Today we are bombarded with information from morning till night. There is so much noise from television, social media, radio and even the Internet that we often overlook quieter activities that have a tremendous impact on our mental fitness — our brain.
Fortunately, the human brain is one of the most adaptable and responsive organs in the body. It’ll soak up new challenges like a sponge and continue developing throughout your life. But in order to do that, it needs some special attention.
There are lots of things you can do to keep your brain active – everything from reading books to playing games will work wonders for your memory, problem-solving skills, concentration abilities and much more.
Read on to find out about some different ways you can exercise your brain.
Brain Exercises to Boost Your Mental Fitness
There’re several approaches to brain exercise:
1. Develop a Consistent Daily Routine
If you’re looking for the one thing that will have the biggest impact on your brain health, then it’s routine.
A daily routine of consistent brain activities will benefit you more than anything else. This means having a schedule where you dedicate a specific amount of time to your favourite brain exercises every day. You should start light – even just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Next, make sure you use the time wisely by focusing on exercises that stretch your mind in new ways. For example, reading a novel or listening an audiobook that you usually wouldn’t go for will help improve your vocabulary and understanding of different writing styles.
2. Read Books
You may well have heard this advice a hundred times before but don’t ignore it. Reading is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to exercise your brain. It’s also a proven method to improve your memory, concentration and problem-solving skills.
There are lots of different genres to choose from – so you can stretch your brain in different ways. For example, a novel with lots of descriptive language will help improve your vocabulary while a science fiction or fantasy book will test your understanding of new worlds.
Reading also gives you the chance to learn from some of the world’s greatest minds. You can read the biographies of successful people in any industry or read the works of philosophers, poets and novelists – it’s up to you!
Personally, I prefer audiobooks and typically increase their speed to 1.5x in order to consume the content quicker and inevitably consume more books overall. I didn’t start with 1.5x speed, but rather began with 1.25x and worked my way all the way up to 1.75x speed for certain books and narrations.
If there’s one lifehack I can suggest for book and audiobook lovers, that is to learn to increase the speed at which you consume information. There is a multitude of information out there ready to be consumed, yet it’s severely limited by one’s time.
3. Learn a New Language
Learning a new language can have enormous benefits for your brain. It’ll stretch your mind in new ways as you try to grasp the various rules and patterns of the language. It’ll also challenge you to expand your vocabulary and improve your memory.
If you want to get the most out of learning a new language, try to do it with a friend. Working with a partner will help you stay motivated and push you further. It’s also a great way to build new friendships and share ideas and advice with others who are learning too.
You may not be able to speak the language fluently right away, but don’t let that deter you. Consistency is key and working towards a goal is a great way to keep your brain active and engaged. And once you’ve learned the basics, you can always keep going and improve your skills even further.
Many years ago, I travelled to Spanish speaking countries Cuba, and Mexico a couple times. I was also dating a latin woman and had taken a great interest in learning Spanish. Aside from picking up a few words here or there I took it upon myself to go to Spanish classes, and listened to translation audiobooks while I slept.
Another lifehack I suggest is try listening to audiobooks or reading right before bed, and you can certainly listen to audiobooks during the initial stages of your sleep cycle. Many audiobook apps will allow you to set a timer, or you can set one with your phone itself, which will stop playing the book after a certain amount of time.
When you sleep, your brain goes through the process called ‘consolidation’ where it transfers information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Studies have proven that language learners who were listening to language tapes during sleep were able to recall the newly learned words better than those who didn’t. This was actually the case for me, and I would awake the next day understanding just a bit more Spanish than the night before.
Full disclosure, I haven’t travelled to Latin countries in many years, am no longer with the Latin spouse, and thus gradually stopped practising Spanish.
4. Play Games
You probably associate games with childhood, but games are great for your brain. They’re a fun and interactive way to exercise your brain and can improve your memory, problem-solving skills and attention span. You can even play games designed specifically to improve your mental health.
There are lots of different games that will benefit your brain – both traditional board games and modern video games. You could also challenge yourself to learn a new skill-based game like chess or go that has a reputation for improving problem-solving skills.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to exercise your brain, games are a great choice. They’re accessible, cheap and can be played almost anywhere – from on the bus on the way to work to on your phone during a quick break.
