How to exercise your brain

Sadhana Sarma, Design Editor

Ever wanted to be the next whiz kid, improve your memory or just work on your health and wellbeing? Well, exercising your brain is a great place to start! The benefits of brain exercise are endless. The immediate effects include reduced stress, improved mood, increased focus, more mental flexibility, faster reaction time, higher self confidence and sharper vision and hearing. By putting your brain to work, you can not only improve your current state of being, but also protect yourself from future memory loss and cognitive decline. There are several steps one can take to begin their journey toward a healthy mind, so read on to find out about a few of these steps.

1. Meditate

              Meditation can be a great way to start off the day. The activity is renowned for its stress relieving qualities, but it can also do wonders for your health. Unlike most brain exercises, meditation actually trains your brain to exercise self-control and willpower. Though you may feel relaxed, your brain is actually filtering out any intruding thoughts.

              There are a variety of ways you can approach meditation. Smartphone applications such as Headspace and Calm can aid you through a guided meditation, in which a speaker guides you through a quick session. You can also take time to yourself and sit down in a quiet space with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing and movement. Regardless of the route you choose, learning meditation can be an asset to your mental health.

2. Learn a new language or instrument

              Learning a language may seem like a daunting task, so start off with an easier language. Languages such as Norwegian, Swedish and Spanish are ranked 3 of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Training yourself to speak a whole new language forces you to exercise new parts of your brain. The workload can be minimal because even a few new words a day can go a long way. Platforms such as the app Duolingo and the website Rosetta Stone can aid you to become the next linguist.

              Learning to play a new instrument works in a similar way. New pathways in your mind are opened, especially if you play an instrument that requires multitasking. Piano is valuable, because one must use both hands and a foot in cohesion to play effectively. If you want to try something easier and cheaper, however, consider pursuing the ukulele or harmonica. You will not even realize that you are putting your brain to work as you are engaging in a fun, long term hobby.

3. Use your non-dominant hand

              Using your left hand versus your right hand stimulates different parts of your brain. While being right-handed usually means you are a left-brained person who tends to have higher abilities in logical thinking, being left-handed often means you are right-brained with higher abilities in creativity. Engaging the other side of your brain can help you become more versatile.

Try running drills such as rewriting assignments or writing short stories with your non-dominant hand. Obviously, be careful about the times you choose to partake in this drill, as your handwriting is likely to be illegible. Practice does make perfect, however, and after some time you will have the talent of being ambidextrous as well as a healthier mind.

4. Choose brain-stimulating activities for pastimes

              Reading, writing, problem-solving, chess playing and solving crossword puzzles are simple activities that you can do in your free time to stimulate your brain. Find what interests you, whether it be a book about an intriguing new topic or the newspaper’s weekly crossword. Then, make a habit of doing the activity often and with great focus on the task at hand. Choosing to partake in brain-stimulating activities rather than watching television or playing video games as your pastime of choice will do wonders for your brain’s development.