9 Brain Exercises That Ensure Memory Improvement

Image of a brain filled with games and activities for the brain exercises episode of the magnetic memory method podcastLots of people do brain exercises, often in the form of brain games. You’ve probably even tried a few, right?

That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s a catch:

Playing brain exercise games on your “smart phone” is not necessarily brain exercise.

It might not even be mentally stimulating.

Not by a long shot.

Brain Exercises Or Brain Thinners?


In fact, some of those brain games don’t exercise your brain at all.

You don’t have to take my word for it either. Just check out all the people on this live call who totally agreed:

Instead of helping you, those apps train your brain to get good at completing tasks within the world of those apps. The mental fitness doesn’t apply to other parts of your life.

And as we discussed in the video above, your memory and brain fitness exercises need to be both the dojo and the exercise.

And you need to be doing practice that either improves your ability to associate or to focus so that you can associate.

Note: Association is my go-to technique when I wish to stimulate my mind.


Use Concrete Brain Exercises And Avoid Abstract Ones


Bottom line:

If you’re exercising your brain on an abstract level but not directing the fitness at specific life improvement goals, you’re missing out. Your brain fitness must be targeted at specific goals so you get tangible results.

And if you’d like brain exercises that do improve your mind and give you a great mental workout that matters, give the following easy exercises a try. I promise they’ll be fun and give you a memory improvement boost in a short period of time.

By the way, if you also want a detailed list of methods that will improve your memory and help you remember everything better, please check out:

How to Remember Things: 21 Techniques For Memory Improvement.

And in case you weren’t aware that you can listen to me narrating this post, scroll up and click play above. I’ll happily narrate these powerful brain exercises for you on demand.

Or, keep reading and discover:


1. The 4-Details Observation Exercise


Gary Small talks about memorizing four details of people you encounter out in public.

For example, let’s say someone is wearing a black hat, has blonde hair, a triangular ring, and a green sweater.

Illustration of the 4 Details Brain Exercise

Illustration of the 4 Details Exercise

The goal is to observe the details first and then recall them later.

Some scientists call brain exercises like these “passive memory training.”

They’re passive because you’re not using any special memory techniques. You’re just asking your mind to do what it was designed to do: remember.

Why does this matter?

It matters because we don’t ask our minds to practice observation enough.

Because we don’t practice observation, we fail to observe and receive the exercise simply asking our brains to recall information brings.

We also fail to observe things that we aren’t seeing and then make mental pictures of them. I teach you all about how to do that with these 3 simple visualization exercises.

If you’d like to be a better observer of the world around you, noting and visualizing details will help far better than brain training software like Cogmed.

It’s also scalable. You can start with observing just one person per day. Once you’ve gotten good at recalling four details of just one person, you can add more information or more people (or both).

You can scale this exercise even further by memorizing the details using a Memory Palace.

If you like, you can also notice details about buildings, cars, movies or series, foods that improve memory, etc.

But focusing on real people is the more potent exercise. Being observant of others around you is a great social skill.


2. Number Brain Exercises
That Skyrocket Your Concentration


I can’t emphasize this enough:

Numeracy is a powerful skill. It’s something I work on myself as often as possible, both with and without memory techniques in play.

“Add 3 Minus 7” is a fun brain exercise you can try today. To get started, all you do is pick any 3-digit number. Then, add 3 to that digit 3 times. Then minus 7 from the new number 7 times.

Image of a calculator with brains in the display to illustrate the Plus 3 Minus 7 Exercise

Repeat the process at least 5 times and pick a new 3-digit number the next time. You can also start with a 4-digit number and use other numbers to play with.

For example, you could start with 1278 and add 12, 12 times and minus 11, 11 times.

It’s up to you and the amount of numbers dictate the level of challenge. This brain exercise also strengthens your working memory because of the amount of detail you need to hold in mind to complete it.


3. Repeat  & Recall What People Say In Your Mind


We all know in our hearts that no one is really listening when we speak. And that’s sad.

But here’s the good news:

You don’t have to be another person who is just nodding your head like a puppet while actually thinking about something else.

You can train yourself to focus on what people are telling you and remember everything they say.

It all begins by creating presence in the moment in an easy way:

Follow the words being spoken to you by repeating them in your mind.

For example, imagine that someone is saying the following to you:

“Tomorrow I want to go to a movie called Memory Maverick. It’s about a guy who cannot forget. He’s hired by a group known only as ‘The Agency’ to infiltrate a competitor. But once the hero learns the secrets, he doesn’t want to hand them over. But since he can’t forget, The Agency starts making his life miserable.”

