5 ways to exercise your brain

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Keeping my brain active and engaged is one of the most important things I do. My work doing computer programming and websites does a good job of keeping my mind going, but I also like to exercise my brain in a few other ways I thought I’d pass along.

1) Card games / board games / puzzle games

Playing games is fun but learning new games seems to create another enjoyable dimension to brain exercise. I tend to notice that games like Solitaire end up becoming robotic to me — I get to the point where I’m just going through the motions, not learning anything new. Once the challenge is gone, I tend to abandon games. There are tons of card and puzzle games out there online (Check out Yahoo games or Armor Games for some suggestions) and spending a few minutes every day learning a new game can give your brain a nice charge for the day.

2) Answering others’ questions

Occasionally I like to check out Yahoo Answers and see if there are any open questions in areas I think I know something about. It’s easy to search by category or keyword and you might come across someone looking for an answer to something you already know. Sharing what you know can be a great way not only to remind yourself how much knowledge you have, but it can keep those neural pathways in your brain alive and kicking. There are also some good “Ask” sections on Metafilter and Reddit.

3) Hit the library

An easy way to tingle your brain is to pick up a book, any book, and flip through it. Even if you just look at the pictures or read the parts that interest you, your brain loves it. Although it’s easy to do this sort of thing on the internet, I find that a trip to the library seems to make it more fun and also helps you think about areas you might not explore if you just search the internet. Check out the reference section of the library for some of the best, big picture books for lots of great imagery.

4) Don’t talk about the weather

Weather conversations are so boring they make my ears bleed. It’s true that we all have the weather in common but we also have a lot of other things in common — like opinions on issues or ideas for new inventions or thoughts about how to solve the world’s problems. Why not talk about those things instead? Occasionally I go out to lunch with friend of mine and we settle upon a topic of discussion by asking ourselves, “Which of the world’s problems are we going to solve today?” Usually this leads to an interesting discussion about something meaningful and I leave the conversation energized instead of depressed about the cooling temperatures.

5) Solve a problem or invent something

Sometimes I like to imagine a solution to a logistical problem I’m having like turning over in bed or getting in and out of the shower. It’s neat to think about contraptions that might help whether they’re feasible or not. For example, I’d love to sleep in a mechanical pod that would just rotate me by itself all night! But you can also contribute or come up with real inventions on sites like Quirky, where ideas are submitted and “social” inventions are created. You can come up with product names or tag lines and earn influence which translates into small earnings whenever someone buys one of the products down the road. I’ve earned 14 cents in the last month but I’ve enjoyed playing “inventor” and exercising my brain too.

So next time you feel like turning on the TV or reading about the weather, why not try something different and see how it makes you feel? You might learn something or you might just tickle your brain enough to make you want to explore an interest further. It sure beats watching the news and hearing about whatever death and destruction has occurred!

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