A closeup of hands holding wood puzzle pieces.

Unique Ways to Train Your Brain

October 13 is National Train Your Brain Day! Here are some fun and unique ways to support your memory, focus, and problem-solving skills!

How far can a rabbit run into the woods?
How do you measure 7 gallons of water with only a 3-gallon jug and a 5-gallon jug?
What’s a word that is pronounced differently merely by capitalizing the first letter?

If you’re scratching your head from these three brain teasers, you aren’t alone! Tapping into mental dexterity can be difficult for a number of reasons, and we could all (probably) give our brain some more love. The good news? Brain training activities have shown benefits across all age groups; meaning, you can, in fact, teach new tricks to any dog! As we age, routines set in and the opportunities to challenge ourselves mentally become few and far between. National Train Your Brain Day is our annual reminder: building cognitive reserve is an on-going task. Luckily, we have a list for keeping that lifelong task fun and enjoyable!

Ways to train your brain

  1. Start or join a book club. You’ll read new material, and you’ll also get a boost from the social aspect of a book club!

  2. Host a game night. Again, social interaction is great for keeping sharp! But playing strategy games like Scrabble or Bridge helps, too! If board games aren’t your thing, what about a Trivia Night? Pull together different questions to stump friends and family or attend a trivia night at a local restaurant.

  3. Home project. (Most of us) have that “one thing” we would love to change about our home; choose a new landscape layout, rearrange your laundry room, add shiplap to your wall… whatever it is, you’ll tap into your creative design side and think through the tasks to finish the project; chances are, you’ll learn something new along the way!

  4. Learn an instrument. Have a child or grandchild learning an instrument at school? Practice with them at home. Learning a new instrument will help keep you sharp, and it’s a fun way to bond with your little one.

  5. Volunteer. Volunteer for something that uses a skill you don’t have but would like to learn!

  6. Pet Adoption. Social support, like having a puppy pal around, has been shown to support cognitive health.

  7. Think positively. People who were shown negative stereotypes about aging and failing memory performed worse on memory tasks than those who were shown positive stereotypes. Simply believing you’ll have a strong recall is beneficial!

  8. Start a bedtime routine. Sleep is an important part in cognitive reserve, but the stressors of daily life can linger into the night making solid shut eye difficult. Implement a bedtime routine; every night, at a certain time, begin a routine that relaxes and soothes you. If you start your 30-minute routine at 8:30pm every night, you’ll know by 9pm you’ll be in bed.

  9. Get creative. Right-brained hobbies, or something in the realm of arts and crafts, supports focus. Need a few ideas? Hand make your loved one’s cards for their next celebration. They’ll be impressed and you’ll get your right-brain juices flowing. Also, sewing, painting, photography and even adult coloring books are great ways to get creative.

  10. Take a cooking class. Sure, cooking taps into your creative side, but it also requires the use of many different senses. The more senses used, the more areas of your brain that are activated, and the better your learning experience will be! The same goes for other activities that are multi-sensory such as sculpting or pottery.

  11. Go dance! Whether your preference is to find a dance class at a local gym or YouTube Dance Lessons when everyone is out of the house, learning new dance moves can support your brain’s processing and memory.

  12. Become a mentor. Teaching someone else a skillset you already have requires you to think about and explain that material in different ways further extending your learning experience, too.

  13. Meditate. It doesn’t have to be a long meditation. Taking time away for just 5 minutes can support memory and help lower stress.

  14. Do chores with your eyes closed. Find a chore that is familiar to you, such as folding clothes, and try performing that chore with your eyes closed! It requires your brain to do some extra work by using different neural pathways and it livens up any tedious task.

  15. Exercise. A great way to keep exercise fun is by joining a team sport. Activities like pickleball, tennis or racquetball allow you to challenge your mind while also having fun. If you’re more into solo workouts, then swimming is a great activity for the mind as swimmers have to constantly think about their breathing, strokes and the length of the pool.