Mental Exercises To Improve Memory

By Friends Life Care Contributors

Life is a series of fixed routines and with good reason. Routines make life much simpler. A daily routine limits the number of decisions necessary in a day and takes the guesswork out of complex tasks. Routine makes it easier to remember through repetition.

While some routine is necessary, especially for older adults, a life of constant routine and reliving the same day over and over limits brainpower. Just as the human body gets soft and lethargic from lack of exertion, so too does the brain. The mind becomes sluggish and atrophies if it doesn’t receive constant stimulation.

More specifically, the brain’s cognitive reserve — that’s the ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging without showing visible signs of slowing — diminishes over time. Just like weight workouts add lean muscle, research now proves that performing targeted brain exercises on a daily basis can increase your brain’s cognitive reserve.

Continuously keeping your brain on its toes is one way to maintain a healthy, sharp mind. Here are some easy activities to keep the mind sharp in your later years.

Flash Cards

Flash cards are one of the most efficient ways to learn a new topic, and it’s not just for school kids. Create flash cards on any subject you know absolutely nothing about. Memorize the cards and test yourself once a week. Try and take a test on the subject or ask someone to quiz you on the information.

Play Games

Countless games are perfect for working out the mind. Chess, checkers, puzzles and memory games will all provide stimulation, even board games that you might connect with your childhood will work the mind. Think of Monopoly ®, Scrabble ®, Yahtze® or others. You’ll not only be forced to think but, playing against an opponent means more exposure to other people and conversation is one of the best brain stimulators available.

Top ten lists aren’t just for websites and former talk show host David Letterman. Lists are a fantastic way to keep the mind sharp and even get organized. Make a list of absolutely anything — grocery items, things to do, your record collection or anything else that comes to mind. Then memorize the list. Wait a few hours and see how many items you can remember. Memorize the list again and test yourself again. Don’t give up until you remember everything on the list. For greater mental stimulation, make the contents of the list as challenging as possible.

Do The Math

If you’ve been avoiding math since junior high, it’s time to give up your phobia. Crunching numbers in your head will help increase your cognitive memory. (Seems like a repetitive sentence.) Figure out problems without using a pencil, paper or calculator. When you think you’ve arrived at an answer, write it down, and then check your work.

Learn To Cook

Cooking uses numerous senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste and all involve different parts of the brain. If you already know how to cook, learn to make an entirely new cuisine. Work with foreign ingredients and even different cooking tools. Many community colleges, restaurants, and retail stores offer cooking and baking classes. You can also try services like Blue Apron, who deliver fresh ingredients and new recipes each week.

Switch Hands

Nothing will make the brain go into overdrive more than trying to do tasks with your opposite hand. If you are left-handed, switch over to the right hand to do everything from brushing your teeth, eating, and using the mouse on your computer. It will obviously be difficult at first — you’ve been using one hand your entire life — but the brain stimulation is beneficial. See how good you can become at using either hand!

There are thousands of other ways to give the brain a good “pump,” from learning a new language or board game to reading books out loud or even using apps or games on your phone. The most important idea is to break the daily routines as much as possible and get your mind thinking and reacting in new and different ways. Trying something new today and going forward will be one of the best ways to improve your memory now and in the future.

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