While we're always using our brains, we're not necessarily doing much to keep them in good shape. Here are the top ten sites and tools to train your brain and exercise your mental muscles.
By now you're probably familiar with Sudoku, but just in case it's a number puzzle game with the objective of filling up a grid of numbers. Check out these instructions to learn how to play. Most people find Sudoku a fun and addictive game, plus it can help improve your problem-solving skills (just not your overall brain health). You can play online, on your iOS device, on Facebook, Android, and pretty much any other platform you can think of.
Wikipedia:Random is simply a means of randomly stumbling on a Wikipedia article. Why is this good for your brain? You can use it to find a new topic to learn about every day. Qwiki, a visually rich, mini Wikipedia that reads to you, is another good starting point. Learning something new every day can keep your brain healthy, so grab a random article and make it a new way to start your morning.
8. Practice Simple Maths Every Day
Americans of a certains age remember (fondly or otherwise) a school procedure known as Mad Math Minute, where you'd need to solve as many maths problems as possible in 60 seconds. While it may have seemed annoying then, it was excellent practice that you can still make use of now. While it's easy enough to create your own Mad Math Minute worksheets, since you're basically just writing out a bunch of simple maths problems on a piece of paper, I found a Mad Math Minute generator for Mrs. Boguski's 5th grade class. It probably wasn't intended for mass consumption on the web, so here are some alternative printable worksheets. The bottom line is this: a minute of simple maths can help get your brain in shape and make you far less reliant on a calculator.
7. Write Instead of Type More Often
We love our keyboards. They're much more efficient at getting words on the page than your hand, a pencil, and a notebook. Nonetheless, you can learn more effectively by writing longhand and so you may want to ditch the laptop when you're acquiring new knowledge. This happens because your brain's filtering system (the reticular activating system, or RAS) processes what you're actively focusing on at the moment. Writing triggers the RAS and lets your brain know it's time to pay attention.
6. Act Like You're Teaching
You can utilise the skills you already have more effectively by acting like you're teaching. Rather than just recalling the steps needing to complete the task at hand, act as though you are teaching yourself how to do it. This will help you recall the necessary information better and avoid making stupid mistakes.
Photo by Renato Ganoza
5. Tell Yourself Stories
Storytelling can be a good way to exercise your brain. First of all, it makes things easier to remember because it puts what you want to remember in a more compelling framework. It gives you a chance to focus on important details and associate emotion with what you're trying to remember. Even if you're not telling yourself a story to help retain the information, you'll still improve your memory just by telling stories in general. Storytelling has been used as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. If storytelling can help an Alzeheimer's patient improve their memory, chances are it can help you.
Photo by Stacy Z
Lumosity is a webapp that provides specialised brain-training activities. You can use it for free, but premium accounts (which you can try free for five days) have a wider range of training options. All the exercises are pretty simple to understand and are fun to play. All of my initial exercises had to do with memory, likely because I selected better memory as one of my goals when I signed up. That's to say that Lumosity's exercises may vary for you based on the information you provide. When you're done, you get a rating and your goal is simply to improve with each day you practice.
Nothing kills your ability to use your brain effectively, as well as your brain's overall health, like too much stress. What's a great way to reduce your stress levels? Meditation—and you don't need to do it with incense and yoga pants. Check out our guide on meditation for the rest of us for some simple ways to get started.
Photo by Cornelia Kopp
2. Learn About Your Brain's Faults and Account for Them
In a previous top ten we've taken a look at ways your brain is sabotaging you and how to beat it. We've also looked at how to avoid burnout from addictive technology, how you can become a lot smarter by realizing you're not that great, how to use your natural inclination towards quitting to your advantage, how imagining eating more can lead to eating less, why it's okay that you and everyone else is an asshole, and many more. Basically, your brain does a lot of things very, very well but sucks at plenty of others. You may not be able to fix the things your brain is bad at in all cases, but at least being aware of your inherent faults can make sure you're taking advantage of your brain's full potential.
1. Exercise and Eat Well
While probably a little obvious, I'd bet that the number of people who believe this is common knowledge is very close to the number of people who don't follow that common knowledge. If you're not exercising and eating right simply because you don't know how, well, check out this 15-minute daily workout from 1904 and structure your daily diet like a pyramid. Anything you do to keep your brain sharp can be easily thwarted if you don't keep your body healthy. A little physical activity and a smart diet will make it much easier for you to your brain in top shape.
Photo by Lululemon Athletica
Got any great brain exercises you like to do? Let's hear 'em in the comments!