Lots 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 mental exercise games on your “smartphone” is not necessarily brain exercise.
It might not even be mentally stimulating.
Not by a long shot.
But don’t worry.
In this article, I’ll reveal some memory exercises that actually work. I’ll show you how to play them and also help you understand why they boost brain health.
This Article Contains:
- Brain Exercises or Brain Thinners? What Makes A Good Mind Exercise?
- The 9 Best Brain Exercises For Memory Improvement
- What Is The Best Brain Activity For You?
- How To Stimulate Your Brain To Be Smarter and Faster
- How To Improve Concentration And Focus
Brain Exercises Or Brain Thinners? What Makes A Good Memory Exercise?
Some of those smartphone-based 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. Their 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 mental exercises that either improve your ability to associate or help you focus so that you can associate.
Note: Association is my go-to technique when I wish to stimulate my mind.
Bottom Line: Use Concrete Brain Exercises And Avoid Abstract Ones
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 to get tangible results and avoid cognitive decline.
And if you’d like mind exercises that improve your memory and give you a great mental workout, give the following easy procedures a try. I promise they’ll be fun and stimulate both short-term memory and long-term memory improvements.
By the way, if you also want a detailed list of methods that will improve your memory and boost your cognitive abilities, please check out:
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 memory exercises for you on demand.
How to Exercise Your Brain: The 9 Best Brain Exercises For Memory Improvement
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.
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: to remember.
Why does this matter?
Because we don’t practise 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 – making it impossible to 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 by 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 memory exercise even further by memorizing the details using a Memory Palace.
But focusing on real people is the more potent memory exercise. Being observant of others around you is a great social skill.
2. Number Exercises That Skyrocket Your Concentration
I can’t emphasize this enough:
Numeracy is a powerful skill to boost your cognitive abilities. It’s something I work on to boost logical thinking – both with and without memory techniques in play.
“Add 3 Minus 7” is a fun numerical mental 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.
Repeat the process at least 5 times and pick a new 3-digit number the next time. You can also take a different route and start with a 4-digit number and use other numbers to challenge your working memory further.
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 to dictate the level of challenge. Remember, this memory exercise 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 your brain 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 boost your cognitive function and 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.
4. Visualization Exercise Secrets Of A Memory Maverick
To remember even more, you can practise 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 and ideas you create will help you become a living, breathing mnemonics dictionary.
For more cogntive 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, they “translate” their ideas 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.”
Such neurobic exercises can help us focus on things that our brains have been automated to perform. The increased focus that neurobic exercises develop helps you zero-in on your surroundings to boost your memory skills.
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 memory exercise helps memory in any direct way.
But it is excellent for improving concentration and presence.
Here’s why these mental states matter:
The better you get at this mind exercise, the longer the amount of time between clicks you should place. Accurately covering the metronome with a minute between clicks would be impressive!
6. Create A Memory Palace
The ultimate brain exercise to boost overall cognitive function 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:
First, creating a Memory Palace draws upon your spatial and visual memory.
It’s also a great recovered memory and autobiographical memory exercise.
As far as mind exercises go, the Memory Palace training exercise works kind of in reverse.
Because you’re accessing visual memory cues that are usually blueprinted in 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 with visual memory. 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 easily remember names at events and accomplish any memory-associated goal.
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’ve 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.
This is a great memory exercise for people of any age because it keeps you talking with people.
Regular conversation also helps stimulate the production of healthy chemicals for better mental health. And for a double-whammy of health and brain benefits, singing has been shown to increase cortisol and other chemicals involved in healing.
For this reason, singing in a foreign language you’re learning can increase the impact and effectiveness of this memory exercise.
However, that isn’t all – you get more health benefits.
Researchers conducted a study that found that learning a second language can delay the onset of cognitive impairment like dementia in Alzheimer’s disease by around 4-5 years!
The best part?
Learning anything new is good for your brain!
Whether it’s learning to play a new musical instrument or working with your non-dominant hand, new neural pathways will form – helping you boost your brain power.
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 discovered a new route and I’m way better at the practice and share it in real-time on my YouTube live streams:
Why is mind mapping great for boosting cognitive function?
One reason is that you’re effectively reproducing the role of nerve cells 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. By creating these mindmaps, you’re making it easier on your brain – thereby increasing its processing speed.
Give these 10 mind mapping rules a try whenever you want a cognitive training workout.
9. The Memory Exercise Of Sports And Fitness
I love physical activity like aerobic exercise.
But not just to workout my muscles and boost my heart rate.
Physical activity is a great place for a mental workout.
