Have you ever thought about doing burpees for your brain? Or mountain climbers for your mind?
Speaking of which, how do we exercise our brains? Our brains are organs, not muscles, and we can’t flex them or use them to perform the perfect pushup (well, not physically speaking).
However, it’s still a great idea to treat your brain like a muscle. Flex it, stretch it, get it moving — or you may find that it doesn’t work as well as it used to.
To that end, here are 7 excellent brain exercises to strengthen your mind.
1. Get Some Exercises
Turns out you really can do burpees for your brain and mountain climbers for your mind. While these exercises may not have a direct impact on your brain like they do on your glutes, exercise, in general, has a huge positive effect.
A healthy diet and exercise can reduce the effects of cognitive decline as you age by about 60%. Furthermore, research has found that exercise helps the brain produce new brain cells and is one of the few activities that can stimulate this production.
On top of that, exercise helps stimulate the production of endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help you combat a number of things including depression and even alleviate physical pain. For some people, proper exercise is as effective as medication for easing their symptoms.
Though the effects may be secondary, a positive physical and mental state helps keep your brain healthy and strong.
2. Learn a Language
Do you really want to put your brain to work? Try learning a new language.
The cognitive benefits of learning another language are undeniable. This activity comes with a list including:
- Improved memory
- Better critical-thinking skills
- Better listening skills
- Improved focus and concentration
- Improved ability to multi-task
- Being more creative and flexible
Aside from all that, it has been shown that bilingual people (who also have risk factors for Alzheimer’s) tend to develop the disease later than their monolingual counterparts. The effect is so profound that researchers are looking into bilingualism as a strategy to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, even though there is no known cure.
Furthermore, learning a new language opens up your world and allows you to experience things you never could before. When you travel to the country where they speak your target language, you can engage in the culture and understand more than you ever could as a monolingual tourist.
People love that you took an interest in their culture enough to learn their language. You’ll get a fascinating look below the surface and develop a deeper understanding of the world through someone else’s eyes.
3. Learn a New Skill
Learning a whole new language is a pretty ambitious undertaking. For most people, it will require years of hard work to truly master their target language.
However, learning any new skill is beneficial for your brain. You don’t have to become a full-time linguist to reap some of the brain-boosting benefits. Different activities will have different benefits for your brain, but you should choose activities that appeal to you the most. This gives you the best chance of sticking with your new skill. Here are a few ideas:
- Musical instrument
Researchers in this study found that participants who engaged in cognitively demanding tasks like learning a new skill showed improved memory when compared to participants who did something fun, but not challenging, like watching TV.
The beauty of this brain exercise is that it never ends. Once you master one skill, you can move on to another. You will continually add to your skills, enriching your life experience as well as becoming a more accomplished human being.
4. Teach Someone Else a New Skill
What should you do with all these skills that you are learning? How about passing them on? Teaching someone else about new things that you are learning is a delightful way to spend your time. Plus, you’ll be stretching your brain and practicing the skill as you teach it.
Teaching a skill requires a more intimate understanding of it than simply “getting by.” This forces you to dig deep and really understand the concept. Plus, you’ll be reviewing basics and solidifying your own knowledge of the subject.
Furthermore, if your student is having difficulty grasping the concept, you’ll get an even more comprehensive brain workout. This will require you to be more creative and discover a different way to explain or demonstrate the concept until the other person succeeds in grasping it.
5. Use Your Non-Dominant Hand
What if you don’t have much time to devote to the “brain-training” game? Learning a language or a new skill is a huge time commitment. Many of us are faced with schedules bursting at the seams.
The good news is that there may already be activities on your schedule that are helping to exercise your brain. The even better news is that there are tricks you can use to exercise your brain without adding a new commitment to your load.
Have you ever tried to eat with your non-dominant hand? How about trying to write? A lucky few will have little to no difficulty with this exercise. However, the non-ambidextrous among us will find this activity to be quite challenging. Scooping up the last bits of cereal in your bowl turns into a feat to be mastered and writing is an epic challenge of Olympic proportions.
Most importantly, you put your brain to work. Working with your non-dominant hand is not a mindless task. You have to consciously think about how your hand is moving as well as little things like which direction to write numbers or you’ll write your 3s backward.
So the next time you sit down to eat, challenge yourself to eat with your non-dominant hand. Eventually, it will be easy, but for now, you’ll give your brain a great workout.
6. Listen to Music
Few activities exercise the brain as thoroughly as listening to or playing music. The ability to hear music, that is turn the vibrations that pass through the air and strike our eardrum into electrical signals that the brain can translate, is so baffling that scientists still have no idea how it works.
Music is so incredibly complex. There are mathematical, structural, and architectural components. Deciphering music puts the brain through a workout akin to putting your body through a circuit training routine that hits every major muscle group in your body.
But, just like doing the same circuit training routine over and over again isn’t as effective, listening to the same music isn’t as effective for working out the brain. Why? Because your brain has already figured out those songs. Listening to new music requires more effort from your brain to make sense of the sounds.
This is particularly effective if you move out of the genre you are accustomed to listening to. There is a reason that older folks love the music from their era and will choose it every time. It’s comfortable and, whether they realize it or not, their brains don’t have to work as hard to decipher it.
So, break out some new music, change up the genres a bit, and challenge your brain to something new.
Double it up by learning to dance to a new style of music. The music, exercise, and learning new dance moves are all excellent brain exercises and you’re sure to have a lot of fun!
Humans were not designed to live on their own. There’s a reason that solitary confinement is the worst level of imprisonment in a jail. Socialization is important to our mental health and withdrawing from the world is often quickly accompanied by depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, studies suggest that older adults who spend more time socializing have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
On top of that, many social activities also involve other activities that are good for the brain. For example, listening to music, dancing, playing a sport, and learning (or teaching) a new skill.
Keeping Your Brain Healthy and Strong
The brain is a complex and fascinating organ. There is still so much we don’t understand about how it works. The mind is even more of an enigma. Perhaps the design is simply too sophisticated for us to truly understand it.
However, we do know that certain lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, and the willingness to be lifelong students have a big impact on the health of this crucial part of our bodies.
Feeling like you could use a refreshing break? Mental health a lot of times takes a back seat to the more obvious physical health, but it is just as important, if not more so. We provide a safe place for people to relax and recharge.
Contact us today if you feel like your brain could use a bit of pampering!