most important thing we can do is experience and learn from the environment we inhabit. When we stop learning and absorbing information, our minds begin to lose functionality and even deteriorate. But, if we put effort into exercising our minds, the same way we would exercise our bodies, they will continue to grow stronger.
As vocal performers, we do various jobs that make it essential for us to adapt, learn or develop acumens to fulfill roles. So, for us, it’s necessary to exercise creativity in finding different means of expression. As performers and people, mental strength, clarity, and balance are vital in maintaining our health and allowing us to be the best version of ourselves.
When we expose ourselves to new ideas and challenge our perceptions of reality and others, then we become significantly more aware of our impact. This awareness allows us to grow and nurture ourselves and the environments we inhabit.
It might sound like a lot of work, but actually, we are all capable of doing it. Our cognitive self is constantly absorbing information and comprehending it by using our senses and perception. Taking in the information around us is one of our natural cognitive functions— it happens without us thinking about it, and even when we’re sleeping. The reality is: we are always exercising our minds.
There are many things we can do to help support our highly-functioning minds. Sleep hygiene is paramount, including regular and steady sleep schedules— consistency is the key to being well-rested. During REM sleep, the deepest part of sleep, we can process what we have experienced in daily life. This information allows us to process emotions, keep memories, and so much more.
Sleep also affects our speech. Good sleep patterns help prevent stuttering, allow for quick response, help with the recollection of information, and convey ideas. On the other hand, sleep-deprived brains are slower, with worse memory retrieval skills.
As voice actors who rely on the clarity and confidence of our speech, good sleep is non-negotiable. To get better rest, sleep hygiene therapists often recommend keeping electronics out of the bedroom. When we reduce our exposure to electronics in the hours leading up to our bedtime, we allow the body to wind down from the exposure to mass information and technology. Outside distractions should be outside of the bedroom, and the room itself should be as dark as possible to support sleep and create a designated peace and tranquility space. Bathing before bed is another great recommendation because it can help calm the body before rest.
Many people who have trouble sleeping feel they can’t get their brains to calm down and stop thinking. While there are many remedies to this, I prefer prayer, meditation, inspirational messages, sleep apps, and instrumental music to allow my mind to relax and switch cognitive functioning. When thoughts race through my head and I cannot let them go, I accept them and then make time to journal about that thought until I am ready to let it go.
Sometimes, a repeating thought can be just that. If it’s worth focusing on, repeat one sentence of the idea out-loud or in your head as you try to fall asleep. The habit is similar to counting sheep; that one sentence may carry you into REM sleep, which will help you process the idea unconsciously.
While our brains are constantly taking in information, it is important to exercise them intentionally. While we learn a great deal from high-energy situations, we also learn a lot in moments of quiet and states of peaceful pause. Meditation can last seconds, minutes, or even hours, and it can look like a pose, form of rest, sleep, mantra, or however you want it to look. It’s a catch-all term to describe moments where we create a shift in energy that exercises the mind and finds balance. Meditation can be done anywhere at any time, so long as the meditator intends to meditate. For instance, prayer can be a moment of meditation or humming a vowel as long as you can carry it.
Luckily, there are plenty of guided meditations on various Apps, on YouTube, on Podcasts, or through Transcendental Meditation, so you can be guided through meditation at any level. It’s never too late to start consciously exercising your mind, to grow and improve as humans and professionals, who nurture and utilize their minds to their full potential.