Just as you exercise your body to keep it in prime condition, your brain needs a good workout to stay agile and vibrant. It's time to toss out the old notion that the brain is static and unchanging. The truth is, scientific research has shown that the brain remarkably adaptable, and we can train it to stay sharp.
Wondering how? Don't worry! We've compiled a list of seven brain exercises that can help keep your cognitive abilities on their toes. From puzzles to meditation, there's something for everyone in this brain-boosting workout plan. Ready to flex those brain muscles? Let's dive in!
Table of contents
Engage in constant learning
Perhaps the most important thing isn't something you do but rather an approach you have to life. There's an entire universe of knowledge out there waiting for you. If you pay attention and try to soak up the information around you, it's like constantly exercising your brain.
There's no shortage in terms of what you can focus on. In the grand scheme of things, we're all just kindergartners in the universe’s grand classroom. Unleash your inner curiosity and make learning a lifelong journey. The brain loves to be fed new information, and there's no end to the buffet of knowledge out there.
Online courses, documentaries, podcasts, and books—there are countless ways to learn new things. Learning new concepts triggers neural pathways in your brain, strengthens your cognitive abilities, and keeps mental decline at bay. Plus, it equips you with new skills and fascinating trivia to impress your friends.
Being present in the moment isn't as easy as it sounds. Our minds tend to wander, especially in today's fast-paced, multitasking world. That's where mindfulness comes in. It's a simple practice that involves paying full attention to what you're doing, what's happening around you, and how you're feeling.
Practicing mindfulness can help improve your focus, reduce stress, and lead to better mental well-being. It can be as simple as mindfully eating your breakfast, taking a mindful walk, or even doing a bit of mindful cleaning. Things like yoga and meditation can also help, but you don't need them -- you can be mindful in your day-to-day life.
Write it down
Writing isn’t just for authors. It’s for everyone. Journaling, writing letters, or even composing short stories can boost your brain power. Writing helps to clarify your thoughts, improves memory and recall, and enhances creativity. Plus, it’s a great outlet for self-expression.
Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Just write what comes to mind. It's about the process, not the product.
Challenge Yourself: Continual Testing and Improvement
Here's an open secret: progress is usually born out of challenge. That's as true for your body as it is for your brain. So self-testing can be a key to keeping your brain active and towards continual improvement. Whether it's an IQ test, puzzles, chess problems, or anything else, quizzing yourself regularly is a fantastic way to keep your brain cells firing.
It's not just about testing your memory or knowledge on various topics. It's also about how you deal with challenges, how you learn from your mistakes, and how you strive to improve. You can start by making self-quizzing a regular part of your routine. You can create flashcards on topics you're learning about, or use one of the many online quiz platforms. Don’t stress about getting everything right. The goal is not perfection, but progress.
Next, find a way to track your progress. This could be as simple as a journal where you jot down your daily or weekly progress, or a spreadsheet where you record your quiz scores. Seeing your improvement over time can be a great motivator. But here's the real kicker: Don't just test what you know. Test your skills and abilities too. If you're learning a new language, try speaking with native speakers. If you're learning to play an instrument, record yourself playing a piece and listen back.
Try a cooking challenge
Cooking is a surprisingly good brain exercise. It requires planning, following instructions, multitasking, and problem-solving. Try a new recipe or challenge yourself to make a meal with what you have in your pantry.
Plus, you get a tasty treat at the end of your efforts. It's a win-win!
Dabble in photography
Photography is not only an art form, it's a brain exercise in disguise. When you're framing a shot, you're making decisions about composition, lighting, and depth of field. Plus, you're training your eye to see the world in different ways. You don't need a fancy camera for this—a smartphone will do. The goal isn't to take professional-quality photos, but to engage your mind in a new and interesting way. Of course, if you want to get into the camera game, that's also interesting -- but it does cost.
The draw of photography is finding your style and interest. Look at things in new ways, discover new things. Is it nature photography that draws you? Cool, you'll get to see a lot of cool places! Is it portraits? That's bound to get you into some social situations. Is it simple street photography or something else entirely? The world is your oyster.
Try out different puzzles
Puzzles are a great way to keep your mind sharp and entertained. Whether you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day or just want to challenge yourself, puzzles can be the perfect activity. There are so many different types of puzzles out there, from jigsaw puzzles to crosswords and many others, there's no shortage of things to try out. Find what stirs your interest. Is it online puzzles? Real puzzles? Things to do with words, numbers, geometry, or something else entirely? Explore and see what you like.
You can even find 3D puzzles that require you to assemble pieces into a model or sculpture, as well as find the best way to do it seamlessly. No matter what type of puzzle you choose, it’s sure to provide hours of fun and entertainment, alongside a way to keep your mind active and sharp.
Consider learning to play an instrument
Learning to play an instrument is one of the best ways to exercise your mind as this requires discipline, focus, and patience. Learning to play any instrument is not easy but that's kind of the whole point. If you want to exercise your mind, whatever you're doing isn't supposed to be easy. That said, it's not supposed to be frustrating either or the whole thing will backfire.
That's why learning to play an instrument is an ideal mental exercise. The main reason is that you can set your own pace and develop your abilities one step at a time. Not only does learning to play an instrument activate almost every part of your brain but the music you play stimulates your mind and keeps it sharp.
Exercise your body
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps to strengthen your muscles, improve your cardiovascular health and reduce stress. But that's not all. In fact, by exercising your body, you're also exercising your mind. Mind and body need to be in sync; if one is not as healthy as it should be, the other one won't be either. That said, you can try different types of exercises such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, or strength training.
Yet again, the key is to figure out what you like. If you enjoy it, you're far more likely to continue to do it in the long run. So instead of doing the best exercise that you don't enjoy, try doing a good exercise that makes you feel good as well.
It's easy to ignore your brain's fitness and focus on other things, but constantly working on your mental ability is one of the most important things you can do in life.
By consistently testing yourself and striving for improvement, you'll not only be keeping your brain sharp, but also fostering a growth mindset. It's a journey of self-discovery and improvement, and your brain will thank you for it. There's no shortage of things to choose from. The important part is to figure out what clicks for you and integrate it into your day-to-day life as a pleasurable and useful activity.