Just like you go to the gym to exercise your physical muscles, you can also exercise your brain to keep it sharp and healthy. And like physical fitness, there are lots of different ways to “work out” your mental muscles. Here are some easy, everyday activities that science has shown can boost your mental performance in just five minutes a day.
Crosswords and Other Word Games
Crosswords, Scrabble, and other word games have been shown to improve verbal fluency and increase vocabulary. They also help keep your mind sharp as you age. In one study of over 2,800 adults aged 50 and up, those who played word games had a lower risk of cognitive decline than those who didn’t play any games at all. And in another study of people with Alzheimer’s disease, playing word games was found to improve memory and thinking skills.
Solving Math Problems
You don’t have to be a math whiz to reap the benefits of solving math problems. In fact, even just trying to do simple calculations in your head can give your brain a workout. One study found that older adults who did daily math exercises had better mental flexibility and problem-solving skills than those who didn’t do any math exercises.
Another study found that second graders who worked on math puzzles had better the ability to pay attention than those who didn’t do the puzzles. So next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, try mentally calculating the total cost of your purchase instead of letting your mind wander.
Reading for Pleasure
While reading for school or work is important, reading for pleasure can also have some serious brain benefits. In one study, people who read for just six minutes a day were found to have increased levels of life satisfaction compared to those who didn’t read at all. Reading has also been linked with increased empathy, decreased stress levels, and improved sleep quality.
How does brain training work?
Brain training exercises work by improving specific cognitive skills. These skills are the basic mental processes that we use to do everyday activities like reading, remembering, and problem-solving.
When you improve these skills, you can see benefits in other areas of your life as well—like being able to better manage multiple tasks at once or remember someone’s name after meeting them for the first time.
Some brain training exercises also work on what’s known as “fluid intelligence.” This is the ability to see relationships between things, solve new problems, and adapt to new situations. Training your fluid intelligence can have benefits in both your personal and professional life—like being able to come up with creative solutions to problems at work or making quick decisions in a crisis.
So how do you start brain training?
There are lots of different ways to do brain training exercises, and there’s no one “right” way to do it. Some people like to use brain training apps, while others prefer to do paper-and-pencil puzzles.
And there are also some brain training activities that you can do in your everyday life, like reading and doing math problems.
These are just a few examples of easy activities that can help boost your mental performance. So next time you have five minutes to spare, try doing one of these activities instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media or watching TV. Your brain will thank you!