Social distancing may require us to take more deliberate actions to exercise our thinking skills, the saying “use it or lose it” is a rather accurate illustration of how our brains change over time and that our minds need exercise to remain sharp. Cognitive reserve describes the general tendency of our thinking skills and memory to engage in cognitively challenging activities and/or learning new skills.
Due to social distancing more deliberate actions are required to exercise our thinking skills, to prevent cognitive decline. Most activities we carry out in our daily lives relay on cognitive functions, such as language, memory, planning and the speed of processing. Crossword puzzles are great to train language and short-term memory and games like Tetris give a speed workout.
Try not to set the bar too high and monitor your progress towards a goal, once you have achieved a goal or feel that it is a time for change aim a bit higher. Your goal could be setting a time to complete a task or achieving a higher level or learning a new activity within a timeframe.
It is a good idea to have a few workout sessions every week of 30-60 minutes every other day and try to keep the workout constant during this time. Once you have completed a specific activity try and reflect on specific thinking skills you practiced during the task, and how these abilities can be put into action whilst performing your daily activities.
A challenging activity is likely to sharpen underlying cognitive abilities and sometimes we cannot meet our goals as we set the bar too high or due to barriers beyond our control. Should this occur, reflect on your barriers, and plan a way to overcome them instead of giving up.
Cognitive training is similar to physical exercise and sometimes works better when done with friends of family members. This could be more enjoyable and also increase level of effort and helps with overcoming barriers such as boredom and scheduling. Try teaming up with a friend over video chat or the phone. Peer to peer games over the internet and timing each other, keep the brain training social.
- Action video games are great to train alertness, navigation, and speed skills.
- Computer games that require strategic thinking will require an amount of logic thinking and planning.
- Words games like Scrabble are fun and can be found free for iOS and Android.
- Podcasts and audiobook are pure joy and sharpen our attention and listening skills. Good to listen too while you are doing weights or cardio workouts.
It is just as important to remember that our minds need exercise as well as our body needs physical exercise.