Here’s a question for you: what is the one ‘muscle’ that needs continuous exercise the most, but is often overlooked by everyone? If your immediate response was not ‘the brain’, then you too might need to reconsider the amount of attention you have been paying to your mental sharpness lately.
As we all know, it can be rather difficult to find the time or energy to concentrate on ‘working out’ your brain when everyday life has become increasingly more demanding in recent history.
Luckily enough, there are some very easy and efficient brain exercises that boost memory, improve focus, and sharpen our attention, which we can all do in order to keep ourselves healthy and happy for a long time to come.
While many think about ‘brain exercises’ like a complicated and daunting task, medical studies have shown that it is actually pretty easy to maintain our mental aptitude at a consistent peak even as we age.
These will not only help you retain information better and faster, but they will also aid in avoiding or ameliorating the onset of serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for example.
As a result, here are the most simple, yet highly effective brain training routines to keep your memory active and enhance your general brain performance for the better:
- Read a book – this is considered by specialists as being the most basic brain exercise you could do to greatly boost your memory. This is due to the fact that complex narratives require both our full attention to the names of places, characters, etc., as well as for us to remember things which have already happened and are relevant to the current unfolding of the story. Moreover, reading different genres of literature will also help increase your power of retention: for instance, detective tales actively involve the reader into solving their central mystery, while gothic or horror novels make you constantly rethink different associations, thus improving your focus and sense of concentration. Nevertheless, if you feel that you don’t have the time for lengthier books, then there are also more accessible texts such as newspapers, magazines, even short-story books which you could read faster and still give your memory a good ‘workout’.
- Learn how to play a musical instrument – it is widely recognized that, ever since the beginning of time, man has been drawn towards music and the instruments that subsequently produce it. The answer lies in the fact that listening to and/ or playing tunes are good for keeping your brain’s dynamicity and mental sharpness. In which concerns mental retention, this exercise will help you perfection both your long-term and short-term memory by strengthening pre-existent neurological pathways and creating new, healthier ones. From drums and guitars to violins and harps, the wide array of musical instruments available these days will definitely aid your creative and analytical approach towards mental challenges. Aside from being an amazing tool in practicing your brain’s capacity, learning how to play an instrument can likewise be an interesting and entertaining hobby.
- Go back to maths – even though it is safe to say most of us hated math problems and calculations during our school years, it has actually been demonstrated that doing such mental exercises on a regular basis will improve memory, keep you sharp and focused, as well as more inclined towards analytical thinking. In addition, it is really important to maintain your basic math skills in check for as long as possible, because not only do they help you in day to day activities (when you might not have a calculator at hand, for example), but they also positively affect fluid intelligence, critical analysis, and other similar abilities. As a result, you should try solving such exercises on a regular basis, so as to enhance your retention capacities and maximize your cognitive performance in time.
- Make Sudoku your best friend – this numeric-based game has been around ever since the late 19th century, captivating collective minds with its creative complexity and endless combinatory possibilities. Sudoku represents a truly intense ‘workout’ for your brain because it augments your solution finding techniques, expands your thinking capabilities, and really boosts your focus and concentration. Consequently, your memory will have only to gain, with better chances of retaining information and productively using already stored data, alongside reducing the risk of mental issues like dementia as we age. Besides being a greatly intellectual pastime, this type of game might also help impose structure and discipline into your life. Nevertheless, if you are not the biggest fan of numbers, you can easily go for its alphabetical ‘brother’ called ‘Wordoku’, where you apply very similar rules, but by using letters.
- Word games, anyone? – these days, most of us assume that crossword puzzles and other word games are something that belongs to past generations, who solved them in newspapers in the lack of other, more exciting forms of entertainment. Well, we couldn’t be more wrong! On the contrary, word games are still very popular nowadays – especially in online formats – and with a very good reason too. Firstly, they enrich your vocabulary, enhance verbal skills, and help the further development of both short-term and long-term memory. What is more, they are beneficial in helping sharpen retention, with the more prominent effect of delaying the onset of serious mental issues (Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, for example). This results in better mental acuteness and recollection skills. Moreover, crosswords are easily accessible on the internet, with different difficulty levels to suit all ages and preferences.
- Pick up a sport – how much could physical exercise influence mental capacity, you ask? Immensely, if we take into consideration medical studies and concrete evidence. Hence, playing sports can actively consolidate hand-eye coordination, by improving already existent neurological pathways and strengthening new ones, so as to facilitate data retention. Whether we are talking about football or basketball, any and every dynamic sport can aid in maintaining both your body and your mind in top shape, since physical activity forces your brain to think faster and better, while also remembering more in a shorter time span. A sedentary organism will surely reflect onto your intellectual capacity, so be sure to take good care of the pair of them. After all, the old saying mens sana in corpore sano (‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’) exists for a very good reason!
