35 Top Memory Exercises for Cognitive Improvement
Even while we sleep, our brains are constantly working, but is daily activity sufficient to maintain cognitive function? Not only do our bodies deteriorate with age, but our minds also waste away.
The good news is that simple brain training exercises can boost your memory.
In this article, we’ve compiled the top brain exercises to improve memory. This information will be priceless regardless of your background—a student trying to ace tests, a professional trying to enhance your productivity, or just a curious person trying to keep your mind active.
1. Engage in vocal repetition
Repeat everything you have read, heard, or done aloud to help yourself remember it. One way to remember someone’s name is to repeat it out loud after being introduced.
This can help solidify their name in your memory and make it easier to recall later.
2. Test your recall
Make a list of everything that comes to mind, including groceries and activities to accomplish, and commit it to memory. See how many objects you can remember an hour or so later.
According to a study, creating and structuring lists improved older people’s recall of word lists.
To get the most cerebral stimulation, make the list as tricky as possible.
Related reading: 15 Tips On How to Focus On Boring Reading Materials.
3. Complete a crossword puzzle
When doing a crossword puzzle, you identify words that fit the given clues and have the correct number of letters. This requires you to use your verbal memory.
The study reports that there may be a link between solving crossword puzzles and dementia patients‘ delayed onset of accelerated cognitive decline.
4. Have a go at playing cards
How recently have you engaged in a card game? In a 2015 study on intellectually demanding activities for adults, researchers found that playing a brief card game can increase brain capacity in multiple brain regions.
A card game was also proven to help with memory and cognitive function in the same study.
Consider picking up card games such as bridge, solitaire, or hearts.
5. Learn to play a musical instrument
Learning new and complex skills has many brain-boosting benefits. Although the research on this topic is limited, a previous review in The Gerontologist suggested that playing an instrument, participating in a choir, or taking piano lessons showed particular promise for brain health.
6. Do math in your head
Solving problems without a computer, pencil, or paper taps multiple cognitive abilities. A study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2021 found that solving math problems improved cognitive function in participants.
Walking at the same time will increase the exercise’s difficulty and athletic appeal.
7. Increase your vocabulary
Possessing a large vocabulary might lend you an air of intelligence. But you might also make a brief vocabulary lesson an engaging game for your brain. Studies reveal that vocabulary exercises activate significantly more brain regions, especially those critical for visual and auditory processing.
Have a notebook handy as you read and jot down one new term, then check its definition. Attempt to say and use the term several times for it to stick in your memory.
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8. Take a culinary course
Pick up a new cooking skill. Cooking engages several senses, including taste, touch, smell, and sight, involving separate brain regions.
You’ll also need to apply cognitive abilities like organizing, multitasking, problem-solving, making a grocery list, and meal planning.
9. Play chess
Remember to play additional strategy games like chess that improve cognitive function. These logic-based number games are good ways to keep your mind sharp.
In fact, chess and other cognitive leisure activities may increase memory, executive functioning—the capacity to observe and modify behavior to achieve objectives—and information processing speed, according to a 2016 meta-analysis.
10. Take up a new sport
Take up a new sport that works your body and mind, like yoga, tennis, or golf. Athletic exercise such as this will enhance your mental and physical well-being.
While learning a new, practical skill, muscle memory will also help activate your cerebral memory.
11. Pick up a new language
Learning a new language increases auditory and listening skills, stimulating the brain. Plus, a meta-analysis published in October 2020 in Psychonomic Bulletin review found that bilingualism was linked to a decreased risk of dementia.
12. Make word visualizations
After you mentally spell a word, try to devise alternative words that start (or end) with the same two letters.
13. Draw a map from memory
After visiting a new location, make a mental map of the region when you go home. To improve memory, you can extend this practice by making maps of your neighborhood, place of employment, and other locations.
14. Use all your senses
According to a study, engaging all of your senses could improve brain function. Engaging in activities that activate all five senses at once can help your brain and senses operate together.
