Most of us relate exercise with physical fitness. But, the adage “Use it or lose it” holds for the mind.
Brain exercises boost intelligence and sharpen your mind. Various research has also proven its effectiveness.
Your brain has plasticity, which is the ability to adapt and change based on experience. It allows you to enhance and adapt, even when you age. The brain plasticity also offers you to learn new things and make the brain more flexible.
Various exercises can boost the brain’s plasticity and can thus sharpen your mind. But only some exercises qualify as genuine mental exercises.
Let’s understand more about these types of exercises and their benefits!
- What Makes an Activity Train Your Mind?
- Importance of Brain Exercises
- 13 Exercises to Train Your Mind
- 1. Learn a New Hobby
- 2. Try Using the Non-Dominant Hand
- 3. Brain Training Games
- 4. Use Chopsticks
- 5. Try Things Backwards or Upside Down
- 6. Use All Your Senses At Once
- 7. Physical Exercise
- 8. Meditate
- 9. Enhance Vocabulary
- 10. Play or Listen to Music
- 11. Challenge Yourself
- 12. Avoid Technology
- 13. Indulge in Diverse Social Circle
- Can Stimulants Help?
- Other Tips to Keep Your Mind Healthy
- Final Thoughts
What Makes an Activity Train Your Mind?
Fixed routines may make your life smooth, but it restricts your decision-making ability. As your subconscious mind carries out routine, it needs very little brain energy. Besides, they need little to no brain stimulation.
Too much routine makes the mind sluggish. Challenging the routine helps you to get a sharper and healthier mind. According to experts, an activity needs two criteria to train your mind. It should be complex and different.
Importance of Brain Exercises
Brain exercises stimulate the mind for optimal functioning. Mentally stimulating exercises enhance the mental reserve. It improves the ability to withstand adverse changes. It does so before the appearance of symptoms.
According to research, brain stimulation protects against cognitive decline. It also helps you to make the most of your brain capacity.
Some benefits of brain exercises are:
- Better memory
- Enhanced concentration and focus
- Boost in productivity and motivation
- Faster reaction time and thinking
- Sharper hearing and vision
- Better creativity, flexibility, and intelligence
- Greater self-confidence
Now let’s have a look at some excellent exercises for your mind to make the most out of it.
13 Exercises to Train Your Mind
Various studies have proved that exercising your brain improves your intelligence. Some facts from studies are:
- Your intelligence is fluid and can expand with the right stimulus
- Anyone can enhance their cognition, despite age or the starting point
- Improved cognition in one area boosts even unrelated skills
- The more you train your brain, the more you will gain from these exercises
Here are 13 exercises that can get you started.
1. Learn a New Hobby
This exercise may need more commitment as compared to others. But it is efficient in keeping your brain on toes. Learning something new challenges your mind.
According to a study, older adults who learned new things had a better memory. Besides, the memory improvements persisted even after a year.
Learning new things may include a language, hobby, or playing a musical instrument. You will not only learn something new but also stretch your mind. It will also help in being more accomplished and expanding your skills.
2. Try Using the Non-Dominant Hand
A neurobiologist suggests using your non-dominant hand to keep your brain alive.
In his book he suggests using the non-dominant hand challenges your mind. It thus boosts brain activity. You can try switching hands while writing something or eating.
Sounds difficult? But that’s exactly the point.
3. Brain Training Games
Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. It is a powerful tool to boost your cognitive abilities.
You can use calculations to exercise your mind. For instance, “Pick any 3-digit number. Then add 2 to that digit 5 times. Then minus 8 from the new number 4 times.”
Other brain online training games keep you mentally sharper and boost mental flexibility.
4. Use Chopsticks
Eating with chopsticks is another simple yet effective brain exercise. It aids you in mindful eating beneficial for your digestion. It also benefits calorie consumption and brain health.
If you are already good at it, try using chopsticks with a non-dominant hand.
5. Try Things Backwards or Upside Down
You can also stimulate your brain by looking at things backwards. An excellent way of doing it is to wear your watch upside down. This will exercise your brain every time you look at the watch.
You can also use your calendar and your phone upside down. While looking at things the right way, the left side of your brain labels it and diverts your mind somewhere.
But, if you turn them the other way round, the right half of your brain starts working. It tries to interpret colors, shapes, and relationships of a puzzling image.
Once you get used to it, you can read everything upside down.
All in all, to exercise your brain, look at things in a different way.
6. Use All Your Senses At Once
Triggering your senses gives work to your brain. According to a study using all your senses strengthens and boosts your mind.
To achieve this, try activities that boost all your five senses:
- Visiting a farmer’s market
- Baking cookies
- Trying a new restaurant
While doing all these, focus on touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing at the same time. It is also seen that you are dependent on the senses to process information while learning.
