Main­tain good cog­ni­tive health

We should use our minds fully as men­tal in­ac­tiv­ity can hin­der our devel­op­ment men­tally, emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally and so­cially.

The Star Malaysia - - Views - By KHAIRUL AZHAR IDRIS Khairul Azhar Idris is a Fel­low with Ikim’s Cen­tre for Eco­nom­ics and So­cial Sci­ence. The views ex­pressed here are en­tirely the writer’s own.

TAK­ING good care of cog­ni­tive health is some­thing un­think­able for many. The ma­jor­ity of us would find it strange with what cog­ni­tive health is, and some would even be won­der­ing what cog­ni­tion has to do with health and well-be­ing.

What is cog­ni­tion, why is it nec­es­sary to take good care of one’s cog­ni­tion or cog­ni­tive sta­tus, and what are the steps to main­tain good cog­ni­tive health?

Cog­ni­tion is a hy­po­thet­i­cal con­struct, ac­cepted as one of the most fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments of hu­man be­ings, be­sides emo­tional and phys­i­cal com­po­nents. Gen­er­ally, cog­ni­tion is un­der­stood as a plat­form where all men­tal pro­cesses take place.

The plat­form re­sides within the most del­i­cate and sen­si­tive hu­man or­gan, i.e., the brain. Upon cog­ni­tion rest men­tal pro­cesses such as at­ten­tion and con­cen­tra­tion, per­cep­tion, re­mem­ber­ing, think­ing and rea­son­ing, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing, plan­ning, and so on.

They are also un­der­stood as higher-order cog­ni­tive pro­cesses, be­cause they help hu­mans to func­tion as they are sup­posed to, they help de­fine what hu­mans are and thus, dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween hu­mans and non-hu­man en­ti­ties.

The men­tal pro­cesses are highly

im­por­tant to en­sure the sur­vival of hu­mans in this life. There­fore, for the cog­ni­tive pro­cesses to be func­tion­ing ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently, they have to be well man­aged, and their health sta­tus al­ways in check.

This is sim­i­lar to phys­i­cal health and emo­tional well-be­ing that are re­quired so that hu­mans can func­tion as well as they pos­si­bly can. For this rea­son, ev­ery­one should bear in mind that cog­ni­tive health is de­fined as the abil­ity of the brain to func­tion and per­form all men­tal pro­cesses re­quired with full ca­pac­ity, healthily, and ef­fi­ciently.

Cog­ni­tive health is not men­tal health or men­tal ill­ness, but it de­ter­mines the health of ev­ery­one’s men­tal, emo­tional and phys­i­cal health. One’s phys­i­cal and emo­tional states af­fect cog­ni­tion and vice-versa.

Sim­i­larly, when cog­ni­tion is not healthy or is dys­func­tional, one can­not func­tion as one used to, be­cause one’s mind has lost its abil­ity to guide one to be­have as a hu­man.

Even so-called nor­mal hu­man be­ings may have their cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties dys­func­tional, which af­fects their life for the worse. In ad­di­tion, weak cog­ni­tive func­tions and abil­i­ties may af­fect the pat­tern of hu­man re­la­tions and in­ter­ac­tion neg­a­tively.

Why does hu­man cog­ni­tion be­come dys­func­tional? There are many rea­sons that are re­spon­si­ble

for the dys­func­tion­ing of hu­man cog­ni­tion and men­tal ca­pac­i­ties that later af­fect gen­eral hu­man health and well-be­ing.

One of them is cog­ni­tive in­ac­tiv­ity. This refers to the in­abil­ity of a per­son to fully utilise his men­tal ca­pac­ity in order to pro­mote productivity and bring or cre­ate an en­er­getic en­vi­ron­ment for his life.

Men­tal in­ac­tiv­ity oc­curs when some­one does not stim­u­late his men­tal abil­ity as re­quired and that will re­sult in men­tal lethargy and later on hin­der the full func­tion­ing of a per­son men­tally, emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally, as well as so­cially. Even the mil­lisec­onds of men­tal in­ac­tiv­ity may lead to some dam­age to the per­son and his en­vi­ron­ment.

For ex­am­ple, while driv­ing in a car on a mas­sively con­gested road, when some­one is not fully at­tend­ing to his en­vi­ron­ment or be­ing dis­tracted, it may lead to an ac­ci­dent. In fact, long pe­ri­ods of men­tal in­ac­tiv­ity are proven to dam­age brain plas­tic­ity and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of brain func­tions.

Fur­ther­more, a sit­u­a­tion when a per­son is, to a cer­tain ex­tent, per­plexed with per­sonal or so­cial is­sues that limit their men­tal ca­pac­ity from func­tion­ing fully is dan­ger­ous since it may lead to sad con­se­quences and even fa­tal­is­tic phe­nom­ena.

An ex­am­ple of such a sit­u­a­tion in­cludes per­sonal emo­tional dis­tress, or when one is be­ing in­flicted with emo­tional and men­tal health is­sues. Among them are de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety at­tacks.

In fact, out­bursts and im­pul­sive and un­con­trol­lable anger also in­cur bad con­se­quences for hu­mans due to the lim­ited men­tal ca­pac­ity they bring on. One with de­pres­sion runs out of one’s pro­duc­tive time by think­ing a lot on the dark side of his ex­pe­ri­ences and throw­ing away the bright side of his life.

As Mus­lims, we have been taught to fully utilise our minds and fac­ul­ties of rea­son­ing as signs of obe­di­ence and wor­ship that will fi­nally de­velop into right­eous­ness and kind­ness. In­deed, for this rea­son, as hu­mans we should be able to stim­u­late our men­tal abil­i­ties in order to main­tain healthy cog­ni­tive func­tions all the time and by us­ing this abil­ity as en­dowed by God, we will be en­riched and re­warded.

For Al­lah has said in the Qu­ran, in Chap­ter 8 (Al-An­fal), verse 22, that “Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not rea­son”.

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