How to Sharpen Your Mind with Brain Workouts

6 Apr

imagesThe slowing down of the brain is inevitable. What I meant to say is, the slowing down of the brain with age is inevitable.

I’ve become absentminded lately. In fact, just yesterday, while preparing a turkey sandwich for my son, I took a jar of mayonnaise out of the fridge and forgot to use it. Although I remembered to put the mayonnaise away, I later discovered that I had returned it to the pantry.

Not only do I find that I’m increasingly absentminded, but I’m also more and more forgetful. Words don’t come to me as easily as they used to. I try to hide my forgetfulness from others because it’s embarrassing. During a recent conversation with my daughter, I grew frustrated when it took me five minutes to think of the word “blackmail.” I had to pay her five bucks not to tell anyone.

Fortunately, you can sharpen your mind by working out your brain. It’s kind of like going to the gym, except only your brain exercises. Brain workouts are no longer limited to word teasers, wooden puzzles, and Rubik’s Cube—you remember, that colorful cursed cube that is so frustrating to solve that after three minutes you want to smash it against a wall?

Now we have Internet brain training using apps, such as Lumosity, Jungle Memory and CogniFit that make brain workouts fun. I decided to try Lumosity, probably the best known app, which is a program that offers scientifically designed games reported to improve cognitive abilities, such as speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving.

Before you register for the three-day free trial, you’re asked to choose a particular aspect of each of these areas that you’d like to improve. For instance, I chose attention, which includes improving productivity and precision at work or at home, avoiding distractions, concentrating while learning something new, and maintaining focus on important tasks. But I can’t be certain, because while I was registering, I was talking on the phone, checking my email and trying to assemble my new outdoor grill.

Lumosity develops a personalized training program based on your responses and your age. I tried a game called Word Bubbles, which challenges your language skills and flexibility. You’re given three letters, and you have to type as many words that start with those letters as you can in a set amount of time, after which you’re challenged with a new set of letters. I was given the letters “squ.” “Squid,” “squabble” and “squalor” immediately came to mind. After that, my brain came to an abrupt halt. I suddenly wished I had a Rubik’s Cube to hurl at the wall. It was only after the clock ran out that I thought of more words: “Squirrel,” “squish,” “squeak” . . .

So, does brain training really work? Numerous scientific studies indicate that our brains do better in the long term if they are exposed to novel activities like brain exercises. Other research has shown mixed results.

Personally, I have found brain training to be (mostly) fun and rewarding. I can’t prove that my mind is any sharper for it, but it did spark the idea to write this article. I’m still thinking of a way to get my five bucks back from my daughter . . .

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33 Responses to “How to Sharpen Your Mind with Brain Workouts”

  1. Professor Taboo April 6, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    Lisa,

    A funny but common predicament we “older” people find ourselves in, huh? As I was reading I kept thinking and remembering how easily I can get distracted from a task or in a conversation! The biggest reason, I feel, is how bombarded we are with information overload, marketing schemes purposely and scientifically DESIGNED to get in front of your face/attention and STAY THERE — online especially! And distractions are not the only cause of this parental epidemic either!

    …and now I forgot where I was going with all this. 😦 😉

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 7, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      Sorry, did you say something? LOL So true. Too many distractions!

      • Professor Taboo April 7, 2015 at 9:06 am #

        There ARE too many, right!? I mean, who tha heck says a sandwich MUST have a condiment on the bread!? Geezzz, picky picky! They should try and…

        …OH LOOK, a sparkling dragonfly!!! 😮

  2. sportsattitudes April 6, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    Yes Lisa, the brain “leakage” has started with me also. My most often experienced “moment” is when I head upstairs only to realize shortly upon arrival I have no earthly idea why I needed to do so in the first place. I then return to the first floor until such time as the “light bulb” comes back on and off I go for a return trip to do or get what I should have earlier. I will also admit to one instance where I forgot why I was upstairs…returned downstairs…remembered what I wanted to do/get…and then forgot a SECOND time. Fortunately, these instances are few and far between and – at least so far – have been restricted to the “comforts” of home! Ah, what the heck…it’s exercise for the body if nothing else!

