We all look for ways to boost the power of our minds. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple, low-cost, and low-tech ways to help heighten cognition.
“Low-tech and mentally stimulating activities, especially challenging ones, help our brains create new connections. The more connections we have, the more pathways our brain has to get to get information to where it needs to go. This can help with this. Improving cognition in general or in specific areas, depending on activity, ”says Dr. Joel Salinas, a behavioral neurologist and faculty member at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
Low-tech brain training activities to try
Mentally stimulating activities get you to do some cognitive work: they require some work to process or produce the information. These types of activities can include any of the following.
- I’m learning a language. Bilingual people have greater mental flexibility and agility, and may have some protection from the risk of developing dementia, compared to people who speak one language. Learning a second language later in life may delay cognitive decline. To get started, listen to language recordings, take a class online, or download an app like Babbel or Duolingo.
- Listening to or composing music. Music can activate nearly all areas of the brain, including those associated with it Emotion, memory, and physical movement. Get this feature by listening to new types of music, or by learning how to play an instrument. Check playlists from other countries, or start learning to play an instrument by watching free YouTube videos.
- Playing cards and board games. The games boost your ability to relive memories (if you play Trivial Pursuit, for example) or think strategically (if you play games like Monopoly or Checkers). Playing card games is beneficial because it requires you to use a number of mental skills simultaneously: memory, visualization, and sequencing.
- travel. A visit to a new location exposes you to sights and sounds that enhance brain flexibility, and form new connections in your brain. You may not be able to travel far during a pandemic, but just exploring nearby areas may produce changes in the brain. Consider driving to a city you’ve never been to before, or going to an outdoor park with unfamiliar terrain (maybe mountains or dense forests) to gain new heights.
- Watch plays, movies, concerts, or museum tours. Cultural activities stimulate the brain in many ways. While you may not be able to enjoy these activities indoors at the moment, it may be possible to see them outside or online. Choose something that takes a little effort to understand, for example a Shakespeare play or a foreign movie (try to figure out what the characters say without reading the subtitles). If you watch a concert, choose one with intricate classical compositions. If you’re looking at a museum gallery online, try to capture the detail the artist used to convey a message.
- Word puzzles. It has been shown that working with word puzzles (such as crosswords, Jumble, or Sudoku) helps people improve their scores on tests of attention, reasoning, and memory. Try a different type of puzzle every day (for example, Sudoku one day, and Jumble the next), and increase the difficulty level as the puzzles get easier.
Maximize the benefits of brain training
Don’t limit yourself to one mentally stimulating activity: some Evidence It is suggested that the more of these activities you perform, the lower your risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
The combination of mentally stimulating activities with exercise, learning or social communication may have a stronger effect on cognition. For example:
- Get fit and dance while listening to new music.
- Learn something by watching a video lecture about an artist before seeing an exhibition of a person’s work.
- Get social by playing an online board game with friends during a video call.
One thing you shouldn’t do: Think of these activities as brain training routines. Just enjoy it because it’s fun. They will improve your life, and they may end up sharpening your cognition.