The new year is nearly here, and many of us are thinking of ways we can better ourselves in the year ahead. Expanding our minds is a great way to add fulfillment to our lives and exercise our cognitive abilities to keep our minds active and reduce cognitive decline. Take a look at some fun hobbies and mind-expanding exercises to explore in the coming year:
1. Learn a New Language
Learning a new language develops new areas of the brain and increases the mind’s ability to focus and process information. It can also come in handy in a variety of real-life situations. Consider learning a new language by taking a course, listening to audio tapes, or even using an language app on your phone or tablet.
2. Get Creative with Art or Writing
Creating art has been shown to impact brain wave patterns, emotions, and the nervous system. It may also raise serotonin levels. Writing promotes the formation of neural connections in your brain while increasing creativity and deep thinking. Your local senior centers are likely to have creative classes for you to take in your community!
3. Join a Book Club
Reading promotes brain activities such as comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness, and visual processing. Joining a book club will inspire you to read and better understand what you have read and it also makes a great social activity. Contact your local library to learn more about book club happening in your area or join an online book club.
4. Learn to Play A New Instrument
Picking up a new instrument may seem challenging, but the act of learning to play an instrument stimulates the brain’s executive function which is responsible for decision-making. It also gives your brain an audio, visual and emotional workout. And who knows what other opportunities it will present?
5. Start Meditating
Meditating can strengthen the areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory, attention, and awareness. It’s also a great way to eliminate stress and increase mindfulness. Start off by devoting just 5 minutes to meditating every morning to calm the mind and increase your mental wellbeing.
6. Find a Podcast to Listen To
Listening to a podcast is similar to listening to a narrative in that it stimulates many parts of the brain, and it’s a great activity to do while going on a walk, driving, or doing things around the house. There are many different types of podcasts available for free with your phone or tablet, including comedies, crime thrillers, expert interviews, and meditations which will also all stimulate different parts of the brain.
7. Attend a Historic Lecture
If you enjoy learning about history, this one is for you! Attending a lecture promotes good listening which may support cognitive functioning later in life preventing issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia. While any lecture promotes brain activity, a historical lecture is recommended as studying history facilitates critical thinking.
8. Play Word Games
Playing word games is a fun and stimulating way to improve focus and activate our working memory. Word games such as rosswords, word searches, and Scrabble are just a few that promote better cognitive function over long periods of time. There are also many fun word games available on your phone, tablet, or computer.
9. Take an Online Course
There are many free online classes available for all interests, so take the time to learn something new! Learning new skills stimulates the neurons in the brain and helps the brain form more neural pathways, improving learning abilities and reducing the risk of dementia. Explore the many topics available at Coursera, edX, or Harvard University.
10. Experience Local Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering in your community is a great way to connect to the community and helps to increases positive feelings by releasing endorphins and dopamine. Many times, volunteer activities get you moving and thinking at the same time which increases brain function, as well as reducing stress and improving your mood.