Certain video games can also help with the brains development. Personally, I prefer real-time strategy (RTS) games, which is a sub-genre of strategy video games that do not progress incrementally in turns, but allow all players to play simultaneously. Examples of this include Defense of the Ancients (DoTA) and League of Legends (LoL) – which are two of the most popular games in the world today, and have been for a decade. They require quick decision making and a multitude of actions in a short time-frame.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for a player to have over 1,000 actions (clicks or keyboard strokes) within the span of an hour being in a typical DoTA or LoL game. APM is an acronym for actions per minute. It mainly refers to the number of your clicks and keyboard strokes per minute. Many professional gamers consider these types of insights when examining their gaming abilities.
5. Exercise Your Mind with Puzzles and Quizzes
Puzzles and quizzes are great ways to exercise your brain and test your knowledge at the same time. You can try out different puzzle types such as crosswords, Sudoku, word searches and number puzzles. These are great for improving your attention span and problem-solving skills.
There are also lots of puzzle and quiz books out there that can test your knowledge of different subjects. You might want to try out a book of general knowledge to improve your general knowledge, or a book of general science facts to improve your scientific knowledge.
Quizzes are also a great way to test your knowledge. You can challenge yourself with general knowledge quizzes or find quizzes on specific subjects to improve your knowledge of those topics.
When I was very young, I would watch my grandmother complete huge puzzles which were spread across the dining room table of her home. When I look back to those days with this new found understanding of brain science, I can see that she was (at that time) supporting her brain health and helping defend from diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia.
As she grew older, she slowly stopped playing puzzles, and slowly succame to Alzheimers and passing away. She stopped playing puzzles when her husband (my grandfather) passed away, and though I’m not saying correlation equals causation, however, the reduction of brain building activities coupled with stress of her husband passing, certainly had major impacts on her mental health.
6. Physical Activity
You may have heard that brain exercises and physical activity are great for your mental health. But did you know that the opposite is true too? Physical activity is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and can improve your thinking skills as you age.
There are lots of different forms of physical activity you can try out to boost your brain power. You could try a new sport, join a gym or go for a run or walk in your local park. You can even try dancing or yoga if those suit you better – it’s up to you!
Physical activity has been shown to improve thinking skills and mental health because it releases helpful chemicals called endorphins. These naturally occurring chemicals can help reduce stress, improve your mood and give you a better sense of well-being.
I’ve personally had some challenges over the last 3 years with training consistently. It started because I sold my last house, and moved to an in-between house before moving into my new house. This resulted in my home gym being packed in storage for months, and upon moving into my new house I renovated my garage before placing the gym inside.
I’ve kept different gym memberships all this time, but have not consistently visited. Only this year did I begin regular training again in my new home gym, and also going to outside gyms such as Goodlife Fitness or Planet Fitness. Honestly I find motivation in going to regular commercial gyms because I see people working on themselves, and it feels like somewhat of a community. Though it’s nothing like the powerlifting/olympic lifting community, I was a part of at Fortis Fitness in Toronto, I’ve moved a bit too far from that speciality gym to justify the drive (especially with my own speciality gym at home).
Long story short, stay tuned on my Instagram page and YouTube channel as I will be uploading new content around lifestyle, health, fitness and wellness next year.
Exercising your brain every day is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – everyone can benefit from challenging their mind and squeezing every last drop out of it. You don’t have to invest hours of your time either – just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.
Best of all, the majority of these exercises are free so there’s no excuse not to get started! Let me know how it’s going or feel free to ask any questions – shoot a DM or comment on one of my latest posts on Instargam or YouTube.
|||^||North Central University: Reading Improves Memory, Concentration and Stress|
|||^||Cereb Cortex.: Boosting Vocabulary Learning by Verbal Cueing During Sleep|
|||^||Biopsychosoc Med.: Special series on “effects of board games on health education and promotion” board games as a promising tool for health promotion: a review of recent literature|
|||^||WebMD: Real-Life Benefit of Video Games|
|||^||Baylor College of Medicine: A perfect match: The health benefits of jigsaw puzzles|
|||^||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity Boosts Brain Health|