It’s a recognised fact that consciously exercising your brain can help you to remain mentally sharp, increase your focus and concentration, give you far faster thinking and reaction times, boost your motivation and productivity and sharpen your vision and hearing.
However, an even greater bonus could be the fact that regularly performing memory exercises can help to protect you against future memory loss and cognitive decline. When the brain is passive it tends to atrophy and this is far more likely to occur if you occupy all of your leisure time in a sedentary or passive manner.
There may be all manner of brain games available either to buy or download, however, many experts suggest that too much time spent using electronics is detrimental to our overall health. With this in mind, we have put together a few suggestions for more practical and efficient ways to exercise our little grey cells.
- Make up a ‘to do’ list or a grocery list (or any other kind of list which comes to mind).
- Memorise the list and then put it to one side.
- An hour later try to rewrite your list from memory.
- Each time you perform this exercise make the list slightly longer or more complex.
- Choose a particular song and sing along until you are pretty sure you know the lyrics.
- Now sing the song without the accompaniment and test how many of the words your actually remember without the guidance.
- Change the song on a daily basis to stretch your memory.
- An even better way to stretch the mind is to learn to play a new instrument or to read music.
- Choose a favourite poem or even nursery rhymes.
- Write down the words and memorize them.
- Every hour or so try to recall the words and say them out loud.
- Change the poem/rhyme every day.
- Recite your Times Tables out loud. If you have forgotten some make sure you work on these.
- Memorise them by working up to the harder ones if necessary.
- Recite them regularly out loud by starting at the beginning and working your way up. If this is too easy move on to 13, 14, 15 etc.
- Work out mathematical problems in your head. Use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and gradually work your way up to longer numbers.
Learn some new skills
- Cooking uses a number of the senses – smell, touch, sight and taste. These all use different parts of the brain.
- Learn how to cook a new style of cuisine and try new recipes regularly. Use unfamiliar ingredients.
- Try eating with chopsticks (it doesn’t have to be Chinese food!). This will force you to eat mindfully which is good for your brain, digestion and calorie consumption. Once you have mastered the skill, try shifting to the other (non-dominant) hand.
- Challenge your taste buds – when you eat try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
- Learn a foreign language – the listening and memorising will stimulate the brain.
- If you already know a particular foreign language work on increasing your vocabulary by adding in ten new words each day from subjects that you would normally be unfamiliar with – medical, technical, building, etc.
- Practice reciting conjugated verbs out loud. Once you are proficient with one verb move onto another one.
- Learn a new sport which requires good hand to eye coordination. Tennis, badminton and golf are all excellent examples.
- Take dancing lessons and master the steps to all the common dances.
- Practice dance routines and make them more and more complicated as you progress.
- Take up Yoga and practice more complex positions.
- Knitting, crochet, needlepoint and embroidery are all extremely good for hand-eye refinement and all involve fine motor skills. They are all excellent crafts for reducing stress too.
- Do crosswords, Sudoku or jigsaws and work your way up to ever more complex versions.
- Take up Genealogy – researching your family tree is a good way to stretch many of your brain cells. Think of it as a combination of detective skills and doing a jigsaw.
Think outside the box
- Visualise a long word and spell it out loud both forwards and backwards.
- Draw a map from memory – try this every time you visit a new location.
- Use your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks like eating, brushing your teeth or writing.
- Try to do chores with your eyes closed to force your memory to work – sort laundry into colours simply by working on the shape of the clothing.
- Wear your watch upside down or look at the clock in the mirror when you want to check the time.
- Take new routes when you go to familiar places to force yourself to think rather than work on autopilot.
Stretching your brain by performing mental exercises is not the only important way to protect you against future memory loss and cognitive decline. Remember, it is also important to take good care of your physical health by eating a well balanced diet, taking regular exercise and getting plenty of quality sleep.