Perhaps the most admirable quality of the human brain is its continuous ability to adapt, rewire and keep itself alive. So much so that research shows that even at old age, the brain can grow new neurons.
The mental power of a person can decline due to disease or age related loss of memory or motor skills. It can also be lost due to inactivity or lack of mental exercise and stimulation. Little wonder the famous phrase goes 'use it or lose it'.
Mental stimulation becomes imperative to keep the brain from decline. In other words, brain exercises make for a better brain. Check out brain exercises for adults and children, right and left brain exercises and brain training exercises.
A young child is filled with wonder at the delightful discoveries and daunting challenges in life. Brains take countless bits of information which are used for developing life time skills. Brains grow and improve with exercise.
Look at this exercise which can help strengthen the neural connections and create new ones. When one switches the hand normally used to control the 'mouse' in a computer system, it becomes hard to be precise and accurate with the motions. This uncomfortable and awkward feeling means that the brain is learning a new skill.
Neurobics is a unique system of brain exercises that uses five physical senses and emotional sense in unexpected ways. These exercises are so designed to help the brain manufacture its own nutrients that enable the brain cells to strengthen, preserve and grow.
Neurobics was created by Lawrence C Katz, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. Neurobics can be done anywhere, anytime in fun, easy and offbeat ways. Neurobic exercises are very flexible and they can activate underused nerve pathways and connections to help stay with a fit and flexible mind.
After getting dressed, keep the eyes closed and wash your hair. Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. Do not talk.
Break routines: You can take a new route to go to the office. Try to eat with an opposite hand. Go to a new grocery store and shop. Listen to music, smell flowers, tap fingers in the rain, watch clouds play and create clay models.
Travel is yet another way to stimulate the brain. The early Homo sapiens's nomadic lifestyle provided tremendous impetus for their brains which led to the development of superior tools and survivor skills. They also followed a diverse diet which allowed their brains to progressively evolve.
A cognitive psychologist in UK found that when elderly people regularly played bingo, it helped to minimize memory loss and also bolster hand-eye coordination. Bingo can help players of all ages remain mentally sharp and focused.
Brain training exercises
It is as important to stretch the mental muscles much like our physical ones. One has to find activities that can break the mental sweat and keep the brain in shape. A cerebral workout has to be undertaken in possibly a structured manner. There are challenging and fun games that work in the five cognitive areas:
It is necessary to ensure that the brain is optimally worked out. To stimulate and stay mentally sharp as brains age, there are certain brain exercises. A few of them are discussed below.
Memory: Memory is crucial for all cognitive activities of the brain, including reasoning and calculation. The brain has several types of memory and each has to be trained to retain good memory skills. Listening to music is not only an enjoyable activity but memorizing the lyrics can boost the acetylcholine level which helps build the brain. Even simple challenges like showering and getting dressed in the dark or using the opposite hand to brush can help build new associations and connections of the brain.
Attention enables one to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions outside. Attention can be improved by changing the daily routines simply. Instances could be reorganizing the desk. As one ages, the attention span can decrease and this makes one more susceptible to distraction and less efficient multitasking. Listen to a radio and jog or do math in the head while driving makes the brain work at doing more at the same amount of time.
Language: Activities concerning language can challenge the ability to recognize and remember and understand words. Fluency, grammatical skills and vocabulary are also important. Regular practice can help one to expand knowledge of new words and at the same time retrieve words that are familiar. For instance, try reading the business articles in-depth and not the usual sports section in a magazine.
Visual-spatial: Analyzing visual information becomes necessary to be able to act within the environment. One can try to walk into a room and pick up five items and their locations. While exiting the room, recall the five items and where they were located. After two hours, try and remember the items and their locations again. Challenging oneself to recall everything and writing it down can force the use of memory and train the brain to focus on your surroundings.
Executive function: Logic and reasoning skills are used daily even without our realizing it. Fun activities like video games have a defined strategy to reach a desired outcome. The right moves to reach the solution are calculated. Engaging in a brief visit with a friend can boost the intellectual performance. Problem solving games also belong to this category.
Fun games for the brain
It has been proved that playing sharpens the brain. Play engages the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for the highest level cognitive functions. These include self knowledge, memory, mental imagery and reward processing. There are several activities like bridge, chess, sudoku, role playing, crossword puzzles that provide rigorous neural workouts.
Right brain games
Though structurally similar, the human brain which is split into two halves, functions differently. The right brain is creative and intuitive thinking. The left brain is more into logical thinking or mathematical reasoning. People dominated by right brain are those who are more visual and creative in their problem solving skills.
Painting and sketching can add a lot of fun.
Playing any musical instrument or singing are ideal right brain exercises.
Sports activities like baseball, table tennis and badminton can be great right brain stimulants.
Creating and writing stories is a right brain exercise.
Map reading games need a lot of visualization.
Theater games are great for the right brain. Improvised drama is one such a game. A rough storyline is given and the group must come up with a small skit. As there is no written story line, one needs to use imagination and improvisation skills and come up with a story and act.
Left brain games
There are some who are left brain dominated. They think methodically and follow order and procedures. Left brain can boost overall brain processes. It is also verbally oriented. Left brain exercises help to boost these processes. Brain teasers and crossword puzzles are good examples of left brain exercises. Spelling and match activities are also good left brain exercise examples. The fact is that all successful person have a right brain inner senses well integrated with left brain outer functions.
Brain exercises for children
Brain exercises for children help them to develop skills for better functioning and mental abilities for life.
Memory game is one of the easiest brain exercises for children. This can be done in a car or while at home. Teaching children to spell, know their phone numbers and addresses are expanded to remember poems, songs and names of family trees.
Memorizing also helps children use their brain to focus and retain the information. Obstacle course for the brain combining physical and mental exercises can be played. Stations can be made and along a physical obstacle course. To proceed to the next station, one has to complete a mental task, a short crossword or a word problem.
Use of non dominant hand (left or right) for writing or drawing are brain exercises for children to encourage both sides to work together.