Pump Up Your Brain

Six exercises that will get your grey matter working harder, smarter, and stronger.

You eat the right foods, spend an hour of every day in the gym, and get plenty of sleep. But if you’re not working out your brain, you’re leaving a big gap in your overall strength. If you want to beef up your brain, give these exercises a shot.

Learn and Connect: Sure, you might tell your family and friends that you know everything, but you know deep down that there is a world of information that you’re unaware of. Increase your knowledge by reading magazines and books about things you don’t know about. But don’t just memorize the order of operations for rebuilding an engine. Connect the process with how you perform cardiac surgery every day. Making connections helps you make more sense of and remember information about the unknown.

Riddle Me This: If it’s been a while since you tried your mind at a riddle, head to the library and grab a book full of them. Though riddles may seem to be silly ways to spend your time, working through tough riddles helps you to think creatively. On top of keeping your mind sharp for years to come, this creative thinking will help immediately with any problems you’re dealing with, whether at work, home, or play.

Rubik’s Cube: It baffled you for years during the 1980s, and now it’s back with a vengeance. Show the Cube you mean business by picking one up and solving it. Yes, it will take a lot of time and patience, but you can do it. Need a little help? Grab a how-to book that teaches the algorithms for solving the world’s greatest handheld puzzle. No matter how you go about solving the Rubik’s Cube, you’ll have hours of brain-stimulating fun. And once you get good at it, you’ll finally be able to participate in your neighborhood talent show.

Word a Day: By now, you have a solid grasp of the English language. But as you know, you could always know more words and learn how to use the ones you know more appropriately. To further your language know-how, learn a new word every day. You can do this by scanning your dictionary or by signing up for a word-a-day e-mail from a number of websites. Another way to improve your vocabulary is to spend time figuring out which word to use in which situation. (Example: affect vs. effect, its vs. it’s, etc.)

The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. — Carl Sagan

Draw It Out: You may not be Monet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the brain-boosting benefits of drawing. Pick up a pencil and paper and start easy. Try tracing your hand. Pull your hand away and look carefully at it. Add small details and shading to your drawing. Do it again in a week. Your drawing will get better, as will your brain. You can also try drawing a still life such as a basket of fruit. Just remember to start with a rough outline and work your way into exact shapeliness and shading.

Remember Your Day: If you’re like most people, you need a to-do list in order to get things done. But sometimes, your written list can be a crutch that prevents you from maximizing your memory’s potential. Help strengthen your memory by writing down your to-do list, memorizing the list, and sticking the list in your pocket. Then go about your day, performing the things on your list in the order you wrote them down. At the end of the day, pull out your list to find out how you did. For an added challenge, write on your original list what time you plan to do each activity and keep track of when you actually perform each task during the day.

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