All you would need to do to complete this brain exercise is repeat everything the person is saying silently in your mind. You’ll automatically remember more by doing this.

It works because simply asking your memory to recall information exercises it. The more challenging the information, the more exercise your brain will get.

Important Tip: Don’t make the exercise so easy that you get bored with it. We all need challenge from our brain exercises in order to grow.


4. Visualization Exercise Secrets Of A Memory Maverick


To remember even more, you can practice creating pictures in your head.

For example, you might see an image of Mel Gibson as he looked in the movie Maverick trying to remember something.

Or you might get a picture in your mind of an agency building and scenes of evil men in suits torturing the hero. Any images you create will help you become a living, breathing mnemonics dictionary.

For more brain exercises on remembering what people are saying with visualization practice, check out this interview with Jim Samuels on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast. He has some great ideas and the benefits include:

  • Being more present.
  • Remembering more of what was said.
  • Showing people that you’re interested in them and their lives.
  • Easing conflicts when they arise because you remember the issues in greater detail.

As people speak, “translate” what they say into pictures, feelings, related concepts and even tastes and smells.

Take this training seriously:

You’ll feel better about your connection to people because you’re really with them.


5. The Metronome-Clapping Exercise


Back in grad school, I had a great professor named Matthew Clark. For some reason, he told our class in Classical Literature about a great concentration exercise that I’ve practiced ever since.

It’s simple: You put on a metronome at a slow speed and then practice “covering the click.”

If you’d like a practical example of the metronome exercise on video, please check this out:

To be clear:

I don’t think this brain exercise helps memory in any direct way.

But it is excellent for improving concentration and presence.

Here’s why these mental states matter:

Both concentration and presence are skills we all need. The more concentration and presence we have, the more we can remember by default.

The better you get at this exercise, the longer the amount of time between clicks you should place. To accurately cover the metronome with a minute between clicks would be impressive!


6. Create A Memory Palace


The ultimate brain exercise on the planet is also the easiest. It involves nothing more than a simple drawing that follows some simple principles.

Why is creating a Memory Palace such a powerful exercise?

Take my free memory improvement course and find out for yourself:

Free Memory Palace Memory Improvement Course Magnetic Memory Method

First, creating a Memory Palace draws upon your spatial memory.

It’s also a great recovered memory and autobiographical memory exercise .

As far as brain exercises go, the Memory Palace training exercise works kind of in reverse.


Because you’re accessing cues that are usually blueprinted on your mind outside of your awareness.

Think about it:

You’ve rarely gone into a new home or store with the conscious intent of memorizing its features.

Yet, if you think back to the last home of a friend you visited, here’s a fact:

Most people can recall an insane amount of detail. Creating a Memory Palace lets you exercise that inborn ability.

You can even use it for memory and learning stunts like memorizing all the Prime Ministers of Canada.

Second, creating a Memory Palace is creating a tool that you can use for life. Once you have one and you’ve mastered using it, you can create dozens more.

And if you can do that, you can do great things with your memory, like how Matteo Ricci learned Chinese in record time. You can also remember names at events with ease and accomplish any goal in which memory plays a role.

And what goal doesn’t involve memory?

If you’d like to learn how to create a Memory Palace following the good rules of the Magnetic Memory Method, my FREE Memory Improvement Kit will take you through the entire process. It includes videos, worksheets and more to get you up to speed on this important talent.


7. Learn a Foreign Language


You’re probably heard that bilingualism is good for the brain, right? It is, and one of the reasons why is that you are continually asking your brain to recall information.

But language learning is also great brain exercise because it keeps you talking with people.

Image of a frustrated language learner

Regular conversation stimulates the production of healthy chemicals.

And for a double-whammy, singing has been shown to increase cortisol and other chemicals involved in healing.

For this reason, singing in a foreign language you’re learning increases the impact and effectiveness of this brain exercise.


8. Mind Mapping For Maximum Brain Health


It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Tony Buzan’s approach to mind mapping.

I used to mind map in ways that weren’t effective at all.

But after training with Tony and world mind mapping champion Phil Chambers, I’m way better at the practice and regularly get brain exercise by mind mapping in real time on my YouTube live streams:

Anthony Metivier with a Much Improved Tony Buzan Style Mind Map

Why does mind mapping create great brain exercise?

One reason is that you’re effectively reproducing the role of a brain cell on the paper.

Just as a brain cell has a central nucleus with synapses that flow outward like a river, the mind map has a central idea that feeds several streams with mental power.

Give these 10 mind mapping rules a try whenever you want a creative brain exercise.


9. The Brain Exercise Of Sports And Fitness


I love going to the gym.