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 7, 2015 at 8:31 am #

      I suppose it’s when the light bulb doesn’t come back on that we really have to worry. 🙂

  3. nursemommylaughs April 6, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    I can’t remember what I was going to say. Seriously. I think with age, we aren’t declining but our hardware is full. We need an additional card to add more info or we just need to start deleting the extraneous crap.

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 7, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Wouldn’t it be great if we could back up the info in our brains like we can our computers?

  4. jotsfromasmallapt April 6, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    I am absolutely certain someone will remember who I am at some future date. The problem is: All those “someones” are my age and will be in the same boat…not only wondering where we are going or who we are but whose boat we stole.

    If I remember correctly I think I really enjoy your writing essays…

  5. Carrie Rubin April 6, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    I feel like I challenge my brain every day with the work I do, and still I forget what I went into a room to get or I spend minutes trying to find the right word. I like to blame it on having so much going on, but I suppose sooner or later I’m going to have to call it what it is: I’m getting older. Maybe I’ll have to try Lumosity. Because who doesn’t have time for another time suck in their day? 😉

    Thanks for a humorous look at our frustrating forgetfulness. 🙂

  6. G M Barlean April 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I tried Luminosity and must not have been enamoured with it. That was last year and I didn’t end up buying it. But boy do I relate to what you’re talking about. I can’t find words, I can’t remember where I parked, I can’t remember even a simple few items when I go to the grocery store, I can’t remember numbers… the list goes on and on. If I’m like this at 52, what in the world am I going to be like at 70? I shudder to think!

  7. LuAnn April 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

    I tried Lumosity as well, a gift from a friend. Hmmm, wonder what she was trying to tell me? I did enjoy it and loved this post. You are hilarious! 🙂

  8. reocochran April 6, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    I leave notes everywhere. My parents ‘swore’ doing crossword puzzles and reading the commentaries, then responding to their local paper kept their wits about them. You made me chuckle and thanks for this!

  9. earthriderjudyberman April 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    Jog your memory, Lisa. Surely you must have a photo of your daughter that she would just be mortified if it was posted – say – on FB. Cruel! I know. But she’d cough up that 5 bucks real quick. Thanks for the chuckle. 😉

    I’ve been a vegematic most of my life. I put something down. When I can’t find it later, I have to retrace my steps and think “Where was I last when I had this paper/document, etc. That usually works. I also do crossword puzzles in People Magazine. Mindless, but it does kick start the gray cells. I love some of the games you suggested.

  10. dilip April 7, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    A lovely article which reminds us of the importance of keeping the mind agile. Play games and sports, solve puzzles, interact meaningfully with more people and so on this also helps. Whatever we do our mind must be focused on it.

    Thanks and cheers :).

  11. Julie Weigley April 7, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Funny article. I think my memory might improve if I ever actually got a good full night’s sleep.

  12. Lou April 8, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    No question, aging is a bitch, especially if you can’t remember why. Hang in there with Rubiik’s Cube. My best.

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 10, 2015 at 10:50 am #

      We can’t avoid aging, but if we use our muscles and our minds we can slow it down (and hopefully remember why we’re doing it . . .)

  13. dorannrule April 13, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    They say as you age, your brain will filter out the unimportant, irrelevant things – like the mayonnaise – because you have so many more important things stored and in the lineup to remember. Maybe my aging memory losses are just the brain cleaning house and leaving a more orderly clutter. 🙂

  14. linhwins April 25, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    This little blog post was very cute and enjoyable to read! The tone in your writing feels like you’re actually talking to me. I like your writing style! with the little mini anecdotes here and there. This made me want to go try some brain exercises as well! Thanks for the enjoyable read (-:

  15. Cecilia May 1, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    That’s exactly it, through using and sharpening our brain there is no slowing down. Everything is in our head anyway 🙂

  16. Main Street Musings Blog May 4, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Thanks for your comment. I like your blog and wondered if you knew about a book called The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Same wave length!

    • Cecilia June 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Sorry I am answering so late. No, I don’t know about this book but will look into it, thanks. And thank you for visiting my blog. Have a nice day!

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