I am assuming you have heard about physical exercise, but what about brain exercise? I do not know about you, but after over a year of working solely from home, and dealing with all the mental aspects covid-19 has so kindly given us, my brain has been a little foggy. I find myself forgetting birthday’s, appointment times, and general daily tasks. I am sure there is more I am forgetting to list, but I can’t quite remember. See what I did there? So, I ask myself what can I do to fix this?
I recently read an article to help find ways to sharpen my cognition function, and it talked about brain connections. Mentally stimulating activities, especially ones that are challenging, help our brains create new connections. The more connections we have, the more paths our brain has to get information to where it needs to go. So, the question continues to how can I help create more pathways in my brain?
The answer is simple: I need to put my train my brain, and put it through a cognitive bootcamp.
Mentally stimulating activities make you do a little cognitive light lifting: they require some work to process or produce information. These kinds of activities can include any of the following.
- Learning a language. Bilingual people have greater mental flexibility and agility, and may have some protection from the risk of developing dementia, compared to people who speak one language. Learning a second language later in life may even delay cognitive decline. To get started, listen to language recordings, take an online class, or download an app such as Babbel or Duolingo.
- Listening to or making music. Music can activate almost all regions of the brain, including those involved with emotion, memory, and physical movement. Get in on this benefit by listening to new kinds of music, or by learning how to play an instrument. Check out playlists from other countries, or start learning to play an instrument by watching free videos on YouTube.
- Playing card and board games. Games strengthen your ability to retrieve memories (if you play Trivial Pursuit, for example) or think strategically (if you play games like Monopoly or checkers). Playing card games is helpful because it requires you to use a number of mental skills at once: memory, visualization, and sequencing.
- Traveling. Visiting a new place exposes you to sights and sounds that enhance brain plasticity, forming new connections in your brain. You might not be able to travel far during the pandemic, but simply exploring areas nearby may produce brain changes. Consider driving to a town you’ve never visited before, or going to an outdoor park with unfamiliar terrain (perhaps mountains or thick forests) to gain new perspectives.
- Watching plays, films, concerts, or museum tours. Cultural activities stimulate the brain in many ways. While you may not be able to enjoy these activities indoors right now, it might be possible to see them outside or online. Choose something that requires a little effort to understand it, for example a Shakespearean play or a foreign film (try to figure out what the characters are saying without reading the subtitles). If you’re watching a concert, choose one with complex classical compositions. If you’re looking at an online museum exhibit, try to pick up on the details the artist used to convey a message.
- Word puzzles. Working on word puzzles (such as a crossword, Jumble, or Sudoku) has been shown to help people improve their scores on tests of attention, reasoning, and memory. Try a different kind of puzzle each day (for example, a Sudoku one day, a Jumble the next), and increase the level of difficulty as puzzles get easier.
I hope these examples and activities help you as much as they helped me in improving my cognitive function.