12 ways to boost memory, focus, and mental skills, by Vinita Alvares Fernandes
The brain is an organ with no actual muscle except for the muscle tissue in the middle of the arteries that carry blood to the brain yet we are told to treat it like a muscle and to keep it healthy and functioning at its best, like all muscles, we need to exercise it. Mental health exercises like cognitive activities and memory games are critical to strengthen and maintain brain health and known to benefit people of all ages, especially seniors.
The brain is made up three main parts each specialized in different areas, that are responsible and work together for the functioning of the human body —
The Cerebrum make up 80% of the brain, is divided into the left and right hemispheres, which are further divided into four lobes each. The left side controls speech, comprehension, arithmetic and writing. The right side controls creativity, spatial ability, artistic and musical skills.
The Occipital Lobes are responsible for visual processing- colour, light and movement
The Temporal Lobes are responsible for memory, understanding language, hearing, sequencing and organizing.
The Parietal Lobe manages sensation, interprets language and words, handwriting and body positioning.
The Frontal Lobes are responsible for personality, behavior, emotions, intelligence, concentration, self-awareness, speech, problem solving, judgement and motor function.
The cerebellum is at the back base of the brain amounts to 10% of the brain’s volume, made up of a multitude of neurons, it is responsible for coordination and balance, posture and walking.
The brain Stem lies between the spinal cord and the brain, it is responsible for controlling our breathing and sleep.
What exactly are brain exercises?
There are many ways to keep your brain healthy and active at every age and stage of life. These cognitive activities to maintain brain health are called brain exercises. Exercising your brain helps with simple things like; the ability to expedite daily tasks, improving overall focus, concentration and both long term and short term memory.
Brain Exercises to boost memory, focus and keep you mentally sharp —
1 – Puzzles and board games
Working on a jigsaw puzzle is an excellent way to exercise your brain. Doing a jigsaw puzzle allows you to use your visual as well as spatial skills thus preventing aging of the brain. Playing board games requires you to use your thinking, problem solving and analytical abilities thus strengthening and utilizing various cognitive functions. Playing board games and solving puzzles is a supreme way to challenge your brain plus it’s fun! (Exercising the Cerebrum and the Temporal Lobes)
2 – Gardening and being one with nature
Older people tend to spend more time indoors than outdoors which means less sun exposure that might result in Vitamin D deficiency, this can affect the nervous system and cause cardiac issues. Gardening is a great outdoor activity, using your cognitive abilities to execute all gardening processes, getting your fix of vitamin D while soaking in the sun and reveling in the smell of the earth and the aroma of the flowers, admiring nature in all its glory can help stimulate and rejeuvenate the brain. Walking in a park with or amongst other people boosts brain activity through conversation or observation thus keeping your brain active. (Exercising the Frontal lobes and the Parietal Lobes)
3 – Mastering your poker face
Card games are one of the best adult activities to revitalize your brain. Playing any game of cards whether it’s a round of poker or go fish can improve your memory and analytical skills. (Exercising the Temporal Lobes)
4 – Building your vocabulary or learning a new language
Learning new words and building your vocabulary stimulates multiple regions of the brain and is a brain boosting activity. A quick and easy way to build your vocabulary is to learn five new words everyday and use them multiple times a day in your conversation or messaging. This can help boost your memory, improve your linguistic skills and delay mental aging. Learning a new language or being fluent in more than one language is another great way to improve your creativity, cognitive power and linguistic abilities. (Exercising the Parietal Lobes and the Temporal Lobes)
5 – Cooking
Cooking or baking is one activity that allows you to use all your five senses smell, touch, taste, seeing, and hearing, thus using different parts of your brain. Following a recipe or cooking from memory requires you to use your judgment, planning skills and helps you feel self reliant and confident. Cooking is one of the most satisfying activities a person can engage in at any age. (Exercising the Frontal Lobes and the Parietal Lobes)
6 – Athletic Activities
A healthy mind is directly proportional to a healthy body. Being active pumps blood and oxygen throughout your body improving breathing and sleep. Low impact activities like yoga or walking are advisable for older adults as it’s easier on the body with the same fabulous effects. (Exercising the cerebellum and brain stem)
7 – Dancing
Dancing is a great energy booster, it increases your flexibility, aids memory, reduces stress and can help prevent age related dementia, watching dance is also a visual stimulator. You dont have to be the best dancer to dance it out just put on your dancing shoes and go shake your tail feather or treat your eyes to a dance recital. (Exercising The Occipital Lobes, the Frontal Lobes and the Cerebellum)
8 – Arts and Crafts
Creativity requires a lot of mental strength and greatly impacts our brain power. It is a great way to express yourself, strengthen your hand-eye coordination, and encourages use of your visiospartial skills. Drawing, scrap booking, stitching, knitting, painting are some of the most popular creative activities for older adults to engage in. Let your creative juices flow. (Exercising The Occipital Lobes, the Frontal Lobes and the Temporal Lobes)
9 – Upskilling or learning a new skill
Improving some of your existing skills not only allows you to stay upto date and relevant but also allows you to reinvent yourself, expand your learning, improve your memory, and stay intouch with your cognitive abilities associated with that skill. Upskilling is a great way to stay current, make new connections in your brain or even strengthen existing connections. Your brain is never idle. (Exercising the Frontal Lobes and the Temporal Lobes)
10 – Listen to music or play a musical instrument
We turn to music when we are happy and we turn to music when we are sad. Listening to music or playing an instrument is one of the quickest ways to sharpen and strengthen your brains’ power, it is like kickstarting a car, it sends a surge of creativity and endorphins to your brain and keeps your senses sharp. (Exercising the Temporal Lobes and the Parietal Lobes)
11 – Switching your routine
It is very easy to fall into a routine and life can become mechanical after a point. While routines are great to provide a framework and help you perform day to day tasks, switching your routine is extremely beneficial to keep life exciting. It allows your brain to figure out a way to deal with the surprises of the day, fuels your cognition. Its good to keep your brain on its toes. (Exercising the Frontal Lobes)
12 – Meditating
Just like your cellphone needs to be recharged in order to optimally function, the human mind and body need recharging. Meditating is the human version of being plugged into a charger, it calms your body, relaxes your mind, brings awareness to your breathing and reduces stress. A few minutes of meditation can leave you feeling renewed. (Exercising the Cerebellum and the Brain Stem)
Did you know?
The difference between the mind and the brain— The two terms are used interchangeably, while the brain is a physical thing and can be touched, the mind is mental and cannot be touched.
Paying attention to your brain health is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Incorporating mindful brain stimulating activities into your daily life is a sure shot way to keep your mind, body and soul enriched and young.
Go out there and exercise your mind. Your brain will definitely thank you!