- Draw something from memory – while this wouldn’t normally be your go-to activity for boosting memory, it turns out that trying to recreate something visually can constitute a good challenge for both your mind and your graphic skills. For example, when you visit a new place, try to render a map of the area from what you can remember about it. The same goes for when you take a new road somewhere or travel through new routes. For a more challenging exercise, try to draw part of a geographical map after studying it for a while. This type of training will help your brain retain more detailed information and then reproduce it too. In addition, you will enhance your hand-eye coordination, focusing powers, and propensity towards longer periods of concentration.
- Learn a new language – if you really want a good ‘workout’ for your mind, then picking up a foreign language is exactly the sort of demanding exercise you are looking for. In this particular instance, the bottom line is that the harder and more ‘exotic’ the language turns out to be, the better it is for your general cognitive state. Owing to the fact that you will have to presumably learn a distinct alphabet, as well as new vocabulary, grammatical rules, idiomatic structures, and syntactic relations, your memory will certainly have to gain from all this intense mental preparation. Moreover, your retention abilities will sharpen, your creative and analytical thinking will greatly be enhanced, not to mention the fact that you will become better at making associations and verbal communication. An added bonus is that you will most likely be able to read in another language too now, which is again another great way of boosting your memory and overall brain functionality.
- Start dancing – this exercise combines the benefit of physical training with an equally intense mental preparation. You can either be the best dancer around or have two left legs (as they say), it doesn’t really matter – taking a few dance classes will only bring positive effects into your life and for your general mental state. Amongst these benefits, we can include improved kinetic abilities, better rational and emotional knowledge, as well as refined musical recognition. Additionally, learning new dancing styles and moves will create stronger neurological pathways, as well as consolidate the already existing ones, which will then boost memory and keep it sharper for longer periods of time. And who doesn’t want to be the life of the party every now and then, anyways?
- Memorize a poem or a song – if mathematical exercises aren’t exactly to your liking, but you still wish to improve your mental capacities of retention, in particular, then you could just as well resort to memorizing a piece of poetry or the lyrics to your favorite tune, for instance. Such an activity has been shown to highly stimulate one’s powers of recall by making your brain create new associations, linking them with previous knowledge, and also revisiting them on a constant basis. Again, poems and songs in languages which are not your maternal one will then be even more challenging for your memory, since they will activate more areas of your brain when it comes to actually reciting or singing them. Another element these two have in common is that of musicality (rhythm), which has also been proven to be a good mental booster.
- Learn phone numbers by heart – while the digital world of the present has spared us from ever having to memorize most of our important information, it is clearly to our advantage to know such things, both from a practical and a cognitive point of view. Thus, you should start off easy, with your close family’s numbers, then move on to friends and other important acquaintances. Besides not having to worry about your phone battery dying in the most inappropriate of times – thus leaving you unable to contacts the person(s) you would like – you will also work towards maximizing your retention power, numeric links, and long-term memory potential. Since you have to get each and every number right every time, then your brain is forced to function at ‘full capacity’, which is always preferred in maintaining brain sharpness and avoiding the onset of any serious mental disease.
- Consider crafting and DIY – embarking on DIY (‘do it yourself’) projects and other crafting activities can be a surprising, yet productive and interesting way of boosting memory efficiency. Working with your hands and brain at the same time will undoubtedly refine your hand-eye coordination, increase concentration and focus, facilitate spatial awareness and visualization capacities, etc. Crafting can also be a very relaxing form of entertainment, one which will get all your ‘creative juices’ flowing and make you become less stressed, hence less prone to mental problems in time. Another bonus is that, besides helping your memory and mental state in general, you will also have a ‘proof’ of your work, from internal design modifications to artisanal objects, clothes, garden decorations, etc. Don’t worry if you are not a crafting master from the start, though the idea behind this exercise is to have fun while also engaging your brain intellectually, so take it easy on yourself.
As you can see, there are numerous ways in which you could boost your retention power through enjoyable and accessible activities. Even so, the key towards great mental performance is consistency combined with diversity, meaning that you should try and do these activities on a regular basis, while also mixing them up together to best fit your lifestyle and preferences.
Just remember that taking care of your brain’s wellbeing and memory power is as essential for your present cognitive health as it is for that of the future. So follow the advice presented above for a healthy and happy mind, today and tomorrow – you’ll definitely remember to thank yourself later!
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