You’ve achieved the toned shoulders of a longtime yogi, and your calves are hard as diamonds, but is your brain feeling flabby? If you’re getting regular exercise, your brain is benefiting right along with your heart, lungs, and ability to breathe while wearing skinny jeans.
Given the prominent place your brain holds within the ecosystem of your physical, emotional, and mental functioning, though, it deserves a workout routine all its own. It won’t change how you fit into that favorite cocktail dress, but it’ll make your party conversation exponentially more interesting—and give you the gumption to get there by lifting your mood.
Research shows that people who play brain games regularly tend less toward depression, have better memories, and stay healthier than those who don’t. There’s really no downside, except the frustration of struggling for a six-letter word for onomatopoeia that your partner names immediately.
Put the pieces in place
Jigsaw puzzles became as challenging to find as toilet paper when stay-at-home orders started. But if you are (or have become) a puzzle enthusiast there’s good news for your brain: Putting together a puzzle amps up your short-term memory. Even better? You get a boost of dopamine when you find that elusive piece and—aaaaah!—fit it into place. If you’re really craving a challenge, work a puzzle picture-side down, ya show-off.
Find the aliens, build your brain
The idea that video games are a sad waste of time has been utterly debunked. Video games—especially those that require multitasking—improve cognitive ability, including building memory and decision-making skills. Whether your genre of choice is sports, simulation, or first-person shooters, you get the most benefit from complexity and strategy. And from getting up from the game before your butt goes numb.
Build your buddies’ brains, too
Give your Zoom happy hour an extra challenge and some laughs with a group memory game. With some friendly competition, camaraderie, and a smidge of gratifying smack talk, you win in a whole host of mood-improving ways while sharpening your mind.
Enlist an app
Maybe the satisfaction of penciling (or, gasp, inking) in those little sudoku squares on paper really inspires you. If not, you can get all the brain-boost and then some by picking up your phone and digging into the great big universe of game apps. Just, you know, remember to put your phone down sometimes. There’s a fine line between boosting your brain power and developing a crick in your neck.