How to Improve Your Cognitive Skills

Strong cognitive skills are important in virtually any line of work, and being able to think quickly and rationally can make a big difference in your overall productivity. Your cognitive skills include things like focus, memory, and ability to reason. Many people know how to improve their physical fitness, but improving your mental fitness can be much trickier. However, there are techniques you can use to strengthen your cognitive skills. Here’s some of the best ways to boost your brainpower so you can think smarter, faster, and more rationally.

Get enough sleep

This one may sound too easy, but it’s true - people who don’t get enough sleep will find their cognitive abilities drastically reduced during the day. Your memories are actually consolidated while you sleep, and waking up refreshed can also prevent you from developing ‘brain fog’ throughout the day. You may think that staying up later will help you be more productive, but if you get enough sleep, you will actually be able to work more efficiently and get more done in a short period of time.

Meditate in a way that works for you

Meditation is all the rage right now, and for good reason - it has unique mental health benefits that will make a big difference for everyone. Meditation reduces stress and helps you clear your mind, making it easier to focus throughout your day. Many people avoid meditation, thinking that it isn’t for them or that they won’t be able to do it successfully. However, there are many different types of meditation beyond what you may have done in yoga class. Try different types of guided meditations to help you find something that works with your lifestyle and your goals. Just taking a few minutes a day to clear your head and quiet your thoughts can make a big difference in your ability to think clearly at work and at home.

Play board and card games with your friends

Instead of just going out for a drink or watching a movie, suggest a board game night with your friends or family next time you hang out. Not only is this a fun way to socialize, but it will also force you to use your problem-solving skills to get ahead and win the game. Classic card and board games like chess and checkers are excellent, because each game is unique and they force you to continue practicing new strategies. However, learning new board games can also be very good for your brain, because you are forced to process and remember a new set of rules and develop a strategy around them. You can also play plenty of board and card games on your computer or even on your phone, so you can train your brain by yourself as well.

Explore your community

Getting out and about in your community is a great way to keep your brain stimulated and challenge your thinking skills. In particular, there’s plenty to be gained from going to things like museums, zoos and gardens, historical sites, and shows. To give your brain an extra challenge, be sure to read all of the information provided with the entertainment and try to retain it. After the experience is over, write down what you remember. Not only is this fun, but it will help improve your memory and information processing skills.

Exercise frequently

You’re probably wondering exactly what exercise has to do with your cognitive function, but the truth is that it actually makes a big difference in your ability to think clearly. This is because exercise increases the blood flow to your brain. Exercise also reduces stress, which is a major cause of cognitive decline. If you don’t currently exercise, try adding just a short walk to your daily routine, or take a class in something fun like dancing or martial arts. The combination of the exercise and adding an extra challenge to your routine will make a big difference in how you feel overall.

Solve puzzles in your spare time

Puzzles are one of the best ways to train your brain, and there are so many different types of puzzles out there to choose from, which will make it easier to find one you like. Crosswords, word searches, and Sudoku puzzles are all very easy to find online or in bookstores, and they are very portable, so you can solve them anywhere when you have some time to kill. You can also buy a traditional picture puzzle and keep it at home to work on with your family. Puzzles challenge your brain to stay focused and find new strategies. If you want a continual challenge, try switching up the type of puzzles you do, or seeking out harder versions of your favorites. There has even been a trend lately towards brain training apps and websites, which present you with a variety of different exercises you can do each day to keep your brain sharp.

Journal at the end of every day

One of the best ways to exercise your memory is to challenge yourself to recall the events of each day after they happen. Keep a journal and note down not only the big things you did, but also the smaller details. As you make this a habit, you will notice that you start paying better attention to the small things that happen each day, a skill that can benefit you both personally and professionally. Not only will this help you cognitively, but it will give you something to look back on later on in life to remember. You can practice this while reading and watching TV as well - try to remember exactly what happened in the story when you’re done.

