15 Brain Exercises You Need to Try This Year

What can you do to keep your brain strong and healthy?

Stay mentally sharp with these simple brain exercises that might help keep your brain healthier.

While crosswords and puzzles have their place, there are only so many you can do in a day.

Instead, try these fun techniques that promise to boost creativity and improve your memory.

1.Play Antiques Roadshow

Choose an everyday object – anything from a spoon to a hairband – and pass it around your family. Each person must come up with a story about the object.

What period of history is it from? Did it belong to anyone special? What was it used for? See who can come up with
the most ridiculous and imaginative explanation.

According to psychologists, a playful mental attitude enables flexible and creative thinking, so making fun games a part
of your routine will stretch your brain.

2.Make your own song

Sing along to your favourite song, but change the lyrics to your own. Don’t actively engage the brain, instead let your creativity take over and see what happens.

Research suggests that when we go with the flow and don’t think too hard, we open the mind to new possibilities and generate fresh ideas.

3.Write a shopping list

Make a shopping list. As you write, picture each item in your mind. Then put the list somewhere safe. Give yourself an hour and see how many you can recall.

Experts say the act of writing along with picturing the items triggers your brain to remember them. Another tip is if you imagine you already have the items, you’re more likely to remember them.

4.Set the scene

Look out of your window. What do you see? Get a pen and paper, and describe the scene in a paragraph.

Then give yourself a break. Next, go outside and take in the scene again. Use all your senses this time, then go inside and write another paragraph. Compare the two descriptions.

The second should be more engaging because using all five senses makes it a 3D experience.

5.Become an author

Choose an animal, a song, a food, a country, a book, a piece of clothing and a flower, then turn them into a short story. Read the story a couple of times and put it to one side. Later in the day, recall the story and see what you can remember.

Experts call this process narrative chaining.

The brain encodes and retrieves random pieces of information because it has context.

6.Tell a story

Use social apps such as Zoom to create a virtual storytelling group with friends and family. One person starts the story, then passes it on with everyone adding a few sentences to keep it going.

Research in psychology and neuroscience suggests a strong link between spontaneous and controlled thinking and creativity, so any activity that combines thinking on your feet with logic, like continuing a narrative, gives the brain a workout.

7.Start daydreaming

Go on a visual journey to a place of your choice, whether that’s a favourite holiday destination or the seaside. Engage your senses and build the landscape in your mind. Experts say that rather than being a lazy pursuit, daydreaming sparks insights from the unconscious mind.

8.Take time to remember

Have a memory sharing session with friends and family, whether online or in the same room. Get the conversation flowing by recalling good times, then dig deep and you’ll discover a whole new side to your nearest and dearest. Also, remembering those special moments exercises the memory and promotes feelings of closeness.

9.Get logical

Write 10 random numbers on paper. For one minute read the list aloud, again and again. Turn the paper over and relax for a minute. Then recount the numbers in sequence and write them on the back of the paper.

Compare both lists and see how well you’ve done. There’s ­scientific evidence that repetition helps the brain solidify connections used to recall memories and information.

This also works for names and learning new skills.

10.Play guess who

Using Facetime, pick a famous person, then write down four words associated with them. Take it in turns to reveal the words to each other and guess who the person might be.

11.Time to rhyme

Get rhyming by putting the names of friends and family into short ditties. “Lovely Maisie smells sweet like a daisy”, and “charming Rex loves a bit of Tex Mex”.

According to cognitive science, the sing-song patterns of rhyme are easier for the brain to encode, so creating rhymes and ditties will help you remember names of new people.

12.Be an art expert

Explore the art world by finding a picture online that you’ve never seen before. Give yourself a minute to study everything about it. Close your eyes and recreate the image in your mind.

Then challenge yourself to remember what you can about the picture. According to research, the brain finds visual images easier to retain.

This is because much of the sensory cortex is devoted to vision while the part of the brain that processes words is smaller, so if you want to recall something get into the habit of picturing it.

13.Build up your speed-reading skills

Take a book and randomly pick a section, set a timer and give yourself a minute to scan the pages. Pick out key words and write them down.

14.Impossible homework and test questions

Can you piece together the gist of what’s happening from the words alone? Re-read the pages and see how you did.

Tests reveal that training the brain to take in information at speed also improves the memory, as it has to work at a higher level.

15.Workout your memory

Choose six random numbers and repeat them in your head for a minute. Close your eyes and imagine you’re standing before your front door. In flashing lights above the letterbox is the first number in the sequence.

Unlock the door and as you step inside, you nearly fall over a giant foam figure, the second number in your sequence. In your mind, head towards the kitchen and find the kettle is in the shape of the third number.

Sit down and your chair is the shape of the fourth number.

Continue through your home, placing the numbers in different locations, then run through this journey in your mind several times.

Allow time to pass then recall the visual journey and see how many of the numbers you can remember.

The combination of repetition, visual association and the familiar setting of your home helps your brain form connections to
each number.

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