Try making some cookies, going to the farmer’s market, or trying out a new restaurant as you concentrate on simultaneously smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, and hearing.
15. Refine your hand-eye coordination
Take a new pastime to help you maintain your hand-eye coordination and fine motor abilities.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, these activities might include playing video games, racquet sports, crocheting, painting, or drawing.
16. Change hands
Try using your left hand for tasks like eating and tooth brushing if you are right-handed. Use your non-dominant hand to exercise your fine motor abilities if you are proficient at using chopsticks for eating, for example.
The nervous system consists of the brain and regulates fine motor abilities.
Whenever you interact with others, you open yourself up to fresh perspectives and other methods of thinking and acting. This opens your mind, broadening your perspective on the world and how you think.
Therefore, explore new places and socialize with new people regularly by going to concerts and events. It will keep your mental well-being at its peak.
18. Practice meditation
Meditation and mindfulness help to increase one’s level of awareness and concentration. Numerous studies show that the practice can assist with stress relief, anxiety management, inflammation reduction, memory and attention enhancement, and more.
Many physicians from many specialties are now prescribing meditation in the same way that they would an antidepressant or blood pressure medicine due to the startling results.
19. Memorize phone numbers
Another great way to strengthen your memory is to learn people’s phone numbers by heart. You’ll retain the information longer because you’ll use your memory to refer to it later.
Additionally, you’ll feel more confident about your memory and perform even better.
You may also like: Are There Exercises to Improve Memory?
20. Teach a new skill to someone else
When people believe they will soon need to teach something to someone else, they learn more effectively and remember it better.
In a study published in the journal Memory & Cognition, learners who were expected to teach instead of being tested easily retained more content.
These students efficiently ordered their recall and had superior memory for particularly important information.
21. Start a craft project
Craft activities such as painting, knitting, and drawing are becoming increasingly popular because of their cognitive benefits. Take any craft activity to improve your fine motor skills and mental capacity.
Whenever you engage in your pastime, you’ll apply memory exercises to reinforce your newly acquired abilities.
22. Tell stories
Recalling and repeating significant facts while narrating stories helps the brain become more active. It also facilitates the association of emotions and memories with experiences.
People with Alzheimer’s disease can live better lives because storytelling improves memory.
23. Make up fresh acronyms
Create your own unique acronyms for any information you need to learn quickly. Making up creative acronyms or mnemonic phrases—in which the initial letters of words form a name—can help you recall more and sharpen your cognitive skills.
24. Change your environment
To improve recall, experiment with different settings, such as background music, time of day, and standing versus sitting. The brain connects words—or anything you’re doing—to your surroundings and context.
Your brain must use more contextual factors while attempting to recall specific information. That’s why, if you lose something, it usually helps to go back and follow your original path.
25. Create a memory palace
This is the easiest brain exercise to improve cognitive performance overall and is also one of the best. All it takes is a basic sketch and a few straightforward guidelines.
But what’s a memory palace, you ask?
It’s an imagined reproduction of a well-known place. You make use of it to map out a straightforward journey mentally.
After that, you “place” mental images along this route to aid with your memory by creating associations.
Second, you use your visual and spatial memories when building a memory palace. It’s also a fantastic practice for autobiographical and recovered memory.
The memory palace training activity is a mind exercise that functions counterintuitively.
This is because you are using visual memory cues that are often stored in your mind subconsciously.
To learn more about this technique, read: The Memory Palace Technique Unveiled: What You Need to Know
26. Conserve your mental energy
Save your mental energy and stop wasting it trying to recall where you put your keys or when your next doctor’s appointment is. You can concentrate on fresh information that you genuinely want to remember by eliminating pointless distractions.
Assign a spot for things you often forget in your calendar or planner.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for our brains to perform at their peak, even though it might not seem like brain exercise. As per a research analysis, sleep aids in “improving memory recall, regulating metabolism, and reducing mental fatigue.”
