Having a good memory is something that people of all ages hope for, but unfortunately, we aren’t all blessed with that gift. Most of us don’t have photographic memories and tend to forget things daily, which is inevitable. However, as we age, our memory becomes a more serious concern and mental exercises could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
If you are unfamiliar, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that “slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” Most symptoms show later in life, so it is extremely important for seniors to take proper care of their brain and take note of any changes. Once you begin to let your mind slip, it is harder to go back. Consistency is the key to maintaining and growing your mental capacity through exercising your brain.
I Have to Exercise?
A lot of people tend to shy away when they hear the word “exercise” because they think of it as an extra hassle to somehow fit into their busy day. Many people are already engaging in mental exercises and they don’t even know it! Brain exercises don’t have to be daunting or intimidating, and some of them are even fun. Here’s a list of activities to increase memory gains and information processing.
5 Mental Exercises to Try
1. Puzzles/Board Games
Puzzles are a great way to get the mind moving by figuring out where each piece fits, relative to the big picture. Word puzzles such as Crosswords help stimulate recall memory and word relation, and Sudoku puzzles can help retain basic math skills. Completing these mental exercises can give a feeling of accomplishment, which is always a mood booster.
Board games involve devising a strategy to maneuver around the board in order to triumph over opponents. Some games require you to think carefully about your next move, such as Checkers, and others can even involve critical decisions such as Monopoly. Scrabble is a hybrid of a word puzzle/board game and is another great example of an activity for the brain.
2. Learn a new skill
One of the best ways to strengthen your brainpower is to learn a new skill, whether it is simple or more complex. Trying to learn something new can certainly be frustrating, but the results are well worth it. Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman states that “while brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory, challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain.” Learning a new skill that requires hand movement such as knitting can also boost fine motor skills. It’s never too late to learn something new!
3. Stimulate your senses
One mental exercise to excite almost all of your senses is cooking. Cooking requires you to use smell, touch, sight, and taste. Each sense, when used, fires to a different part of the brain, so it is a great way to exercise your mind. Trying a new recipe can further the benefits, as you will experience something new that you haven’t before.
You should also learn which foods are great for improving memory and brain function. Keep in mind these brain foods, and try to incorporate them into your recipes!
If you already have a skill that someone else is looking to learn, offer help. Having the knowledge is one thing, but being able to explain it to someone else is completely different. Putting thoughts into words that others can understand is a great way to exercise communication skills as well as the mind. It also provides an opportunity to socialize with others.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise aids the growth of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. Doing a full-out workout is not necessary, but just going for a walk a few times a week will certainly help your mind. Exercise also reduces stress and anxiety, which can lead to memory loss in the long-term.
Many mental exercises can be performed in conjunction with one another, and there are a plethora of other activities that can help retain and improve memory. In addition to these exercises, it is important to get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep helps to establish the learning and exercises that take place during the day. The brain needs some time to rest in order to keep up with you!