Are you spending enough time keeping your brain healthy? Think about it: you probably put plenty of thought into the food you consume and the number of active minutes you spend each day, but do you go out of your way to keep your brain in shape too?

Sharpen up your skills!

Sharpen up your skills!

If not, never fear. There are some simple and completely FREE ways to make your brain a priority. Take a look at a few you should try to do every day:

Meet someone new

It's so easy to get wrapped up in our smartphones when we stand in line or pick up our kids from school and we miss some important interactions in the process. Even if all you do is say "hello" to a stranger, that human connection stimulations the brain in ways that staring at your screen can not. If you get past the initial greeting, your brain has an opportunity to learn new information about the new person.

Try something new

It's also really easy to get so good at our routine that we never deviate from it. Taking on new challenges is healthy though, for our brains and our confidence. Get a different cup of coffee, or try a different fitness class at the gym. Even parking in a different area at work or the grocery store forces your brain to work harder when you return to your vehicle. If you see an opportunity for a new experience, however small, take it and try to do this every day to keep your brain as sharp as possible.

Problem-solve

No one likes confrontation - whether with people, or things. There's a reason that junk drawer continues to be a mess and why tension remains with colleagues or family members that have rubbed you the wrong way. It's human nature to want to avoid the things that are unpleasant in favor of happier experiences but sometimes it's important to face those challenges head on. It's important to know the difference between things that you can legitimately solve, like that junk drawer or smoothing over a misunderstanding at work, and the things that should be avoided (like toxic relationships). Look for everyday ways to face the things in your life that aren't quite right and have the courage to change the ones you can. This will not only lead to less stress, which negatively impacts your brain, but will keep your brain thinking progressively.

Connect with family and friends

Make a conscious effort to have face-time with your spouse and kids every day, even if it just for a few minutes. Call your parents and schedule time to meet with your close friends in person at least once per month. Social media has made it even easier to connect effortlessly with extended family and long-lost friends so take advantage of those avenues too. Not only are these interactions good for your memory and well-being, but they activate the "feel good" hormone dopamine and keep your brain functioning from a happier place.

Play games

It turns out that playing games, either traditionally or online, is actually good for your brain in moderate doses. There are health benefits to playing card games and trivia, and even to spending time in apps like Candy Crush that require puzzle solving abilities and long-term concentration. Researchers have even found that games like bingo slow the mental decline of patients with Alzheimer's. Have a bingo lucky charm or routine you like to follow when you play? Even better, because it emphasizes repetition and helps the brain feel in control. So let yourself indulge in your favorites games a little each day and feel good about what that activity is doing for your brain health.

Walk

Low impact physical activity like walking improves memory and other brain functions, says Harvard research. Look for ways to add some extra steps to your day or treat yourself to a brisk one at some point in your busy day.

How do you keep your brain sharp?


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