Try a new hobby you’ve always been interested in

Another great way to stimulate your brain and add some excitement to your life is by trying a new hobby. Learning a new skill has amazing benefits for your brain, because it requires you to absorb and process new things and then apply them to your behavior. There are so many great hobbies you might consider trying - homey pursuits like gardening or sewing, new athletic activities like yoga or hiking, or more cultural activities like learning to play an instrument or learning a new language. Not only will this be a great challenge for your brain, but it can also be very emotionally satisfying and give you an easy way to meet new friends. Many people like to take on new hobbies after retiring from work just to keep their brain sharp.

Take a class at a local educational institution

Learning doesn’t have to stop once you graduate from high school or university - you can always continue expanding your wealthy of knowledge. Look up the classes offered at your local community college and see if there’s anything that takes your fancy. Many places allow you to take classes without pursuing a degree, and this will challenge your memory, focus, and information processing skills all at once. During a lecture, you will have to pay close attention to the information being presented and ask questions critically when necessary. You’ll then need to remember the information to complete tests and homework. In particular, you might benefit from taking a class in a subject that’s completely different from what you majored in at school or what you do in your career now. If you don’t have time to take a full semester or quarter-long class, look for interesting workshops or conferences you can attend in your area. These events will challenge your brain in the same way without a long-term commitment, and you might learn something new and exciting in the process.

Use therapy sessions as needed to keep stress down

Stress can have a major negative impact on your overall cognitive abilities, so the better you take care of your mental health, the sharper you are going to be. While getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and taking time to do things you enjoy are all great ways to manage your stress, there are going to be times when you need a little more emotional support. Therapy and counseling sessions are extremely beneficial for your mental health, whether you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition or not. A therapist will help you work towards your goals and eliminate problems that have been causing you stress. They can also get to the root of any depression or anxiety you might have, which will help you to live a healtheir life in the long run. It’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with, so it may take you a few tries to find the best fit for you. Don’t be afraid to schedule sessions with a few different therapists to give yourself some options to choose from.

Keep up an active social life

You probably wouldn’t think that your social life can affect your cognitive function, but it can make a big difference in your ability to stay sharp. Having a vibrant social life forces you to try new things and think on your feet, and even just having a conversation with someone new requires you to really assess what they are saying and come up with an appropriate response. Having an active social life as a regular part of your routine will help you keep your mind clear later in life. If you are an introvert, this can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to build a strong social life in a way that works well for you. For example, if you normally decline invitations to parties, try attending one just for a short period of time. You could also bring a close friend to an activity or event you would be too shy to attend on your own. In time, you will determine what types of social activities make you the happiest. You should always keep an open mind however, because switching things up is going to be best for your brain in the long run.

How you can benefit from improved cognitive skills

You may be wondering why exactly you should put in the effort to improve your cognitive skills. There are actually many benefits that come from improving your cognitive abilities. Here are some of the benefits you can expect to experience after training your brain for a significant amount of time.

Your mind will stay sharper later in life. Many people are motivated to actively improve their cognitive skills specifically so they can maintain their lifestyle as they get older. It’s natural to experience a loss of cognitive function and memory in old age, but spending time working on your focus, memory, and critical thinking can lessen the effects of age.

You will be able to be more productive at work or school. Regardless of what industry you are in, the average day presents quick a few challenges that require you to think quickly, creatively, and logically. By training your brain, you can work more efficiently, which will allow you to get more done in the same amount of time. This is particularly important in today’s digitally saturated world, where distractions are ever-present.

Training your brain will enable you to better handle unexpected challenges in life. Whether that’s being thrown into a new social situation, taking on a completely new task at work, or even just managing your finances, having a sharp mind will help you get things done quickly and make the best decisions for your needs. With sharper decision making skills comes less stress and a happier life.

Improving your cognitive abilities doesn’t have to be difficult - just making the time to do some of these activities throughout your week can make a big difference. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, anyone can improve their cognitive abilities with a bit of awareness and hard work. Brain training and cognitive awareness can have major benefits for your health in the long run, so it’s really worth adding these cognitive boosting activities to your life.