But not just to workout my body.

The gym is a great place for a mental workout.

For example, you can memorize the number of sets and reps you complete using the Major System.

You can also rehearse the content in your Memory Palaces while on the treadmill.

You can complete the number juggling exercises above and do the 4-details exercise as you observe the other people at the gym.

It really is a win-win, and of course, since your mind is produced by your physical brain, combining physical and mental exercise is sure to maximize the boost you experience.

In sum:

Take all of these exercises to the gym. You can even mind map your to-do list in a Memory Journal between sets!


What Is The Best Brain Exercise?


At the end of the day, brain exercises are best when they help you solve real world problems.

For example, forgetting important details, harms us day in and day out.

You now have a brain exercise that will assist you with that, while showing you how to be happy and positive.

Not being able to focus on numbers leads us into making all kinds of mistakes that prevent us from memorizing information quickly. The simple game you’ve just learned is just one step towards improved numeracy skills and a better memory.

You’ve also learned to listen better, be more present and develop concentration for extended periods of time.

In many ways, repeating the words of others in your mind or “covering the click” are forms of meditation, a skill known to improve memory.

But what matters above all is that the best memory exercises are the ones that you actually use. You cannot get the benefits from them without consistent application.


You Really Can Make Your Brain Smarter & Faster!


Finally, you have the opportunity to create a Memory Palace. This simple, ancient invention will also improve your concentration while letting you remember anything.

I’m not sure I believe in left brain exercises versus right brain exercises, but I’m confident that if such things exist, the Memory Palace covers them both.

Combined, all of these mind fitness activities will improve your life. They all serve as great brain exercises for kids too, so please pass them on to the young people in your life.

On that note, they’re also great brain exercises for seniors, so don’t ignore that branch of your family and social circles either. People of all ages want to keep mentally fit!


Turn Your Dream Of Operating
A Fully Fit Mind Into Reality


When you regularly complete brain exercises, you’ll feel filled with pride. Few people have the gumption to take consistent action, after all.

Your commitment to what memory expert Tony Buzan calls “mental literacy” means you should celebrate. Consistently completing brain exercises should be rewarded, so be sure to factor that in.

You don’t have to think hard about giving yourself the perfect gift, though. The brain fitness that comes from regularly completing brain exercises is its own reward.

It’s not just about “brain” activities either. Asking questions about ambidextrousness and memory can help too.

How These Free Brain Games For Adults Improve Memory and Concentration

For example, I’ve practice juggling, writing with both hands and writing backwards to involve both my brain and body. I know that you’re wondering how to improve memory and how to improve concentration.

And probably cognitive activities like throwing around balls and writing in the wrong direction seem like a waste of time when you’re looking for brain gym exercises that use thoughts.

Image of Anthony Metivier juggling and reciting the alphabet backwards

But as you can see in this brain exercise challenge, I’m bringing both worlds together in a way that is easy and fun.

The Truth About How To Improve Concentration And Focus

It’s not just about concentration exercises.

I also make sure that I don’t fall into the traps of smartphone addiction.

Sure, you can get some great brain fitness reading from the Kindle app.

But if you’re constantly interrupted by notifications on your reading device, you’re damaging your focus and concentration more that helping improve it. Mind exercises truly require the right environment.

Brain Rehabilitation Exercises For Overcoming Depression

Just so you know, the reason I’m so passionate about sharing my knowledge about how to improve brain function, it’s because these activities saved my life.

I once nearly lost my life. But these brain exercises helped save me and here’s a raw discussion of how to train your brain when you’re feeling depressed based on my experience from before I became a memory expert:

You might also want to consider learning more about vitamins for memory improvement because the ones you’re taking now might be causing more damage than good.

If you’re looking for information on how to boost brain activity, definitely add dietary considerations to your neurobic exercise routine.

Summary Of The Most Potent Brain Exercises

  1. The 4-details exercise is excellent for “passive memory training.” You can perform this several times a day.
  2. Number exercises help create focus, increased attention span and greater numeracy skills.
  3. Repeat and Recall exercises also increase your concentration and ability to pay attention to others for longer periods of time. You’ll also remember more.
  4. Create images, associations and other related sensations as you listen to people speak. This will create intense brain fitness that leads to great retention.
  5. The Metronome exercise. This simple device can be found at any music store or downloaded as an app. “Covering the click” has many benefits and provides a fun challenge as a solo effort or group activity.
  6. Create and use Memory Palaces. Both of these activities create a lot of mental exercise.
  7. Learn a language consistently over time. It might not feel like brain exercise, but it is and the benefits of being bilingual provide ongoing brain benefits.
  8. Mind Map. There are many interesting rules you can follow to maximize the process. Following them is part of what creates the exercise benefits of this creative brain game.
  9. Use memory techniques while getting physical fitness. Using your body and mind at the same time maximizes your time and is a win-win for total psychological and physical optimization.

