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Last Updated on December 3, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Published on March 18, 2021

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

As important as it is to look after our body, it’s also important for us to be looking after our own mental health. Doing daily exercises, eating plant-based or organic meals, amongst other activities are a good way of promoting our brain health. But for many other people, they feel that they can be getting more out of it.

There is a tonne of top brain supplements available for you to look out for. With plenty of brain supplements available on the market, we wanted to pick out the ideal supplements for you to purchase. As such, the ones we recommend offer the following:

  • Nootropics – Every one of these supplements is a nootropic, meaning that they are drugs that have a track record of improving cognitive function.
  • Science-backed – One of the big problems with brain supplements is that there is no oversight. The best memory supplements, therefore, are the ones that have been researched and have studies to support the use of them.
  • Price vs. Value – All of these nootropics are able to work on various parts of the brain, offering plenty of value at a reasonable price. They’re one of the best memory supplements and can stave off age-related brain problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Below is a list of the best brain supplements to improve your memory, sharpen your focus and grow your brain further.

1. Blended Vitamin & Mineral

When it comes to supplements, it’s hard to find a supplement that offers a blend of vitamins spread over many vitamins. This isn’t the case when you’re purchasing from the Infuel brand. Infuel Focus Boost offers a great blend of vitamins and essential nutrients that can help in whatever you hope to achieve.

The vitamins, which include Vitamin A, B complex, C and D, that Infuel Focus Boost provides will allow you to stay focused and sharp throughout the day. You’ll also find that your energy levels, memory retention and overall clarity will be increased with this brain supplement.

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2. Fish Oil

Another one of the best memory supplements to consider is fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements provide a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

These types of omega-3 fatty acids have been tested thoroughly and have been linked to several types of health benefits. One such improvement is brain health.[1]

Out of the various supplements available, Nature’s Bounty is an ideal pick. They are softgels which means your body will be able to absorb all the nutrients. The company also prioritizes purity so you can expect no filler or unnecessary ingredients in these pills. Paired with the fact they are trusted by wellness experts is enough to say this is a quality brand.

3. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits such as grapes and other berries. You can also find this in red wine, chocolate and peanuts.

Even though you could get resveratrol from those sources, health experts still recommend supplements to ensure you get higher doses of it. Studies show that taking resveratrol is able to prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus,[2] the part that is connected to our memory.

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One brand that caught our attention for providing this supplement is Toniiq. The company takes pride in their 600mg capsules providing the highest quality of resveratrol you can find. Better yet, they are ethically sourced and cultivated using an extraction process that ensures a 98% purity. While it’s not 100%, it’s a big stretch as other brands that produce resveratrol tend to contain 50% or less purity.

4. Phosphatidylserine

Also known as phospholipid, it’s a type of fat that our own brain has right now. That said, because our brain will deteriorate with age, taking supplements of this type can actually help in preserving the health of our brain.[3] By preserving your brain, you’ll be able to keep up with typical brain functions as you would normally.

Out of the various best memory supplements available, Double Wood’s phosphatidylserine was a notable one. It’s made in the USA and tested for purity. It’s non-GMO, soy-based, and the capsule is gelatin.

5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid that our body produces ourselves. But like many supplements on this list, boosting its production with a supplement has proven to be beneficial for us. In this case, this is one of the ideal focus supplements to go for as studies show taking these supplements to boost focus, improve memory and slow down age-related memory loss.[4]

Out of the various top brain supplements available, our pick is the NaturaLife Labs supplements. They are GMO Free, and Vegan friendly. Beyond that, these supplements are highly potent at 1500mg. It’s also made 100% pure acetyl-l-carnitine so you shouldn’t expect fillers or binders when taking them.

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6. Ginkgo Biloba

You probably haven’t heard about Ginkgo Biloba much because it’s actually a herbal supplement that stems from the tree of the same name.

Think of it as a supplement hidden in plain sight as it’s incredibly popular amongst people who look past the unique name and figure out what it does. Research shows, taking these supplements increases blood flow to the brain which in turn improves brain functions of the brain.[5]

Nature’s Bounty offers these top brain supplements too and is a great brand to purchase from. Similar to what’s mentioned above with the previous supplements, these are pure and high-quality supplements.

7. Creatine

Creatine is the last on our list and is something that you might be familiar with. After all, it’s commonly found in protein powders, meats, fish, and eggs too. Creatine is also found in our own bodies and plays an important role in our energy levels and metabolism.

That said, not every person is big on eating those kinds of foods. As such, supplements provide a good way to get the creatine your body needs. Not only does creatine help with energy levels, but also sharpen our brain – namely an improved memory and thinking skills.

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You can look to protein powder for creatine, but you can also consider capsules as well. With capsules, you don’t have to think much about adding liquids. Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine capsules are a notable option as they provide 2.5 grams of pure creatine per serving. They’re also easy to swallow making it an ideal supplement to try out.

Bottom Line

When looking for brain-boosting supplements, you don’t have to look far. Paying attention to your diet can help you out in keeping up your brain functionality.

However, adding one or two of these supplements into your daily supplement routine would help you in boosting your brain functionality, memory, and stave off the various age-related brain problems.

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

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