5 Brain Training Exercises to Improve Cognitive Skills

1. Learn a Second Language

Learning a foreign language is one of the most difficult things for your brain to pick up. But, as they say in sports, “no pain, no gain.” Learning a foreign language is one of the greatest exercises on your brain’s hippocampus, which has to do with memory. People who are bilingual have a larger hippocampus, higher IQs, and score higher than their monolingual peers in all standardized tests. People who know even one foreign language have increased brain connectivity, which has been proven to ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s. To get started learning, you could download free language learning apps like¬†Duolingo right on your phone.

2. Meditation

Stress is the worst possible thing for your brain. Yet, we live in a world that demands us to live in a constant state of anxiety. How can we combat this? Simple: meditate daily. Researchers have found that meditation can actually decrease the brain’s amygdala, which contributes to heightened depression and anxiety levels. People who start meditating on a regular basis have lower stress levels, lower rates of depression, and overall better health.

3. Read Literary Fiction

Reading high quality fiction can help with our brains empathize with others. Researchers at the New School in NYC found that people who read literary novels, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, had the greatest sense of empathy and a deeper understanding of other people’s thoughts. Literary fiction, researchers noted, is better for cultivating empathy because the reader has to work harder to understand the psychological nuances of the characters. Pop fiction, on the other hand, has the tendency of presenting the reader with stereotypes that often just reinforces the reader’s expectations of others.

4. Learn Cooking

We all start to lose our taste buds rapidly after the age of 50. To combat the loss of interest in eating in old age, you can reawaken your interest in food by taking an active interest in cooking exotic dishes. Not only does cooking keep your brain active, the home made dishes are always better for your brain’s health than pre-packaged foods. Nutritionists recommend using a variety of spices, such as turmeric, oregano, or cilantro, to enliven your recipes without adding too much sodium.

5. Learn A New Musical Instrument

Learning a musical instrument not only improves strength in the hippocampus for memory, it also increases the brain’s motor, auditory, and visual skills. Studies have shown that only fifteen months after a child begins to learn a musical instrument, the hippocampus begins producing new neurons. Regular practice of the piano has also been shown to increase white matter in the brain.

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