This article was last updated on December 5, 2014
If you’re like most people, you probably slack off on your physical exercise during the winter season. There’s no reason, however, that you can’t continue with your mental exercise. Keeping your brain in shape is one of the best ways to ensure that your brain function is not only stable throughout your life, but actually increases.
If you want to exercise your brain but don’t know where to start, here are 10 ways to help you do just that.
Whether you fancy Sudoku, word searches or even crossword puzzles, attempting one each day will give your brain some much-needed exercise. By doing puzzles you engage your brain to work logically, a skill that is often underused. Doing puzzles like this can also help to up your concentration, as short mental-intensive exercises like this involve a lot of concentration and thought to achieve success.
Write More Often
It’s true that we live in a world where keyboards and touch screens dominate, and paper is a thing of the past. However, just because typing and texting have grown in popularity, you shouldn’t ditch writing with a pen and paper.
Believe it or not, physically taking notes and writing down thoughts increases focus, memory and brain function.
Then, Write With Your Opposite Hand
While taking notes or writing letters with your opposite hand is likely a bad idea, doodling, drawing or just writing a few sentences with your non-dominant hand can actually work wonders for your brain.
When you use your non-dominant hand to write, draw, cut or even brush your teeth you strengthen the neural network in your brain, and can even form new neuron connections. This can help to unleash untapped creativity and potential, as using your non-dominant hand helps to activate the non-dominant part of your brain, resulting in different and more innovative thinking.
Learn a New Word Each Day
A great way to improve both your memory and vocabulary is to learn a new word each day. By learning and memorizing new words and using them, both sides of your brain begin to work in conjunction, helping to increase brain lateralization.
Better yet, there’s no greater mental workout than learning an entirely new language. Study on your own or with an informal group, take a class, or practice your foreign language while traveling.
Keeping your brain engaged and focused plays a huge role in keeping it sharp and healthy. A great way to do this is to incorporate reading into your daily routine, and to mix up your content, as different types of reading material work different parts of your brain.
Reading a novel can help to increase creativity and can also improve the brain’s functionality, while reading a news or scientific article can improve critical thinking and help you to increase your knowledge.
Socialize More Often
If your day is largely spent in front of a screen with little verbal communication, it’s time to up your social activity. Believe it or not, having candid face-to-face conversations helps your brain to quicken its reflexes, while also aiding in improving focus and attention.
Try a New Recipe
If your routine involves cooking the same meals over and over again, it’s time to switch it up, not only for your palate but also for your brain. Learning to cook a new recipe can help to break your brain out of thoughtless routines and help to re-introduce problem solving and critical thinking back into your daily routine.
Do More of the Things You Enjoy
Doing something mentally engaging that you actually enjoy can be the perfect exercise for your brain. If you already have a hobby that you love, whether it’s knitting, playing a sport, speaking a second language or playing an instrument, spend time doing it every day.
Honing your skills will help you to think critically and problem solve, forming new neuron connections and keeping your brain sharp. Picking up a new hobby can also have the same brain-engaging effects too.
Re-Think Your Routines
While daily habits and routines help all of us to get from point A to point B and accomplish everything on our to-do lists with success, they put our brains on autopilot. This lack of thinking can cause our brains to become less stimulated and engaged, leading to lower levels of brain function.
To increase brain activity throughout the day, break away from your routines and try something new.
Be More Mindful
We do a lot of things throughout the day without thinking about them. This includes everything from brushing our teeth to making breakfast, taking a shower and even relaxing in front of the TV. However, while it may be time-effective or relaxing to do things without thinking, we actually end up wasting precious time that we could use to boost cognitive function. Instead of simply going through the motions, live mindfully by actually being conscious of what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
Featured image credits: Allan Ajifo via flickr