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More and more, people are recognizing that our brains need to be taken care of and exercised just like any other part of our bodies, but then the question is—how??
Our minds are built to be lazy. They build routines wherever they can to help simplify life, conserve energy, perform complex tasks easily. But the problem is that doing this also provides our brain with very little stimulation. That’s why many of the best brain exercises, or “neurobics”, are based on forcing your brain to break from its routines. Additionally, doing things like giving your brain new experiences that combine your physical senses—vision, smell, touch, taste, and hearing—with emotional “sense” may help stimulate more connections between different brain areas, making surrounding cells stronger and more resistant to the effects of aging.
There are even games now that exercise your brain so you can trick it by having fun while also keeping yourself mentally fit.
New tricks and strategies to keep your brain young are being developed everyday, but for now, here is a list of some of our favorite methods you can start making a part of your mental fitness routine today! Just make sure not to get too good at any of these little tricks. Once they become routine, they’re no longer challenging your brain.
A classic brain teaser. It’s challenging and addictive and forces you to think in ways you normally don’t have to which is great for brain training.
2. Upside Down Watch:
This forces your brain to really think every time you glance at it.
3. Use Chopsticks:
Those of us in the West have to really focus to eat with these things, try having lunch with them every other day to shake things up.
4. Learn a New Sport:
Try taking up an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body such as yoga, golf, or tennis.
It may seem childish, but any regular activity that involves fine-motor skills is great for getting your brain to work harder.
6. Shopping Games:
Try memorizing small shopping lists when you go to the store, this can introduce you to different memory techniques like mind palaces or peg words.
There are lots of great sites for brain training, but Braingle claims to have the largest collection of puzzles, games, and brain teasers. You can try a new one every day.
8. Switch Hands:
Try using your non-dominant hand to do things like brushing your teeth or eating, it will be hard at first but greatly increases activity in your brain making it a great workout.
Another classic brain trainer. You can find endless ones online but be aware, the effectiveness goes down if you do it every single day, so vary up your routine.
10. Work Blind:
Try doing mindless chores like showering or folding laundry with your eyes closed, it will force your brain to use new neural pathways.
11. Learn a Language:
It sounds like hard work but involved listening stimulates wide swathes of the brain, plus a bigger lexicon is linked to reduced long-term cognitive decline.
12. Draw Maps:
Our brains are hardwired for mapping things. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
13. Read Aloud:
Try reading aloud as often as you can. Better yet, alternate between reading and listening to books as often as you can.
14. Switch Up Your Commute:
On a routine commute, your brain is on autopilot and gets very little stimulation. But taking an unfamiliar route activates the cortex and hippocampus. Bill Gates even does this!
15. Find Multi-Sensory Activities:
Things that engage all of your senses at once like camping, gardening, or shopping at a farmer’s market all stimulate your brain in ways that will keep you young and sharp.
16. Memorize Phone Numbers:
It’s easy to be lazy with this now that we have cellphones, but memorizing a few of your most used numbers every month is super good for your brain.
17. Disagree with People:
Don’t stress yourself, but you’ll get huge brain benefits from spending time with people unlike you. Try to expose yourself to new ideas and other ways of thinking.
18. Physical Exercise:
Seems counterintuitive, but no discussion about brain exercise would be complete without emphasizing how important physical exercise is for the brain.
19. No Calculators:
Do the math in your head or even long-hand whenever it comes up in daily life instead of reaching for a calculator. It takes a little longer but is much better for your brain.
The game of smart people the world over. Really any high strategy game is good for your brain, as long as conditions can change in a moment, your brain will get a workout.
21. Try New Things:
Spontaneity and learning go hand in hand. So go travel, try ethnic cuisines, or just pick up a hobby that is totally out of character for you in order to stimulate new neuronal connections.
22. Mirror Writing:
Channel your inner Leonardo da Vinci and try mastering the art of writing backwards, it strains your brain to break down a learned behavior in a new way.
23. Play The “10 Things” Game:
Pick an everyday object and try to come up with 10 different “things” it could be. Forcing your brain to think of alternates to the everyday will help keep it strong.
24. Rebus Puzzles:
These usually consist of letters, numbers, pictures, and symbols that contain clues to the answer. You’ll need some knowledge of clichés and expressions to solve these puzzles, but they’re definitely fun. (BTW, the answer to the one above is, "too funny for words".
You knew it would come to this. Every annoying person you know has told you that meditation is good for your mind and it turns out they were right. The brain benefits include stress reduction, improved memory and mood, increased focus and attention, and even reversal of brain atrophy. Hospitals, major corporations, and even the military are all doing it these days, why aren’t you?