You can also rehearse the content in your Memory Palaces during and after your tai chi session.
Or instead of gobbling down world news while on the treadmill, you can use Recall Rehearsal to recite foreign language vocabulary or some of the meditation verses I like to memorize.
While on the stationary bike, you can do the 4-details exercise as you observe other people during your high-intensity interval training breaks.
For another simple and fun example, on daily walks with my wife, I often recite over 100 verses of Sanskrit silently in my mind – and new vocabulary and phrases I’m learning.
The best part?
Physical exercise is one of the most common ways to ease stress, boost memory and manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s also been proven to delay the onset of deficiencies associated with an increase in brain age.
Combing physical exercise with the routines you can complete in your mind is a win-win. And since your mind is produced by your physical brain, combining physical and sensory mental exercise is sure to maximize the boost your overall health and cognitive abilities.
What Is The Best Brain Activity For You?
At the end of the day, memory exercises are best when they’re applied to problem-solving in our daily life.
For example, forgetting important details can turn our lives upside down.
You can now choose a brain activity that can help prevent memory loss while showing you how to be happy and positive.
Not being able to focus on numbers leads us to 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 numerical memory skills.
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” can help you meditate and practice mindfulness – skills known to improve memory.
But what matters above all is that the best memory exercises are the ones that you actually use. If sudoku is what works, then go for it. If it’s brain teasers – then that’s fine too.
How to Stimulate Your Brain To Be 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 memory exercises for kids too, so please pass them on to anyone of young age too.
On that note, they’re also great memory exercises for older adults, so don’t ignore that branch of your family and social circles either. Whatever your age – I know you want to be mentally fit!
These mental exercises are great for preventing or alleviating the symptoms of many diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other symptoms of cognitive decline associated with an aging brain or mental health issues.
Turn Your Dream Of Operating A Fully Fit Mind Into Reality
When you regularly complete mind 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 memory exercises should be rewarded, so be sure to factor in self-recognition. I suggest you keep a dedicated Memory Journal to help you track the journey towards mental optimization with something like a Snapshot Journal.
I prefer this kind of long term mental fitness routine because over time you develop the ability to jog your memory of up to 5 previous years at a single glance. You can even cover the previous years and test your recall. In a way, this form of self-testing is like the 4-Details Exercise extended over hundreds of details, year after year. It’s not a pass-fail kind of test, but just a wonderful stretch that teaches you a lot about the nature of your own consciousness.
You don’t have to do all this tracking and testing if you don’t want. The brain power 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 and taking steps to improve both can help too.
How These Free Brain Games For Adults Improve Memory and Concentration
For example, I’ve practiced juggling, writing with both hands and writing backwards to involve both my brain and body. I know that you’re wondering how they improve memory and concentration.
I know 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.
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 and video game addiction.
Sure, you can get some great brain fitness reading from the Kindle app or solving online crossword puzzles. Maybe you excel at Nintendo’s brain age game.
But if you’re constantly interrupted by notifications on your reading device, you’re damaging your focus and concentration more than helping improve it. Memory 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 exercises helped save me and here’s a raw discussion of how to train your brain when you’re feeling depressed (or a related mental health problem) 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 to your cognitive health.
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
- The 4-details mental workout is excellent for “passive memory training.”
- Number exercises result in better working memory, an increased attention span and greater numerical memory skills.
- 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.
- Create images, associations and other related sensations as you listen to people speak. This will create intense brain fitness to reduce the chances of memory impairment.
- The Metronome exercise. This simple device can be found at any music store or downloaded as an app. “Covering the click” has many mental benefits and provides a fun challenge as a solo effort or group activity. You can perform such neurobic exercises several times a day.
- Create and use Memory Palaces. Both of these activities create a lot of mental exercise.
- Learn a language consistently over time. It might not feel like brain workout, but it is and the benefits of being bilingual provide ongoing mental benefits. These include helping with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline associated with brain age.
- Mind Map. There are many interesting rules you can follow to maximize the process. Following them is part of what creates the mental benefits of this creative brain game.
- 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. Don’t forget to sleep enough, though!
Improve Your Memory With Games
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? Did you develop better memory? 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 that really improve your memory, please read Brain Games: The Truth You Need To Know For Memory Improvement.
Or, if you’d like more practical, hands on help, join my…
Brain Exercise Bootcamp!
This exclusive training comes packed with over 40 brain and memory exercises. You’ll be taken step-by-step through everything you need to create a detailed program of fitness that keeps you focused and sharp for life.
So if you enjoyed the 9 memory exercises on this page, don’t hesitate to dive in deeper and enjoy 40 more!