Most of the age-related mental problems are a consequence of what people did or did not do when they were younger. Our generations are at a risk of premature mental deterioration due to their bad habits.
They seem to aspire to do only passive activities through social media while they are too lazy to do sports and other physical activities that require and involve all their senses at one. This article is written to encourage all of us to avoid mental passiveness and form habits that will exercise or brain health. And there are also some easy steps to build new positive habits.
We highlight; the benefits of brain exercise, the daily activities that could stimulate our brains, the actual exercises, looking at the memory increasing brain exercises while briefly touching other behavioural practices that are good for your brain among other topics.
Why should we have brain exercise
Just as we lose muscle over time if we are not physically active, our brains can get atrophy with less to no stimulation over time. Brain exercises are meant to improve your brain’s ability to withstand neurological damage that comes with aging.
Moreover, our brain’s cognitive reserve can be improved by;
- brain-healthy lifestyle adoption
- regular performance of targeted brain exercise
- forming healthier habits (diet, exercise, etc.)
Aging is associated with a lot of mental problems and as such, we need to start taking care of our brain health early enough to slow down the brain aging process. Thus, we must ensure that we are not spending most of our time passive but keep on doing activities that stimulate our brains.
Our Daily Activities can be a Brain Exercise
Although living a fixed routine life may be comforting, stress-free and natural, since it requires less brain energy it could be bad for your brain. This is because our subconscious does routine stuff without any stimulation of the brain.
Consequently, routine makes our brain sluggish, lazy and slow and thus bad for your brain. It is therefore important to shake your daily activities up a bit so as to stimulate your brain to ensure you are always having a sharp and healthier mind. Activities that are both novel and complex are enough to stimulate the brain.
Benefits You Can Expect from Brain Exercise
People who exercise their brains have their cognitive abilities increased and a good mental health generally. Brain exercise has many benefits and one exercise cannot give all of the benefits at once. It is like physical exercises, where some types focus on your abs, triceps, etc. some of the benefits of brain exercise;
- Relives stress
- Improve your memory
- Results in a more positive mood
- focus and concentration movement
- improved motivation and productivity
- your fluid intelligence, creativity, and mental flexibility get enhanced
- thinking at your feet
- becoming more self-confident
- vision and hearing sharpener
Brain Exercises That Work
The exercises for the brain are supposed to be fun, original and challenging. Something like taking a different route to work or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand is enough to get your brain stimulated.
Ever noticed how easier it is for your brain to memorize the lyrics of the song but hard to recite those lyrics without the music. This is because our brains associate things in order to store and remember them, that’s just how the brain work.
Involving as many sense as possible during the exercise is a good exercise. Puzzle games like Sudoku, picture puzzle, etc. and word games like scrabble are educational as well as a great place to start brain exercises. Other exercises that are stimulating enough which are easy to do;
1. Recall testing
Memorizing a list of your “to do list”, grocery list etc. after an hour or so, try to recall all the things you added on your list. This is an exercise that must be done frequently, and over time you can try to add items that are a little difficult and challenging to get a greater mental stimulation.
2. Switching hands
Trying to use the hand that is weaker, left handed will use the right hand vice versa to do certain tasks like writing, eating or brushing your teeth. Brain activity is highly increased by using a non-dominant hand because it is hard to do so.
3. Eating with chopsticks
This brain exercise is effective for people that do not know how to use chopsticks. However, those who already know how to use them could try using the non-dominant hand to stimulate the brain. Using chopsticks will ensure you eat mindfully thus enhancing your digestive system, brain and calorie consumption.
4. Doing house chores with your eyes closed
This forces your brain to use new neural pathways. However, only chores that do not endanger you are recommended. Safer chores like; showering, shampooing your hair, laundry sorting etc.
5. Doing things upside down or backwards
This is not to say you should walk with your hands, but easier things like wearing your watch upside down to force your brain to really think with every glance at your watch. Calendars and clocks can also be hung upside down. Mirror writing or backwards writing is also good brain exercise.
6. Read books aloud
To engage your imagination in a different way read a book aloud and also listen to audio books. This exercise can be done with a loved one taking turns reading and listening.
7. Map drawing from a memory
After visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area. Making this a habit every time you visit a new place is stimulating and fun and thus a great exercise for your brain.
8. Doing math in your head
Figuring out problems without the help of a paper, calculator, pencil, etc. a good example is trying to count money or change without using your calculator. This activity can be varied by walking around while doing the math.
9. Taste buds challenge
Identifying individual ingredients in your meal when eating is also such a good mental stimulation. This can be done when eating the food prepared by others, of course.
10. Cooking class lessons
This is a great way to exercise your brain as it uses most of your senses; sight, touch, smell, and taste. Stimuli occurs as all our senses do not the same parts of the brain.
11. Word pictures creation
This is done by visualizing the spelling of a word, think of the other work ending or beginning with the same word to create a puzzle.
