3 tips for creating healthy habits this New Year
We all forget things from time to time, but have you ever thought about exercising your brain to help strengthen your memory? This week’s post comes from Anthony Fernandaz, who explores the benefits of brain exercises, an alternate ways to help boost your memory, all from the comfort of your home.
Many people look for ways to boost their memory - wouldn’t it be great if we could remember all the beautiful, positive experiences we’ve lived through?
Your brain, like any other muscle in the body, can be trained through mental exercises. These exercises can help you improve your memory, increase your focus, and strengthen your mind. Here is a list of eight practical brain exercises that you can try out:
1. Learn a new skill
One of the best ways to exercise your mind is to learn new things. If there’s an activity you’ve been meaning to try, why not look up tutorial videos available on the internet and start learning anything you want!
One of my top recommendations for acquiring a new skills is to learn how to play a musical instrument. Such an activity can be enjoyable and can have numerous positive impacts on your mind - from improving your focus and memory, to increasing your sense of productivity when you successfully learn how to play a tune or song.
Another option is to learn a new language. Studies show that bilinguals are better at retaining shopping lists, names, and directions, and speaking more than one language can even stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia.
2. Play card games
Playing card games may seem like a fun and simply pastime, but it can also have memory-boosting benefits!
Whether you play a solo game of solitaire, or a round of Uno with members of your household, these entertaining exercises can help you to improve your memory and cognitive skills. You can even try to keep track of where every card is; this can help you to improve your memory, and also make you better at the game. You’ll learn to figure out, through logical decisions, which player has what cards, and you may even find yourself winning almost every time!
3. Draw maps from memory
New experiences and locations often form strong memories, so cast your mind back to a new place you visited, and see whether you can remember key details and observations. You could even try making a map of the place from memory, with any significant points of interest noted down. If you find this difficult, try starting with places you are very familiar with.
Over time, your spatial awareness and capacity to observe things will improve. You may start by only remembering streets and roads you have been down, but may improve to memorise the finer details, like the names of the shops and the architecture of buildings that you pass by.
Creating maps in such a way significantly improves your recall skills, and this exercise has even been employed by Leeds University as a way to improve visual literacy in both children and adults.
If you keep practicing these spatial awareness exercises, eventually you will be able to remember the details of your surroundings and draw really brilliant maps!
4. Relax your mind
Stress and anxiety are significant contributors to forgetfulness; therefore, taking time to improve your overall mental wellbeing can boost your memory too. There are many ways to counter stress; however, I would personally suggest trying out meditation.
Various studies have shown that meditation can improve your focus and help you relax your mind, furthermore, you can also try massage for countering stress. You could even get yourself a zero gravity massage chair, which will help you relax and combat stress.
Other resources for reducing stress and anxiety:
- The Reignite Project, a free 10-week e-course focusing on burnout prevention
- The Calmer Community, our membership platform with guided meditation and more
- Digital Wellbeing Training for professionals looking to improve mental resilience
5. Create a memory palace
Who is the smartest character you've ever read about? I think it would be a safe bet to say Sherlock Holmes is up there. Though he is only a fictional character, many of the concepts shown in Arthur Conan-Doyle’s books are quite practical for improving your brain power and memory; notably, the idea of a memory palace (also known as method of loci). Now, of course, the books have exaggerated the concepts quite a bit, but this technique can still be used to improve your memory.
To get started, take a list you need to memorise, for example, the names of all the continents:
- North America
- South America
You could create a mind palace to help you remember these. A mind palace is an imaginary space in your mind and one that you are incredibly familiar with. Most people choose their childhood home as their imaginary mind palace because they vividly remember the layout and interior details.
So, to memorize the names of the continents, place Asia on your front porch, and then Africa in the doorway, and North America in the living room, and keep going until you reach your Australia. Then whenever you need to recall the names of the continents, you can simply imagine walking around your childhood home.
This technique can take some time to perfect, but it can be incredibly beneficial if you wish to memorise long lists or data sets.
6. Play some (mind) games
Just like playing cards, playing games can also support your ability to remember things. Chess, Sudoku, Scrabble… there are loads of exciting and fun games that you can play to exercise your mind and improve your cognitive skills. Playing these memory-intensive games stimulates your mind and helps you practice a lot of useful skills, like recalling, logic building, and strategising.
So, while we’re all at home, why not dust off the board games or find a book of puzzles to do?
7. Do mental maths
Maths can be hard sometimes, but it definitely does stimulate your mind. Furthermore, the more you do it, the better your mind gets at doing complex calculations, which can also be a useful skill to have.
If you’d like to practice maths to improve your memory, try solving simple problems in your mind, without a pen and paper. You can start with simple equations and move on to more complex ones as you get better.
An excellent place to start is the add-three-minus-seven game. All you need to do is think of a random three-digit number, add three to it, and then subtract seven. Keep going for as long as you can!
8. Create acronyms and mnemonic phrases
And if maths wasn’t enough, why not also use words to support your memory? Acronyms and mnemonic phrases created from the first letter of every word are a great way to remember things. A classic one is the colours of the rainbow:
Richard = Red
Of = Orange
York = Yellow
Gave = Green
Battle = Blue
In = Indigo
Vain = Violet
You may also know this mnemonic phrase as ROY G BIV - which shows two different ways to remember the same list.
You can use this technique on anything - be it a list that’s globally recognised, or your grocery list! By creating new sentences and acronyms, you will experience significant benefits for your memory. So, give this exercise a try as well.
To sum it all up: by exercising your mind, you can boost your memory, enhance your focus, and also learn new skills and mental benefits!
Original source: 8 memory-boosting brain exercises to do at home