17 Practical Brain Fitness Tips

Most everyone knows that your body – muscles, bones, ligaments, heart, lungs and the like – requires physical activity to avoid getting fat, weak and lazy. If your body doesn’t get exercise, all sorts of things go wrong with it.

Besides the obvious addition to the waistline, a lack of exercise can also contribute to back problems, lowered resistance to illness and disease, and even heart attack and organ failure.

What many people do not realize is that the brain and central nervous system (CNS) also require exercise in order to stay fit and to function properly. Of course, pushups aren’t going to keep your brain fit. Physical activity will employ the CNS to a degree as you’ll read below, but mostly the brain and CNS need to be engaged in mental activity.

Studies have shown that mental activity, even something as simple as playing Bingo regularly, minimizes memory loss and increases hand-eye coordination in elderly people. Keep in mind, however, that just as the body adjusts to regular exercise and the exercise has to increase to see continued gains in strength and endurance, the brain also adapts and requires more and more stimulation to maintain or increase cognitive strength.

Here are 17 life coaching tips to keep your brain healthy and sharp:

1. Play Strategy Games

Strategy games like Checkers, Go, Chess, Stratego, Risk and the like require you to strategize,  plan and think several moves ahead, fully engaging your brain. You can often find free versions of these games online. Modern strategy games are also available and challenge your brain even further.

2. Solve Word and Number Puzzles

Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches and similar puzzles engage your brain in analysis and abstract thinking. Crossword puzzles particularly call on you to engage your full memory and abstract conceptualization ability.

3. Check Out Your High School or College Math Books

These allow you to practice your numerical and math skills. For extra credit, go beyond the simple arithmetic exercises and try something more advanced that requires algebra.

4. Play Boggle, Scrabble and other Word Games

These simple word games require you to conceptualize and see solutions that are not obvious, plus they also challenge your vocabulary and verbal skills.

5. Learn Something New

Learning a new skill, whether it’s playing the piano, a computer skill or physical skill like throwing darts, fully engages the brain and gives you a new tool to work with. If the new skill relates to your job or business, you may even be able to get your employer to pay for classes or write them off on your taxes.

6. Reading Non-Fiction Books

Reading non-fiction books engage your brain and challenge you to analyze, evaluate and remember.

7. Discover a New Hobby

Painting, playing an instrument, gardening, drawing, collecting (anything), working with wood . . . Virtually any hobby uses the brain creatively and analytically. Plus it’s also a good way to relax, get into a flow state, and release stress, so hobbies give you multiple benefits.

8. Build Something

It could be a plastic model from the store, a piece of furniture or a house. Numerous mental skills, including creativity, are employed when building something.

9. Get Enough of Sleep

Just as your body and muscles need sleep to rest,  grow and repair, so does your brain. Without adequate sleep, your mind gets foggy and can’t function properly.

10. Schedule Downtime For Rest, Relaxation and Renewal

Too much exercise is called overtraining. Physical overtraining results in injuries. Continual stress is a kind of mental overtraining and also results in injuries that usually manifest emotionally. Just like your body, your brain needs a chance to relax and recover.

11. Take Time To Imagine and Day Dream

Just let your mind wander… use your imagination and see where it takes you.

12. Get Plenty of Physical Exercise

Physical exercise builds up neurotransmitter receptors in muscles and stimulates your nervous system to improve hand-eye coordination and physical skills.

13. Use Your Off Hand for Routine Tasks

The brain can get used to doing things a certain way and most routine tasks get done using one hand or the other. By using your other hand (left hand if you’re right-handed or right hand if you’re left-handed) your brain has to work harder and actively engage. It’s almost like learning a new skill from scratch.

14. Practice Detailed Observation

Whenever you find yourself waiting or with nothing to do, spend time looking around and noticing details about the things and people around you. There is much that we miss in the world around us and practicing observation trains us to be more perceptive.

15. Do Some Things with Your Eyes Closed

This requires a bit of care, but it’s a fun one because we often take sight for granted. Closing your eyes trains the brain to analyze information in a new context.

16. Try To Memorize Something

When it comes to the amazing computer called the brain, most of us have 250 GB hard drives but only use about 2 GB. Just like your garage or basement, the less you’re in there storing and retrieving, the more your memory gathers cob webs.

17. Change Your Habits and Routine

Drive to work a different way or read a book instead of watching television. Balance your checkbook on Monday instead of Saturday. Do something out of the ordinary to wake up your mind.