What are your thoughts about the brain exercise principles discussed in this post? Are these amazing free brain games, or what?

Do you think these are activities you will bring into your life? Is there anything I’m missing?

Let me know in the discussion area below and I’ll gladly respond and update this post.

In fact, for more brain training games you can play that really improve your memory, please read Brain Games: The Truth You Need To Know For Memory Improvement.

33 Responses to " 9 Brain Exercises That Ensure Memory Improvement "

  1. Rob says:

    AWESOME! Much better than mindless games. The way you train is the way you fight.

    • Thanks for this, Robert.

      That is absolutely true and an interesting comment to come in while I was watching a Kung Fu movie following my first Thai Chi class.

      Thanks again. I look forward to your next discussion post here on the site! 🙂

  2. Aaron Spurling says:

    I’m intrigued by these suggestions, but I have a question about exercise number 4 — i.e., the memory-clapping exercise. What do you mean by “covering the click”? Based on the description, I have no idea what this exercise really consists in, much less how to do it. Please explain.

    • Thanks for this question, Aaron.

      “Covering the click” basically means clapping at the exact same time in such a way that you don’t actually ear it. You’ve “covered” it with the accurate sound of your clapping hands. An odd brain exercise but one with an amazing feeling of accomplishment and will improve your concentration. It’s very meditative too.

      You can take to musical pieces as well. For example, if there’s a particular part of a song with a particular cymbal crash, you can work on listening up that point with the intention of covering it. For experienced musicians, this won’t be that difficult to do, but still a challenge. And very healthy to do. Just sitting and listening to music while deliberately observing it is an amazing brain exercise all around.

      Hope this helps and thanks for checking this post out. I look forward to your next comment here on the Magnetic Memory Method site! 🙂

      • Matthew Jane says:

        That was my question as well, all cleared up now. I can feel the potential benefits of the exercises immediately – though I just started reading your Memory Kit. 😉 I’m gonna try and apply these in daily life. Thanks, Dr. Metivier! That’s a lot of clear, constructive and quality information put out to the world !

        Do you know about any positive effects of active composing/playing music for cognitive improvement?



        • Glad you’ve feeling the effects in advance, Matthew!

          About music and cognitive improvement and development, as often happens, a lot of the science is interesting but not entirely conclusive. We need to be really clear, for example, what exactly we mean by “cognitive improvement.”

          That’s said, it’s inarguable that learning music is a great brain exercise that helps, especially if you throw music mnemonics into the mix. I’ll be talking about that more in future episodes of the podcast, so please stay tuned.

          In the meantime, thanks for taking the time to comment. I look forward to your next post here on the Magnetic Memory Method website! 🙂

  3. Alex says:

    Great (and fun!) exercises Anthony. I am doing the observation exercise for people and things, and I have another one I have been doing for a bit now.

    Whenever I see an automobile I try to memorize the license plate with a mixture of NATO phonetic alphabet (A = Alpha; B = Bravo, C = Charlie, etc.) and the Major Memory method. So if the plate is ABC 123 it becomes Alpha Bravo Charlie DyNaMo!). I also try to remember details like make, colour and model and state or province, etc. I try to do so as quickly as I can and then repeat as often as I can.

    Also, I like to memorize how much my meal at a café costs using the Major Method or codes of food items for the grocer. I can also associate the number to historical dates for example, 1789, French Revolution, French toast and eggs, coffee, bacon, etc.)

    It’s very fun and quite useful.

    Well Anthony, thanks again for your DyNaMo! tips.

    Kind regards

    • That’s a very cool game with combining NATO with the Major Method, Alex.

      Remembering the cost of menu items is also a great idea for getting in some exercise. For people into math exercises in countries where tax is added later, it’s a great opportunity to practice calculation as well.

      Thanks for adding these great additions to this post and episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast – much appreciated! 🙂

    • Ken Johnson says:

      I do something similar with the license plate but I use the Person-Action-Object memory technique for the numbers. For the letter, I’ve assigned superhero or cartoon characters for the alphabet. I use superhero & cartoon characters since they are colorful and full of action.

      Good tip about the remembering the description of the car. I hadn’t thought about trying that. I think that belongs in the ‘remembering a conversation’ & ‘four detail’ exercise..

      • Great idea for the alphabet, Ken!

      • Alex says:

        Excellent idea for the characters Ken.

