On top of exercising your body, it’s also important to regularly exercise your brain. Just as a physical workout can help improve your physical health and aid muscle growth, a mental workout can help to improve your mental health and help your brain to grow. Below are a few different ways to exercise your brain.
Puzzles help to boost our memory, improve our cognitive skills and increase dopamine production. It’s thought that regularly solving puzzles can ward off dementia and other deteriorative mental health problems. Such a puzzle could include anything from a word game to a rubik’s cube. Choose puzzles that you find challenging and dedicate some time each day to trying to solve them – even if you end up having to use a crossword solver or instructional video to solve the puzzle, you’ll be developing your problem-solving skills. There are plenty of free puzzles online.
Reading strengthens the brain by activating a complex network of circuits and signals. These networks become stronger as you challenge yourself with more complex books and articles. On top of expanding your vocabulary, reading could even improve your interpretive in day-to-day life. Make a habit of reading every day, whether it’s a chapter of a book or a couple news articles.
Actively listening to music can have many benefits including reducing stress, improving memory and boosting mental alertness. You can boost these benefits further by finding ways to physically interact with music – this could include dancing or even performing music yourself. Taking dance lessons, trying vocal lessons or learning a musical instrument can be just as much of a brain workout as reading or solving puzzles.
Learning a new language is another way to exercise the brain. In fact, studies show that learning a new language can physically increase volume of grey matter – this is because of the way in which it rapidly engages our memory and problem solving skills. You can learn a new language by taking lessons or by using a language learning app. Choose a language that you’re likely to use – using a foreign language in a real world setting is one of the best ways to develop your language skills.
Meditation is the mental equivalent of doing stretches before or after a physical exercise. It can be used to get rid of distracting thoughts and focus your brain in the right direction. It’s one of the best ways to reduce stress and can be useful in overcoming mental illnesses like depression. There are lots of ways to carry out meditation – you can read guides such as this one on how to meditate effectively.
Interacting with other people is arguably the most essential form of brain exercise that we can engage in. Studies show that regular social interaction can reduce memory decline, reduce stress and combat depression. While social interaction is most effective in person, you can still interact with people over the phone or online. You may even be able to carry out some of the above mental exercises in a social setting for a truly effective brain workout.
On the topic of puzzles—I think physical board games are a pretty healthy way to stay mentally challenged…and assuming you’ve got someone to play with, it’s a solid social interaction too!
WIth the lockdowns, Jenni and I have been playing more board games with each other (including a bit of chess, motivated by Queen’s Gambit perhaps) and with friends, virtually. A video call makes it possible to play some board or card games!