12. Using all your senses simultaneously
The goal is to try and utilize all your senses in new ways by doing exercises like camping, travelling, even farm shopping where all senses are tantalized.
Intelligence increasing with brain exercises
Several studies reveal that human’s overall intelligence could be improved. With the right stimulus intelligent can be fluid and it is dependent on the training amount put in. (source)
Moreover, cognitive enhancement can have a positive influence on your other skills unrelated to the area you targeted to improve. So, the following exercises have a way of effecting positive change in many areas of your life;
Trying new things
Developing a habit of trying new things like; a new hobby that is completely out of your character, trying an unfamiliar ethnic cuisine, travelling to a new place, dance classes etc. Evidently, Dopamine is released through these novel experiences and thus motivate your neurotransmitter to create new neurons.
Taking up a creative hobby
Hobbies have the same effect on you as taking antidepressant. Hobbies are a way to protect the brain against brain aging. A study showed a positive association between knitting and reduced depression where patients with depression felt better and happier after taking knitting as a hobby. (source)
Moreover, music, drawing and meditation, arts and crafts stimulate the neurological system and enhance mental wellbeing.
Challenge yourself with mastery
When the mental benefit stops after mastering a new skill, it is time to push yourself even further by trying out another NEW skill. The goal is to always getting out of your comfort zone, that’s very stimulating to your brain.
Turn Off Technology
We have become too dependent on our technology that we use an app for almost everything; phone numbers, math, spelling, etc.
Moreover, it will be beneficial to turn off the google maps and read the map to find your location using your innate sense of direction.
Diversifying your social connections
New social networks yield new ideas and new ways of thinking as people are different and diverse. You must start enjoying to spend time with people who are different from you to gain new insight.
People with different career interest, different social or cultural environments have a way of expanding your horizons giving you new perspective and further stimulate your mental growth.
This is such an effective brain exercise that is common worldwide because of its many soothing benefits. Our minds are so cluttered that it is difficult to master the art of clearing our minds and remain quiet. These are the benefits;
- Relives stress
- Memory advancer
- Mood and ability enhancer
- Reverse brain deterioration.
Lifelong learning engagement
It is said that “if you stop learning you start dying” so, to keep the brain young and active you need to constantly learn something. It doesn’t matter whether the learning is educational of fun.
Physical exercise for a healthy brain
Physical exercise has too many health benefits and brain health is on top of the benefits. When you exercise, you get your body as well as your brain in shape. Benefits of physical exercise to your brain;
- Circulation to the brain is improved ensuring oxygen and other nutrients are delivered.
- Efficient removal of metabolic waste.
- The serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine brain chemicals responsible for making us feel-good, are increased by physical exercise.
- The stress hormone called cortisol is reduced.
- The gene sending the signal to create more brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are turned on by physical exercise.
- The brain’s ability to keep growing and changing throughout your lifetime gets improved when you do physical exercise.
- The tiny powerhouses found in every cell, including brain cells called mitochondria are formed and thus increase mental energy.
There are many ways to exercise but outdoor exercises are said to be more beneficial for brain stimulation because they increase vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem. Moreover, all forms of exercises have a way of lowering tension, depression, and fatigue and that is good for the brain.
Online Brain Training
This is still a new phenomenon that still has a lot of controversial messages. Some claims are that online brain exercise companies overstate its efficiency. More substantial reports need to be released through scientific studies to improve and highlight the benefits of online brain exercises.
Moreover, the study conducted in America on elderly healthy people found three cognitive areas; memory, reasoning, and processing speed were improved by computerized brain training. (source)
Another large study in Britain reported that there is no benefit from computer-based brain training participants just got improved skill at playing brain training games. This is applicable to all participants who were of diversified age groups (between 18- 80 years) Brain Test Britain study
Another systematic review gave positive report in support of the online brain test (source)
Thus, individuals will have to read through various studies before taking the online brain test or rather complement them with easy to do brain exercises discussed above.
A Multifaceted Approach towards a Healthy Brain
Studies have shown that healthy behavioural practices significantly reduce mental health illnesses e.g. depression, anxiety, even dementia, among others.
The five healthy behaviours improving brain function
To complement the brain exercises, these behaviours can sure work effectively.
- Exercising regularly
- Having a BMI that is optimal
- Adequate intake of fruit and vegetable
- Alcohol consumption in moderation
- Not smoking at all
- Eat healthy foods good for brain
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for a healthier brain and the diet should include;
- Low fat diet
- Low cholesterol diet
- High in antioxidants diet
- Good amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fruits and vegetables.
We need to adjust how we spend our free time and significantly reduce TV and computer time to avoid brain atrophy. More importantly, we should be comfortable doing activities that involve all if not most of our senses at one time to get our brain stimulated.
These days’ people rely so much on social media that it is killing the traditional way of connecting with real live people. Instead of striving to get many likes on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, etc. we must prioritize vising our loved ones to play and do fun activities with them because that is more fun and engaging.