Top 10 Brain Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp
Just like you need to work your muscles to stay in shape, so too do you need to work your brain to stay sharp. Read on to learn about the top brain exercises.
Good news. Dementia rates have fallen in the age range of 65 and older by 24% over 12 years. One theory about why there has been a decline is to do with education.
Americans, at the end of the study period, had on average, one more year of education than those at the beginning. Perhaps the brain responds positively to cognitive activity.
Alternatively, it may be more to do with what people learn. Educational attainment is associated with better employment, income, diet and lifestyle choices.
Is staving off dementia and keeping your brain in shape important to you? Just like you need to work your muscles to stay in shape, so too do you need to work your brain to stay sharp.
Read on to learn 10 brain exercises to keep your mind sharp.
What Are Brain Exercises?
If you want to maintain, or even improve, your brain health and fitness you need to use it. Just like a muscle responds to exercise, your brain responds to use.
If you repeat the same physical movement every day you may end up having problems such as repetitive strain injuries. The best way to exercise, then, is to vary the activities done, such as alternating between weight training, running and playing sports.
The same philosophy holds for your brain.
Our lifestyles often lead us to developing habits. These habits are the brain version of repeatedly doing the same physical exercise over and over.
Routines are helpful in making life simpler but they can also lead to a lack of brain stimulation. [quote]
For brain activity to improve mental health, it has to break routines and daily habits. It must be fresh and unusual. A break from the norm.
Brain activity should also be challenging and stretch our limits. This can be achieved by making the brain exercises more complicated, multifaceted, or complex. They can also be challenging if they make us review or reflect on our beliefs or prejudices.
How Do Brain Exercises Help?
A neurobiology professor, Dr. Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin coined the phrase "neurobics". They argue that mental exercises grow the dendritic connections that we need for brain health. Exercises that use all the senses are particularly good at doing this.
The dendrites are the branches on the nerve cells that are used for communication between cells. Losing communication between brain cells leads to a decline in brain fitness.
Read on for some suggestions to build into your mental workout.
1. Read Aloud
When reading to yourself you use very few senses. The skills you use are ones that you have probably used many times before. To promote brain health and fitness you need to engage some additional senses and have more of a challenge.
Reading aloud to a child or partner can provide this stimulation. Perhaps you can rotate the reading role for extra variety and mutual benefit. Put expression into your voice and play act characters for added complexity.
2. Engage Your Senses
Any activity that engages all your senses is helpful according to neurobics principles. Take gardening as an example. It involves physical activity using both strength and gentle touch. The vision and sense of smell are also engaged.
If you are growing plants for food, taste the fruit, herbs and even try edible flowers such as chamomile and nasturtiums. A trip to the farmers market can achieve much the same effect. Don't forget to smell the herbs and ask for a taste before buying.
3. Learn New Things
Doing anything new involves establishing new neural networks. Taking up golf or learning a language are examples of new things you can do. Try a new hobby or cook an unfamiliar dish to introduce unfamiliar activities into your life.
If you are interested in crafts don't just add knitting to your needlework skills, as they are quite similar. Take up basketball or help out at a charity instead. Stretch your comfort zone and expand your network.
4. Raise the Bar
Once you have learned something new it ceases to be helpful for improving your brain fitness. You have to keep introducing variety and new stretches. Set new goals and add complexity.
If you learned golf as a way of improving your mental fitness, set yourself goals for improving your handicap. Take a few lessons from a golf professional to challenge your bad golfing habits and stimulate new learning. Get involved in club activities such as coaching young players or organizing events.
5. Grow Your Network
As we get older it's easy to settle for the circle of friends and family we have. This tends to confirm the safe and familiar ways of working, living and thinking we have settled in to. Though there’s nothing wrong with familiarity, expanding your network introduces the stimulation of new and different ideas.
Working with young people, helping less privileged people or engaging in business networking can bring you into contact with fresh experiences and thinking. This stimulation can challenge your thinking habits. You might just enjoy the experience, too.
Meditation is recommended as part of a good mindfulness practice. With 18 million Americans engaged in meditation, you may very well be one of them already. If not, consider it for your own wellbeing plan.
Meditation is not just relaxation. It involves the mental challenge of staying focused. Take some lessons and introduce it into your daily routine for maximum benefit.
7. Express Yourself
We are all creative in our own way. Over the course of your life, you may have stifled your creativity or reduced opportunities for artistic expression. If so, there’s no better time than today to start expressing yourself.
Doodle, write some poetry, sing, dance, or pick up a craft you have always been interested in. And don’t be concerned about what others may think - be creative for you.
8. Go for a Walk
Participating in any physical exercise is good for your brain. Improved physical fitness benefits brain health because it means you have good circulation providing the brain with oxygen. A fit body is also effective at removing waste materials from tissues throughout the body, including the brain.
Walking can be especially good for you because of the other things you do while walking. Taking in your surroundings means your senses are being stimulated. The sights, sounds, and smells you experience during a walk, fire off brain activity that helps keep your brain active and stimulated.
9. Crosswords and More
The mental challenge of solving problems helps brain health. Crosswords, word games, and number puzzles are all useful. Try changing the game or the crossword provider for more of a challenge. And if you need an even greater workout, try setting some time challenges for yourself.
10. Change Your Routine
A simple change of routine may be enough to establish a new neural network and healthier brain activity. Take a break from your usual morning coffee and go for a walk first instead. Try a new route to work or the grocery store. Venture out to try a different coffee shop or restaurant. Breaking from your daily routines, even if slightly, can help stimulate your brain.
Change Your Mind
Making a change in your life can be difficult. Breaking habits and introducing good practices isn't always easy. Starting to do brain exercises might be the best change you ever make. Your brain will thank you for it.
To learn more about brain health and neuronutrition, be sure to visit HappiHuman.com. While there, browse the archives and sign up to receive weekly inspiration.
And as always, I welcome your feedback. Comment below with your favourite way to exercise your brain. I’d love to hear from you!