Our brains are actively detoxifying and restructuring while we sleep, so if you don’t receive at least 7 hours of good sleep every night, you shouldn’t be shocked if you suffer from various issues, including brain fog.
28. Space out your learning sessions
Learning or remembering information is not always best achieved by cramming. Rather, go over the data you wish to learn or retain regularly, such as scientific definitions, historical dates, foreign terminology, statistics, etc.
You learn more when you spread out your study periods throughout the day.
You may also like: 19 Secrets to Effective Memorization: From Basics to Mastery
29. Physical exercise
Exercise has a direct and indirect positive impact on memory and thinking. Exercise directly benefits brain health by lowering insulin resistance and reducing inflammation.
Additionally, it triggers the release of growth factors, which are molecules that affect the survival and quantity of newly formed brain cells and the development of new blood vessels in the brain.
Exercise indirectly lessens stress and anxiety, elevates mood, and enhances sleep. Problems in these domains often aggravate or cause cognitive impairment.
30. Play jigsaw puzzles
There are two active ingredients (i.e., effective features) that jigsaw puzzling offers to improve cognition. The process-specific cognitive demands of jigsaw puzzles may increase one’s brain reserve.
It can also regulate distressing emotions, potentially preventing chronic stress, which can eventually have a detrimental effect on cognitive aging and dementia.
31. Play Sudoku
Playing sudoku can be an entertaining way to test your brain. In some instances, they may enhance cognitive performance.
According to a study, seniors aged 50-93 who completed number puzzles more frequently had higher cognitive abilities.
32. Play checkers
When you first play Checkers, you’ll note that there are a lot of possible movements (including openings). Many of these actions may take some time to master and retain, but memory recall improves. You can use this expertise to improve many aspects of your life.
Over time, habitual checker players build up a “vocabulary” of possible moves and learn to recall the possible outcomes for each move, strengthening their memory.
According to a 2015 study, individuals at risk of cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease who regularly play checkers or other mentally demanding games have greater brain volumes and better indices of cognitive health.
33. Listen to music
There aren’t many things that excite the brain, like music. Music is an excellent tool to keep your brain active as you age. It offers a complete mental exercise.
In fact, research shows that listening to music can enhance mood, mental clarity, memory, and quality of sleep while lowering blood pressure, anxiety, and discomfort.
In contrast to being in solitude, a 2017 study found that listening to upbeat music encourages the generation of more creative ideas.
Thus, turning up some uplifting music will improve your mental clarity and creativity.
34. Learn new dance moves
Dancing helps to improve brain function and memory. Research has indicated that dancing is associated with a lower incidence of dementia.
There are numerous advantages to dancing for the brain. Its capacity to boost nerve growth factors is what propels its anti-aging effects.
Proteins called nerve growth factors are crucial for preserving the health of sensory neurons. Research has indicated that dancing is associated with a lower incidence of dementia.
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that dancing is linked to a 76% lower incidence of dementia in those who participate in the study.
Spatial memory is one of the cognitive domains that dancing enhances.
According to the study, an active lifestyle can help sustain perceptual, cognitive, and motor functions into old age.
35. Take a different route home
Even if it seems like a simple workout, the brain is stimulated when you take a different route home. Using more senses to get around keeps your mind more active than driving home or working on well-traveled routes.
Using as many senses as possible is beneficial since the brain learns through associations, which is why learning lyrics is easier than recalling the same words without music.
Takeaway: Improve your memory with brain exercises
Using your brain to participate in daily routines actively can serve as a brain exercise.
Mental exercise can enhance brain activity and increase interconnectivity among various brain regions. This may protect the brain from age-related degeneration.
Are you ready to delve further into these strategies and learn how to use them successfully? Take our maximizing memory course today to learn useful techniques that will help you commit important information to memory and retain what you read.