11 Brain Exercises To Improve Your Performance And Keep Your Mind Sharp

As we get older, we not only lose muscle but our brains can atrophy as well. In specific, your brain's cognitive ability to endure neurological damage due to aging and other factors weakens through the years.

This consequently can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks and maintain a sharp mind.

Brain or cognitive exercises can aid in preserving your mental health and fitness in a similar way as your body benefits from physical exercise.

As performing a variety of physical exercises can deliver more benefits than doing just one, so it is with performing different types of brain exercises too.

Brain Benefits You Can Gain From Performing Cognitive Exercises

Performing cognitive exercises for your brain can help protect it against future memory loss and cognitive decline (R).

In essence, cognitive exercises can improve brain function by employing all five senses in new and original ways.

Putting it in technical terms, doing the right type of mental exercises can grow new connections between dendrites which are the branches on nerve cells.

While most brain exercises mainly depend on sight, the key to enhancing brain performance is to involve all senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – in novel ways.

Even though you may not see all the following benefits from one mental enhancing activity, brain exercise has been shown to aid in all these areas (RR):

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve memory
  • Improve mood levels
  • Boost focus and concentration
  • Increase motivation and productivity levels
  • Enhance fluid intelligence, creativity, and mental flexibility
  • Think and react faster
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Sharpen visual and auditory senses

Let’s see a few activities that have been shown to support and improve cognitive and mental health:

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11 Novel Brain Exercises to Boost Brain Function and Mental Health

1. Switch Hands

If you are right-handed, try using your left hand when performing small activities like brushing your teeth and eating.

Using your non-dominant hand can lead to increased brain activity. This may seem quite hard at first try but it will give your brain a good workout.

2. Do Chores with Your Eyes Closed

When doing chores at home, like taking a shower, or sorting laundry, try doing it with your eyes closed.

This will in essence push your brain to employ new neural pathways. You may want to keep your brain sharp but please do not hurt yourself or anyone else while doing these kind of activities.

3. Try Taking New Routes

Taking the same route to work or gym everyday makes your brain follow the road automatically, getting very little stimulation.

However, taking a new route can activate the cortex and hippocampus part of the brain. Of course, this does not only apply to driving; try doing the same when walking, biking, or riding public transportation (R).

New Routes for the Brain

4. Do Things Upside Down or Backwards

You can stimulate your brain’s abilities by looking at certain things upside down. That for example could be wearing your watch upside down. This will force your brain to think every time you look at the time.

You can even take this a step further by hanging clocks or calendars upside down. Once having become accustomed to that, you can turn your phone, or anything else you can image upside down.

5. Read Books (or Newspapers) Aloud

Try reading your favourite books aloud; even try doing that for your kids or partner. An alternative to this one is listening to audiobooks. This will spark your imagination in a different way.

It has been shown that that same three distinct brain regions function when the same word is read, spoken, or heard.

Book Brain Exercises

6. Use All Your Senses at the Same Time

Perform activities that can simultaneously engage all your senses. Examples include travel, camping, and even gardening which can use all your senses in new ways.

7. Be Social and Connect with New People

Every time you meet a new person you have the opportunity to listen to new opinions or a new way of thinking on a specific subject.

Focus on meeting new people that have interests, careers or cultural background different to yours; this will introduce to new perspectives and ideas which will also drive more brain benefits.

Be Social for your Brain

8. Try New Things - Always

Always focus on doing things you’ve never done before. Travel somewhere you’ve never been before, even if it’s mainland. Check out a new ethnic cuisine. Try out a new hobby.

Unique experiences have the ability to trigger the release of dopamine, the motivation or mood neurotransmitter, which also stimulates the creation of new neurons.

9. Get Physical Exercise Regularly

Physical exercise might be one of the most important things you can do to keep your brain sharp and improve brain performance. In essence, you exercise your body for your brain.

Exercise has been shown to reduce stress by increasing the production of the “happy” brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (R).

It has the ability to increase the levels of these brain chemicals that promote new brain cell formation and new neural connections (R). Physical exercise also improves blood circulation and send more oxygen to your brain.

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10. Add Meditation to Your Daily Routine

Meditation could be considered as one of our top brain exercises. Even though meditation may seem simple, it may be the most challenging. Our brains are used to think non-stop while 95% of our everyday thoughts are the same thoughts (R).

Meditation being “difficult” is due to the fact that making our mind quiet is a difficult thing to do. The brain benefits of meditation involve reduction of stress levels, improved memory, learning ability and mood and increased focus and concentration (R).

Meditation for Brain Performance

11. Choose the Hard Way

When saying to do things the hard way, we mean to try and avoid using technology for basic mental functions like spelling and math.

If you want to take this even further try memorising your family and friends’ phone numbers or even getting to know multiple routes by heart.

Takeaway Message

A sharp brain is something we all strive for when at work, studying or even enjoying our free time. It helps us show our best self and bring out our top qualities both as a person and professional.

Try these brain exercises a few times and you will soon experience a boost in mental clarity, performance and output.

To recap, these are the 11 easy ways to improve your brain performance and boost your mental output in whatever you do:

  1. Switch hands
  2. Do chores with the eyes closed
  3. Take new routes
  4. Do things upside down or backwards
  5. Read aloud
  6. Use all your senses simultaneously 
  7. Be social and connect with people
  8. Experience new things
  9. Get physical exercise regularly
  10. Add meditation to your daily routine
  11. Choose the hard way

What did you think of the above exercises? Let us know which you like the most by commenting below.

About the Author

Marios Kokolakis Profile PhotoMarios Kokolakis is the Content Manager at BrainSharp. His goal? To motivate and help people live a healthier and happier life by sharing his passion for fitness and nutrition, and igniting the inner spark to achieving life goals.

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