A clear and sharp mind is an important thing to pursue. Research shows that challenging your brain with new or difficult activities can actually build new brain cells and strengthen the connection between them, which is great for warding off cognitive decline and memory loss later in life. Even more, having a sharp and active mind can reduce your stress levels, help you recall information faster, and make you feel more engaged with life.
Sounds like a good deal to us. So, here are 8 things you can try to keep your brain in tip-top shape.
1. Find a new favorite podcast
There are a ton of mentally-stimulating and thought-provoking podcasts out there. NPR, The BBC, WNYC, and others have created all kinds of different shows to satisfy your appetite for pop culture, world news, crazy storytelling, and new music. Some of our favorites include This American Life, The BBC World News Service, Radiolab, and the TED Radio Hour. Get your friends in on it too and prepare to have a lot more to talk about!
2. Get social!
Push the boundaries of your social comfort zone. Make an account on Meetup.com and do something you enjoy with a bunch of likeminded people. Do you like camping? Foodies? Beach days? Yoga? They have meetups for virtually anything. It’s a great way to make new friends in your area and a chance to have challenging and stimulating conversations with people even outside of your regular social circles.
3. Keep a journal or blog
Have you ever sat down after a long mental pause (like a summer trip) to write a long email or letter and realized you’ve forgotten how to form a sentence? Don’t let it happen again. Keep a journal or blog to work both the logical and creative sides of your brain.
4. Go on an adventure
You don’t need to travel all the way to the Peruvian rainforest to find adventure (though, that would be super cool). Even visiting a new side of town, or driving a few hours to another state or a tourist site, will do the trick. Make a habit of seeking out the new and exciting. You’ll stimulate your brain and satisfy your wanderlust at the same time.
5. Break out your reading list
Here’s an obvious one. Check out the New York Times’ Bestsellers List, pick your favorite 4 or 5, and see how many you can finish in a month’s or two-month’s time. You might even consider joining a book club or starting one with your friends. (Our recommendation: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. A few of us just finished reading it and it blew us away!)
6. Pick up a new hobby
Have you always wished you knew how to play the guitar? Maybe chess? Ultimate frisbee? Start tomorrow. Heck, start today! Picking up a hobby is proven to stave off depression and boost your brain power. This study showed that 256 people ages 87 to 91 for four years who continued to make time for arts, crafts, and other hobbies were 73 percent less likely to show signs of fuzzy thinking and memory slips. Not only that, but it showed that having a hobby at any age maintains healthy communication pathways in the brain to promote clear thinking and sharp memories.
7. Learn a new language
You can do it on your own with a textbook/audio/online program (like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo), or with an instructor in a summer class at your local community college. Either way, learning a new language is guaranteed to challenge and entertain your mind, while also unlocking a whole new culture to explore. Just make sure you have someone to practice with. Meet up with people outside of class for weekly discussions, or, if you’re studying on your own, sign up for Verbling to practice with a tutor or native speaker.
Don’t forget to take advantage of moments of calm. Set aside time in your day for some rest and relaxation. Find whatever gives you that zen and do it. Your brain will thank you for the quiet.