As I stood in front of the refrigerator, wondering why I had walked into the kitchen, it made me think about my brain. I blame my kids for making me dumber. Or maybe it’s just because I’m approaching my mid-40s. I really feel like I’ve lost some of my brain function.
Can we exercise our brains? Why yes, we can!
Here are 16 ways you can work out your brain and keep it strong:
Do daily puzzles
Simple puzzles like crosswords, Sudoku, word search and anagrams can challenge your brain. Logic puzzles help your brain’s deductive reasoning and teach you to organize your thinking. Lateral thinking puzzles – which challenge your preconceptions – train your brain to think outside the box. You can even find free puzzles to work online.
Use your peripheral vision
When you’re riding in a car or walking down the street, try to view things at the edge of your vision without turning your head. Actively challenging your peripheral vision helps improve your brain performance and allows you to better navigate your world safely.
Put down the calculator
Math is the basis of all things logical and technological. Doing math has been shown to increase your fluid intelligence, or your ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations. The next time you need to make some calculations, try to work them out in your head. Mental math trains your working memory and helps you better store information for immediate use.
Learn to play an instrument
Playing an instrument exercises many interrelated parts of your brain function, including listening, control of refined movements, memory and ability to concentrate.
Read anything and everything
Reading is great exercise for your brain. You can read newspapers, magazines, books and blogs. Just keep in mind that the more challenging the text, the better the workout for your brain.
Take a class
You can take a class in just about anything online. Or, sign up for a class at a community college, join a dance class or learn to make pottery. Attending a class in person also gives you a chance to talk with people, and having interesting conversations can help workout your brain.
Pick up a ball
Play catch with friends or your kids. Or practice throwing a ball up in the air and catching it. Using your brain’s visual, tactile and hand-eye coordination responses can have a positive impact on your brain.
Turn off the TV
Watching TV takes very little brain power. TV tells you what to think and how to think it. Of course, that’s why we like to veg out in front of it. If you want to give your brain some activity, then turn off the TV. Or if you can’t live without TV, watch educational programs or movies with complex plot lines and highly developed characters. You can also turn the TV volume down to a conversational level so that you have to concentrate to hear it.
Reminisce about the past
Take out the photo albums or play the old home movies. Work at recalling the actual events and what else was going on in your life at that time. Recall the dates, names of people and other details that will help reinforce your long-term memory.
When I was a kid, we played with erector sets, Lincoln Logs and Legos. Now, there are even more opportunities to build or assemble something in order to work out your brain. Putting something together without a manual or instructions is even better because it involves spatial reasoning.
Shut off the GPS
Instead of letting the GPS tell you where to go, sharpen your navigation skills. You can even get lost on purpose – just remember to bring a map! Finding routes and navigating on your own helps the brain create new neural pathways that are needed for storing complex spatial relationships.
Play chess, checkers or a card game. These are all tactical games that help exercise your brain. It’s even better to play with other people so that you can socialize and have stimulating conversations.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet also plays a role in your brain health. By including foods rich in both protein and omega 3 fatty acids, you can keep your brain physically fed.
Physical activity is important for a healthy heart but also benefits the brain. Walking and cardio exercise are great for brain health.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is crucial to your overall health and plays an important role in keeping your brain healthy. While you’re sleeping, your body cleans toxins out of your brain and makes repairs. To protect and rejuvenate your brain, make sure you get a full night’s sleep as often as possible.
Vary your routine
Drive a different route to work. Change your lunch routine by taking a walk, window shopping or running some errands. If your day becomes too monotonous, your brain may feel neglected.
When you stop learning and challenging your brain, it stops growing. Exercise your brain as often as possible to keep it strong!