Your brain, like your body, needs exercise. As we age, our brains begin to function differently – not quite up to their youthful standards. A study published in the American Journal of Psychology showed that age-related decreases in the brain activity of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in motor control, were associated with a decline in motor function and could impact performance of tasks involving frontal brain regions.
If you want to keep your brain in tip-top shape, it’s imperative to challenge it with a work out, just like you would your body. Here are a few brain games you can play with yourself to keep your mind engaged and working hard.
Memorize the lyrics to new music.
If all the songs on your iPod are played out, try out some new tunes, and work on committing those lyrics to memory while you’re at it. Not only might you find your new favorite artist, but you’ll be keeping your brain at work memorizing that new ditty.
Use your left hand.
Better yet, use your non-dominant hand. Switching it up can change the landscape of the brain by forming new neural pathways. Try doodling with your opposite hand or holding your fork southpaw style. It will probably feel rather uncomfortable at first, but the longer you keep with it and the more skills you learn, the more ambidextrous you’ll become.
Change your routine.
Changing your routine is another way to keep your brain on its toes. Just like using your non-dominant hand, revamping your regimen can form new neural pathways that will keep your brain active too. It can be as simple as taking a different route home from the office or putting your left shoe on before the right, but these tiny changes are enough to keep your neurons guessing.
Doing two things at once can keep your brain engaged as well. Listen to a podcast on your commute – or kill two birds with one stone and learn some new lyrics. Watch the news while you’re making dinner. Call and chat with a friend while you’re taking a walk. Just don’t go texting and driving; that kind of multitasking won’t do anyone any good.
Learn a new language.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? If not, maybe it’s time to learn some German. Or French or Spanish or coding or cooking. Learning a new vocabulary in a subject can engage new parts of the brain, keeping it lively and at work. Plus, you can take your new language skills and show them off in a brand new country.
Exercise your mind’s eye.
It’s like playing adult I Spy. Every time you walk into a new room, really scope it out. Use all your senses to take in as much of your new, unfamiliar surroundings as you can. Make note of people, objects, sounds and smells and, once you’ve left, try to remember as many of them as you can. Challenge your brain to piece together as complete an image as you can.
Reach out and say hello.
Social interactions can do wonders to keep our brains engaged, especially as we age. Talking to an old friend or a new acquaintance switches on our minds as we strategize conversation, solve problems, anticipate our social partner and consider how we’re going to respond. You’ll fire up those pathways to make new, meaningful neurological and social connections.
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