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.
- 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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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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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).
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.