Simple ways to improve your brain cognition

Brain games to improve cognition

Use it or lose it

Tamara Castellano
A girl from Miami living in the mountain of Utah still wearing heels in the snow.

Use it or lose it.  We’ve all heard that saying.  But did you know it also applies to your brain?  Just like muscles that don’t get used or that aren’t quite as strong as you age, your brain can atrophy too. It’s no secret that good nutrition and regular exercise helps your brain, but there are also some fun ways to improve and preserve your cognition, especially as you age. 

The connection between your brain and being a couch potato

Plopping down on the couch and watching TV for a few hours may sound incredibly appealing, but it’s one of the worst things you can do for your brain health and cognitive skills, not to mention being bad for your overall health too. When you are sedentary and passive (meaning you’re not engaged with what is happening around you and you’re generally being mindless), your brain starts to atrophy and your cognitive skills diminish.  Make sure you’re getting some exercise every day, even if it’s just a short walk around the block.

Take a cooking class

Have you ever heard the expression, you eat with your eyes? While that is true, you stimulate your appetite with your eyes, cooking using all of your senses, which in turn, uses different parts of your brain.  Better still, try learning a new cuisine, then take it to the next level and try to memorize a recipe.  A great resource to consider is Sur la Table.  They have an entire schedule of classes—including some for kids.  Check out classes in your area here.

Learn a new sport

Have you been wanting to take up yoga or learn to play golf?  Learning a new sport is not just good for your body, but it’s also good for your brain because you’re learning something new.  It requires focus, concentration and practice on an on-going basis and all of those things stimulate your brain and improve cognition.

Learn a new language

Parlez-vous Français? Habla Español? Learning to speak a new language is one of the best ways to improve cognition.  It requires something called ‘deep listening,’ meaning you block out everything else and are completely engaged in listening to every word that is being said. According to an article in ScienceDaily, research shows that having a rich vocabulary helps with the brain’s ‘cognitive reserve.’  You don’t even have to leave home to learn a new language.  Check out Rosetta Stone or Babbel and start learning.

Challenge your memory

Memorization helps improve recall and there are some easy ways you can exercise this part of your brain.  We all go food shopping regularly so the next time you go, try memorizing your shopping list instead of taking it with you.  Have a new favorite song?  Look up the lyrics and memorize them.

Have a mental workout

I recently came across an article in Reader’s Digest about ways to give your brain a mini workout.  The first one I tried was brushing my teeth with my non-dominant hand.  Suffice it to say I did not end up with a lot of toothpaste in my mouth, but my face was minty fresh!  There are some quirky ideas in this article that are fun to try.  Perhaps you’ll have better luck at getting your teeth clean.  

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