Your brain is an incredible organ. Everyday, we rely on it and its operation consumes more energy than any other organ – not to mention how it uses that energy to make decisions, think critically, process emotions and more!
Given its significance, it makes sense to take care in maintaining our brain health as we age. Changes to the brain may cause cognition to decrease over time or lead to brain disorders like dementia.
Over 6 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – the most prevalent form of dementia – with women being more at risk than men due to living longer lives and age being an indicator.
“Fortunately, our brains can continue to strengthen over time,” according to Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., chief director of UT Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth and distinguished professor. We can strengthen them simply by how we use them each day,” Chapman suggested.
Physical exercise benefits both your body and brain health, with brain exercises providing an avenue to challenge it in areas related to memory, problem-solving, critical thinking and learning. Engaging your mind in new activities keeps it sharp.
Here are a few simple and cost-effective strategies for improving brain health.
1. Solve Puzzles
Problem-solving can be good for the mind, and puzzles provide the perfect opportunity for this activity. Crossword puzzles have proven especially helpful for people with memory issues and have even been shown to increase cognition. Chapman noted that crosswords help build vocabulary – which forms part of crystallized intelligence (knowledge gained through prior learning).
Try your hand at sudoku or word search puzzles; for something more immersive, check out jigsaw puzzles.
2. Learn a Foreign Language
Learning a foreign language can be challenging, which makes it an excellent mental exercise. “It takes massive amounts of mental energy,” Chapman noted, but doing so will enable you to communicate with different people, travel more comfortably, understand books and movies written in it better, as well as have richer travel experiences and give a deeper travel experience overall. Additionally, one study suggests learning another language may delay dementia by several years!
3. Get Social
Spending time with family and friends can do wonders for both your soul and noggin, according to Chapman. She asserts that laughter and deeper social connections play a crucial role in maintaining strong, long-term brain health.
Socializing also stimulates your memory and can lower the risk of cognitive decline, so engaging in conversations may not just seem like idle chatter but actually stimulates the parts of your brain you may not even be aware of!
Social activities may involve hanging out with friends but can also include volunteering, attending church functions and joining clubs.
4. Dance It Out
You might just find that dancing (or TikTok dancing) could help improve your brain health! Exercise is great for the brain and dancing can provide both fun and mental challenges at the same time – memorizing steps, coordinating movements and socializing are all beneficial brain exercises; taking ballroom dance lessons is especially effective at increasing memory, attention and focus.
5. Engage in light exercise
Taking your dog for a walk, doing chores around the house, and practicing yoga are all great ways to stay active – and these light forms of physical activity have been linked with improved cognitive function. One such form is Tai Chi which has been proven effective at increasing brainpower. “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain,” according to Chapman of why physical exercise contributes to better brain health, with movements and patterns associated with Tai Chi showing promising effects for memory enhancement.
6. Join a Book Club
Book clubs provide two benefits to your brain. Not only are they great ways to increase reading and socialization with new people, they can also foster deep critical analysis about the reading material for an additional mental workout!
“Make reading extra brain healthy by thinking deeply and creatively about what you have read,” according to Chapman. To come up with fresh ideas, Chapman recommended asking questions like: Which lessons from this reading inspired changes in your own life? Or, if given the chance, would it have an alternative title which captures what it all about?
7. Start family game night
Do you love family game night? Winning or losing, playing is great way to exercise the brain – even though your result might not show it immediately! Brain stimulation requires problem-solving skills, social engagement and stimulation — game night gives your brain all three!
At any point in time, there’s sure to be something fun and engaging available – board games, card games or video games may help your brain in their quest for improvement. Plus there are local trivia events you can attend that can get the wheels turning!
8. Craft Projects mes Doing DIY
projects is great way to help keep your brain sharp. Crafting is a proven stress reliever and can increase mental acuity and brain health. Crafting doesn’t require being an experienced artist either; even amateur painters and drawers can enjoy creative activities like painting or drawing! Why not enroll in art class, grab a coloring book, or make a scrapbook to record some of your most special memories?
9. Listening to Music
Singing lyrics or playing melodies can give your brain an intense workout while keeping it young. Music’s influence over our bodies works in multiple ways – it improves memory, mental alertness and sleep quality all simultaneously!
10. Play Musical Instruments
Listening to tunes isn’t the only way music can enhance brainpower – playing an instrument may also offer some protection from dementia later in life. If you want to keep yourself sharp and stay cognitively alert, try picking up guitar or oboe to sharpen up your cerebrum!