Research indicates that activities like playing board and brain games can help reduce the risk of dementia by engaging the brain in novel and complex ways. Pull out a game of Scrabble, Backgammon or Monopoly or set up a round of poker or bridge. They will not only provide entertainment, they'll promote brain fitness. Another excellent way to boost your brainpower is to play specially designed brain games. If practiced on a regular basis, brain games can target and improve specific areas of brain function such as memory, concentration, language skills, visual-spatial abilities, logic and organization.
Read & Write
Reading and writing on a daily basis are a great brain workout, especially when you are learning and expressing something new. These 2 R's help engage the hippocampus—the major memory component of your brain. The more you stimulate and massage your hippocampi the better your chances of reducing the risk of memory loss and other forms of dementia. For an added brain stretcher, try to reading words backwards or writing with your non-dominant hand or playing word games.
Have a Hobby (or two)
Manual skills that require an element of hand-eye coordination and a certain amount of mental calculation are great ways to stimulate your spatial-temporal reasoning. Examples of hobbies that fall into this category are knitting and sewing, wood crafts, painting, sculpting and pottery. Playing a musical instrument is also a wonderful way to stimulate your spatial-temporal reasoning. Learning to play (or getting back to) a musical instrument may get harder as you age, but the benefits to your brain health will be worth it. If picking up an instrument is too difficult, then try listening to music, especially classical music, on a regular basis. Research into a phenomenon known as "The Mozart Effect" has shown a relation between listening to classical music and higher brain function at all ages.
Having a hobby means having a challenged brain. The more hobbies you have, the more robust your brain's neural networks. Having hobbies also creates an enriched environment, provide an opportunity for the brain to experience the novel and complex and give you a reason for getting up each day.
Embrace Education (Lifelong Learning)
Learning involves structural, chemical, and functional changes in your brain that can boost your brain health. Lifelong learning allows you to acquire new knowledge and talents that increase your brain's neuroplasticity. In fact, research indicates that continuing education is a major factor contributing to brain longevity and health by helping lay down a rich network of neural associations or brain reserve, which helps delay the onset of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease.
Consider enrolling in community or university courses or educating yourself on a continual basis. Learn a new language. Research has shown that language learning and the level of sophistication of a language system in young adulthood might actually be predictive of brain health in late life. Language development and higher IQ early in life also appear to be related to a reduced risk of dementia. However, taking up a new language at a later age also provides brain health benefits. Start Training
Pick Up a Puzzle
Puzzles, brainteasers and mind games are a great way to stretch your lateral thinking and stimulate your brain. Activities like math problems, Sudoku, and jigsaw and crossword puzzles have proven to increase your brain's working efficiency and greatly sharpen your mental abilities. Research also shows that people who complete brain boosting exercises such as crossword or Suduko puzzles on a regular basis develop brains that perform like those of people a decade or more younger. Anything that requires some concentration and extra thought can do the trick. So, if you are having one of those days when you just don't have the physical energy for a workout, why not take some time to give yourself a mental workout? Start simple with easy puzzles. As your abilities improve, you'll find you can take on increasingly harder challenges.
Or try these brain games for a daily mental workout.
Take a Trip
The best environment for your brain is the complex and new. What better way to get your brain engaged than to take a trip? Whether it's international travel or an excursion into a new neighborhood, leaving familiar surroundings exposes your brain to different stimuli and engages your cortex in fresh and often challenging ways. Navigating the streets of a foreign city or simply taking an unusual route to work not only provides excitement, it bumps your brain out of the subconscious and enriches it.