5 Free Ways to Train Your Brain and Improve Your Mental Capacity
We all know the importance of exercise—the means of moving your body to improve blood flow, concentration and overall health. But few of us consider how important it is to also exercise our brains.
As we age, our cognitive skills and memory dwindle and even thinking becomes harder. But, by exercising our brain regularly, we can improve both our mental capacity and memory as well as delay cognitive decline.
Known as neuroplasticity, your brain has the ability to learn and grow throughout your life by reorganising its structure and creating new neural pathways. But to achieve this you need to be training and ‘exercising’ your brain regularly.
Unlike an expensive gym membership, however, there are many ways you can train your brain for free. Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Do something creative to improve your mental health
Taking part in creative activities has many benefits for your brain, from mental wellbeing to better concentration. Activities such as engaging with music, expressive writing and creating art can even improve your overall health.
Whether you want to paint a picture, do some colouring or enjoy some simple arts and crafts, there’s plenty of creative inspiration to be found online.
Where to find creative inspiration online
YouTube is a hub of creative content. Whether you want to learn how to draw or execute the perfect squat—YouTube is a great starting place to learn and pick up a new creative activity.
- Pinterest is a social media site and app geared towards creativity. The image-based platform offers users plenty of inspiration to gain new skills and try new creative hobbies. You can also save all of your creative ideas to personalised boards so that you can refer to them later.
2. Get physical to boost brain function
Studies show that increased physical activity can improve cognitive functions, such as memory, attention and motivation. Picking up a new workout regime or trying a different type of fitness class could help train your brain along with your muscles.
If group exercise isn’t your thing, or if the idea of attending a gym intimidates you, fret not. There are plenty of class-based exercises you can complete from the privacy and comfort of your home using free apps.
Free exercise apps and websites
Nike Training App has a stocked library of bodyweight, HIIT, yoga and athletic workouts you can complete at home
FIIT offers free workout videos alongside its paid content that can be completed anywhere
- YouTube offers a plethora of fitness workouts and classes, from the POPSUGAR Fitness channel of dance and cardio workouts to Yoga With Adriene’s gentle flow sequences. Just type your preferred exercise into the search bar and discover endless workout videos to suit you.
Don’t forget to warm up and cool down after physical activities to truly benefit from your exercise and to avoid injury.
3. Learn to play an instrument to stimulate both sides of your brain
Music research shows that playing instruments can improve the connection between the left and right sides of the brain. Your motor functions (left side) and creativity (right side) work together as you play an instrument, boosting your overall cognitive abilities.
How to learn an instrument for free
Piano and keyboard: Hoffman Academy allows you to access piano lessons for free
Guitar: Android users can enjoy smart Chords to learn how to play guitar for free, whilst Yousician is available on all operating systems
- Drums: Whether you have a full kit or are just tapping your worktop with chopsticks, you can learn how to drum using free resources on LearnDrumsForFree or downloading a metronome app to your phone.
4. Learn a different language to grow your brain
Learning a language can be challenging, which is why it’s a great way of training your brain. Not only can learning a language improve neuroplascisty, it can also boost concentration and perform better on tests.
How to learn a language for free
Duolingo is a good starting place to learn a language, especially if you’re looking to have fun at the same time. Learning is based around games that you practise daily to help build your knowledge of a new language
OpenLearn offers introductions to a variety of languages through its specialised courses
- Open Culture has plenty of free downloadable content to help you learn popular languages and get your brain fired up.
5. Train your brain with brain-training games
Of course, if you’re wanting to train your brain you may just want to take the direct route. Brain training games are designed to improve memory, logic skills and cognitive function.
Free brain training games
Sudoko apps help improve your short-term memory. Search your app store to find a free Sudoko app to suit your needs
NeruoNation provides games and tasks designed to improve your cognitive function
- Whether you want to improve your memory, processing speed or problem-solving, Lumosity is the app for you. Enjoy three free games per day or subscribe for unlimited access across the app.
It’s all in the practise
As long as you choose a challenging new activity, you should improve your cognitive skills. That is, as long as you practice.
Just as with physical exercise, you need to exercise your brain regularly to reap the benefits. Don’t forget this can be as simple as doing a crossword, colouring in a picture or playing on a brain-training app.