Keeping the mind active is an important part of maintaining mental health and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, among other things. Luckily, it’s possible to brain training even if you don’t have time to commit to a full-on brain training program with specialized activities, such as playing word games or doing puzzles, which often take up much of people’s time when they’re focusing on working out their brains at brain games.
Start with memory tests
Memory testing provides another way to start exercising your mind and keep track of how much you’re improving. It is also incredibly simple just pick up a deck of flashcards, sit down at your dining room table, and see how many words you can learn in 20 minutes or so. You’ll be astounded at what your brain can hold on to when it has to. As with physical exercise, memory training gets easier over time as well; as you get better at remembering things, you will find that you can remember more and more.
Work your way up to puzzles and games
Have fun with puzzles and games as long as they’re not too hard. As soon as they start to get frustrating, make them easier or less complex, or call it quits altogether. There’s no reason to force yourself to complete something that is stressing you out or putting undue pressure on your mind. Pay attention to how these things affect your mood and stress levels. If they stress you out, try doing something else instead.
Keep a notebook of strategies you’re using
Keeping track of what works and what doesn’t as you struggle with your brain training is an important part of working through your cognitive issues. If you don’t keep track, it will be easy to abandon strategies that are helping because they’re just not working fast enough. Keep yourself accountable by writing down exactly which strategies you used during each session (try to do something different each session), whether or not they seemed to help that day, and how they made you feel.
If you find yourself constantly criticizing your actions or holding yourself accountable, try to refrain. Self-criticism can be detrimental to our happiness and well-being. Instead of criticizing your mistakes, spend time trying to understand how they happened and how you can avoid them in the future. By taking an objective approach, you may find that your self-critical thoughts are unwarranted and that you don’t need to be so hard on yourself after all.