So, engaging all your senses at once will exercise your mind. It will also enhance information processing.
7. Physical Exercise
To exercise your mind, start exercising your body. People with a healthy lifestyle are at a lower risk of age-related cognitive decline.
According to a study, exercising protects your brain from shrinking. It also boosts the formation of new brain cells, especially in the hippocampus (a part of the brain). Men with a healthy lifestyle had a 60% lesser chance of dementia and cognitive impairment.
Healthy behaviors include:
- Maintaining a normal weight
- Consuming fruits and vegetables,
- Regular exercising
- limiting alcohol intake.
So, for a better mind, work on your physical health. It may be difficult, but your brain will thank you for years to come.
The next brain activity has been popular for thousands of years. But it is only recently that it has received attention for mental health benefits.
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is becoming popular among many to improve health.
A study shows that meditation improves focus, immunity, attention, and empathy. Another study suggests that doing mindfulness meditation for eight weeks can help. It improves the thickness of the Brain. One such area was the hippocampus – area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
Besides, it may also enhance your working memory, which is a part of short-term memory.
So, to exercise your mind, find a quiet spot and practice mindfulness meditation.
9. Enhance Vocabulary
You must have often thought of it as a way of sounding smart. But are you aware that it is also a fun way of stimulating your brain?
Before ignoring it, as you may not believe it, see what research has to say. According to a study, many brain areas take part in vocabulary tasks. These tasks involve auditory and visual processing.
Learning unfamiliar words every day stimulates various brain areas. It also improves your memory and cognition.
You can do the following to boost your vocabulary:
- Check the meaning of new words while reading
- Keep a notebook beside you and write all new words
- Use the word for at least 5 times for the next few days
10. Play or Listen to Music
So, play some pleasant music to boost your brainpower and creative thinking. Besides, listening to music also opens your mind to receive and learn new things.
11. Challenge Yourself
Challenge your mind to boost your memory and strengthen your mind.
As we have learned before, learning new things triggers your brain activity. But, once you master them, the brain gets efficient at it, and the mental benefit stops.
To stimulate the brain, try to stay away from your comfort zone. So, once you master one skill, challenge yourself to the next difficult level. You can also upgrade your skill.
12. Avoid Technology
Avoiding technology exercises your mind and makes it independent. Avoiding technology involves carrying out calculations or writing spellings by yourself.
Try to remember the numbers of your dear ones instead of depending on your phone. Another excellent way of doing this is to turn off your GPS and to use innate direction sense to find your way.
According to research, cabbies who are not dependent on GPS have a larger hippocampus. To improve your memory, stay away from technology.
13. Indulge in Diverse Social Circle
This activity is easy, as well as effective. Socializing triggers many brain areas. Besides, social activities such as sports are also beneficial for your brain.
Having a great social life bolsters your brain functions. Communicating with others challenges the mind. It needs to interpret verbal and visual cues to respond. Social interaction also improves your mood. It thus wards off depression that could hamper cognition.
Researchers encourage people to socialize. Being isolated has harmful effects on mood. Studies have shown that social people are at a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
This holds true even if you are an introvert as it is beneficial for both long-term and short-term. Some ideas to enhance your social circle:
- Joining a club
- Offering volunteer opportunities
- Staying in touch with your family and friends
Being social offers mental stimulation, keeping your brain sharp and healthy.
Can Stimulants Help?
Stimulants, when taken along with brain exercises, can further boost its functions. Caffeine present in green tea and coffee is a natural stimulant helpful for your memory. Besides, adults who take caffeine in the morning had better short-term memory.
You can also try nootropics to enhance your mental capacity. They are substances that boost your mental performance. In today’s competitive society, they also help to improve memory.
One such nootropic is Provasil that boosts your focus and memory.
Other Tips to Keep Your Mind Healthy
Some other tips include:
- Eat healthily and avoid junk or fatty foods
- Sleep for 7-9 hours
- Drink 8-12 glasses of water
- Engage in things you love to do
Your brain is a complex organ and exercising your brain is the best way to make the most out of it.
Brain activities aid in improving your focus, concentration, and memory. This is true regardless of your age.
Adding mind activities to your daily routine will challenge your mind. It also helps to sharpen your cognitive skills and enrich your brain while doing so.
So, try a few or all activities and see the difference yourself.
Mike is a licensed nutritionist with an earnest interest in mental health supplements. He aims to help people with his content and spends long hours reading clinical studies and medical research.
Occasionally, when he’s not reading medical literature or writing, you can find him hiking or gardening. You can know more about him or read more articles written by him here.