        In fact, some of the Renaissance scholars would use images of Saints (their idea of superheroes I guess) to help with remembering texts and alphabetic characters.

        For example, if the word to remember is “ET” the suggestion was to have Eusebius talking to Thomas (Aquinas I guess if it has to do with Theology; or the Apostle if it has to do with Gospel?) If the word is “TE” they put Thomas talking to Eusebius. I hope they made them animated and strange, or after a while it might have gotten a little stale. 😉

        Another idea I like to use is Image letters; for example, the letter B could be symbolized a slice of toasted Bread & Butter, etc. As long as in image is dynamic, strange or offputting it tends to be memorable.

        Kind regards

        • Having two characters per letter of the alphabet is a very useful idea, Alex. For a lot of my cards I have dual figures and find it helpful all the time because sometimes one option just isn’t enough.

          Plus, if you have two characters, it’s so much easier to see what they’re doing because it’s in motion. Fabulous thinking from the ancients yet again!

          Images for the letters is great too and that has so far been my go-to for memorizing spellings in a Latinate alphabet. I might follow up on Ken’s suggestion, however. I’ve never learned the NATO phonetic alphabet because it seemed too abstract.

          Another “system” I have to the alphabet is a simple story that combines the concrete with the abstract. I won’t repeat it here because it’s in the back of most of my books and one of the video courses. This story has also changed over the years, but one thing for certain about it is that I’ve seen rooms of people use the basics of it to memorize the entire alphabet backwards in just a few minutes flat.

          That’s not the most useful skill in the universe to have, mind you, but it does demonstrate how quickly and easily mnemonics can be used to revolutionize your mind. And when people get just a simple taste like that, they often become fans for life.

          Thanks to you both for the excellent conversation. I can’t wait for your next posts! 🙂

  4. Bjoern says:

    Hey Anthony,
    I am moving to a new flat and it seems that my practice with real Memory Palaces helped me a lot with arranging, buying, discussing and so on all the necessary tasks.

    I have quite clear picture of it and I only have seen it two times yet. This is a huge improvement for me!

    It would be nice to have simple web app for the add/minus game.

    bis dann

    • That’s so great to hear, Bjoern! It’s amazing how much better we can recall locations if we just pay attention to them in particular way. Did you sketch it out or just review it in your mind?

      Please say more about the web app you’re imagining. In principle, the point of brain exercises like these is to do them in your mind without external assistance. But perhaps if I know more about what you’re thinking, I can find someone to help create it. Look forward to hearing more! 🙂

  5. Frank in Phoenix says:

    I have been using your memory palace technique to memorize a few of the Psalms, now with that success I would like to try for all 150. What suggestions do you have to associate meta data (such as the number and a brief idea or picture like a shepard) with each one. And is there a method that you would suggest to be able to go different ones in any order other than sequential numbers?

    I really appreciate your postings.

    Now lets see if an old man can achieve his goal (well maybe not the really, really long one.)

    • Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment, Frank. It’s much appreciated! 🙂

      Adding data such as verse numbers is easy with the Major Method.

      I’m not sure what you mean by going through the Psalms in any order, however. Do you mean through any line in an individual Psalm in any order, or through any of the entire Psalms in any order?

      In the first case, if you’ve carefully memorized one line per station, you should be able to navigate them on a line by line basis without needing to start at the beginning. I can do this with most poetry I’ve memorized.

      For entire poems, if they’re carefully organized one poem per Memory Palaces, this should also be a breeze.

      I hope his helps and look forward to your next post here on the Magnetic Memory Method site. 🙂

  6. Ankit Kumar says:

    Can you send your contact?

  7. Niclas says:

    Thank you very much, Anthony, for keep delivering high-quality information. I really appreciate it. You are helping me a lot and I will not hesitate to recommend you to other people if they wish to improve their memory.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words and for helping this mission by spreading the word. That is much appreciated and I look forward to serving you further for many years to come through this blog, the podcast and videos.

  8. shemo angel says:

    Thanks. These are great brain exercises!

  9. Barb says:

    These are unique brain exercises. Thanks for sharing them.

  10. taurus says:

    Thanks for sharing these excellent brain exercises!

  11. William says:

    Thanks Anthony! I am glad I found this content. I will surely let you know how it works with me. In first attempt, number exercise made me come out of my comfort zone.

    • I’m glad you found this as well.

      Getting out of one’s comfort zone is key. I’m now progressively memorizing Sanskrit phrases and am up to 45. Even just getting started was out of my comfort zone, and adding everyone helps keep me out of it.

      Hope to see you more often on the Magnetic Memory Method blog!

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