Keep your brain sharp with memory-boosting activities.

5 Brain-Boosting Activities to Sharpen Your Mind

If you’re feeling scattered, disorganized, or forgetful, welcome to the club. These are distracting times, and many people are feeling even more unfocused and memory-challenged than usual. And if you’re getting older, these issues may be getting more problematic, since memory does decline with age.

Happily, cognitive decline is not something we have to just accept; there are many simple things we can do to train and strengthen our brains and boost our mental fitness. And the good news is that many of them are fun and good for our emotional health, too! Try introducing some of these activities into your daily routine.

1. Get Your Game On

Playing games like crosswords, Sudoku, word searches, chess, Scrabble, and card games can help keep your mind engaged to help with memory, attention, and reasoning. And research shows doing jigsaw puzzles jigsaw strengthens visual perception and recognition. Short on time? Download a few game apps to your phone so you can play a hand of solitaire or add a few words to a crossword puzzle while waiting in line at the grocery store or in the doctor’s waiting room.

2. Learn a new skill

You may have heard that learning a language or tackling a new skill such as playing the guitar is an excellent way to boost brain health. This is true, but if that sounds too challenging, you can get the same benefits from just about any new skill you’d like to learn, from drawing, painting or knitting to cooking or woodworking.

3. Relax your mind

Meditation and yoga are well known for providing the benefits of stress relief and relaxation, but you may not know that they have also been shown to boost memory, focus, and efficiency. So go ahead and practice those downward dogs or make time for 15 minutes of meditation in the morning. And if that’s too much, you can practice mindfulness while walking or eating as well.

4. Liven up your social life

Maintaining a strong social network is one of the best things you can do to stay mentally healthy as you age. Stay connected to family and friends through get-togethers or phone calls, and look for ways to be involved in other social activities like book clubs or sports. If you’re not a joiner, look for other ways to be involved in your community like volunteering or participating in a community garden.

5. Switch hands to sharpen your mind

Studies show that doing tasks like writing with your non-dominant hand can create new neural pathways in the brain. So if you’re right-handed, try writing, drawing, or brushing your teeth with your left hand, and vice versa. Using your non-dominant hand not only boosts brain activity, it can help with dexterity too!

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.