Many people like to believe that doing mentally stimulating activities like coloring or Sudoku puzzles can help improve our brain power, but the discussion on whether or not these hobbies can be effective is still highly debatable according to some scientists. Though there seems to be a correlation between these activities and positive brain stimulation, there’s no direct evidence that they will actually improve your brain’s health overall.
So the question becomes, is setting aside time for these sorts of hobbies actually worth it? With websites like Lumosity offering fun, brain-training exercises via your computer or mobile device, experts want to make sure these companies aren’t just trying to take your money with zero benefit to your health.
“It’s a wildly debatable topic,” Eleazar Cruz Eusebio, Psy.D. says. She’s a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as the associate professor at Chicago’s School of Professional Psychology.
“These programs have to do a better job of explaining what they’re measuring,” she continued. “They’re claiming one thing but maybe they’re measuring something else, and I don’t know what it is they’re measuring.”
In the years since Lumosity was founded in 2007, it’s gained 85 million registered users, but last year, the Federal Trade Commission charged the brain-training website with deceptive advertising, forcing them to pay out a settlement of $2 million.
Adam Lipson, M.D., who is a board-certified neurosurgeon in New Jersey, believes the real way to keep your brain fit is to continuously forge and maintain new connections.
“There are studies that show some correlation between certain activities and good brain health, but no definitive studies that say doing these kinds of activities will make the brain healthier,” Lipson says. “They clearly don’t hurt, and a lot of people do engage in them and we see a lot of subjective reports that they do in fact help.”
But what do the experts recommend when it comes to maintaining the ideal level of brain health? Here are some activities that scientists say are worth your time:
Studies have definitely proven that meditating can both relax and strengthen your brain. A certain study showed that after just two weeks of doing so for a few minutes every day, concentration and attention spans improved.
Remaining active physically is also beneficial for your cognitive health. It’s scientifically proven that keeping active improves muscle memory, which also enhances your brain’s functions as a whole.
Chess and Sudoku
Activities like these help us think ahead, which aims to use the working memory to increase focus, self-control, and other mental skills which are good exercise for your brain.
Though coloring isn’t necessarily going to make you more focused, it does help you silence your mind and concentrate on something wholly separate of personal thoughts, which gives your brain a much-needed rest.
Certain foods are proven to help increase the nutrition in one’s brain, and these include berries, green vegetables, beans, poultry, and fish.
Anything that you try for the first time, or continue to learn as you progress, like playing an instrument, helps expand your brain’s cognitive capacity. Most importantly, this revolves around the idea that you never feel bored, and instead continue to pursue new knowledge. Curiosity is always the easiest brain exercise.