On at least some level, everyone wants to be the superfit person Crossfitting the heck out of their early mornings, hitting the gym in the evenings and burning off whatever extra calories their Paleo or Keto Diets left them with with a run before bed. That’s the physical fitness stereotypical ideal. But on the flip side, no one wants to be the superfit person who opens their mouth and gibberish falls out, leaving nonsensical word salad in a pile on the floor. That’s just embarrassing. Physical fitness is obviously good; lack of mental fitness is… bad. Thankfully, there are ways to work out your mind—inexpensive and fun means of making your brain sweat (in the figurative sense). And none of them involve astrophysics or finally getting that PhD.
1. Read a book.
This simple activity is, by far, the cheapest and the most commonly advised activity for anyone wanting to stimulate their brain. Reading a good book is not only enjoyable and mentally stimulating, but it’s also great for broadening your vocabulary, increasing your knowledge and opening your eyes to the rest of the world. So pick up a book from your local library and dive right in.
2. Cross-stitch, knit or crochet a gift for a friend.
Doing this kind of activity will not only your increase mental sharpness and challenge your creative side, but it can also be an act of encouragement to a friend. Once you finish your knitted, crocheted, or cross-stitched masterpiece, give it to a friend with a note saying how you appreciate them.
3. Run every day.
Aside from reading books, you can grab your running shoes, get out the door, and just run in a blaze of glory. Running—as well as any other type of exercise—is good not only for your body but also for your mental fitness. It is an activity that helps your body produce “happy hormones” and help your mind manage your stress, which can help you feel calmer. Plus, it’s been found that a difficult run boosts the levels of a brain-derived protein in your body that is believed to help with higher learning and thinking and decision-making—thus, increase mental sharpness.
4. Join a dance workshop or a short-term workout class.
This one doesn’t require you to invest in a long-term membership to a gym. There are classes you can commit to joining for six sessions or so. Not only do you improve your body in the process, but you also get to interact with people, memorize the moves or steps, and increase your body’s release of happy hormones—all of which benefit your goal to achieving strong mental fitness!
5. Finish a crossword puzzle or sudoku.
Pick up your newspaper and turn to the crossword page. Grab a thesaurus and dictionary (or just open your phone to these apps). Then sit your butt down and finish the puzzle. Or if you’re not into words and you’re more of a math geek, try completing sudoku. These brain teasers are a lot of fun to do—and they can keep your mental muscles flexing.
6. Complete an old-school jigsaw puzzle.
Remember the good old days without iPads or cellphones? Remember working on jigsaw puzzles with your family or friends? Despite the invention of iPads and cellphones, puzzles still exist. You can complete the puzzle by yourself or with friends. Exercising your mental muscles with other people can be advantageous to achieving mental fitness, especially since you get to interact and brainstorm with them.
7. Finish a paint-by-number painting.
Just as jigsaw puzzles have survived the advent of personal electronic devices, so too have paint-by-numbers kits! There are kits with different patterns you can choose from. Pick a pattern by Van Gogh or Monet or a generic image. You may not be creating The Starry Night for the first time, but the mental acuity required to make a decent approximation will have your brain humming.
8. Learn sign language with friends.
You can buy a book like “Barron’s E-Z American Sign Language” to study sign language (just like I did). But of course, it would be a thousand times more awesome and helpful to go to an actual class and learn ASL with others. Learning ASL with a friend can help you practice communicating your thoughts in a completely different language. And the fact that you’re learning it with a friend means you can master the language faster. (You never know when it will be useful. And you can use it as a secret language between you and your friends.)
9. Declutter and organize your closet as you’ve never done before.
I’m not talking about simply throwing out or donating old clothes to Goodwill or to The Salvation Army. This is about a major haul of your wardrobe that would take your organizing skills to the next level. Try organizing your clothes by color and by style. If you see stuff that you don’t feel like wearing anymore, toss them into your giveaway pile. Then get creative. Don’t just limit your idea of organizing your clothes on hangers and shelves. Think of charts, boxes, colorful shelf dividers, and more! Declutter, categorize and organize—this activity will surely help increase mental sharpness.
10. Cook a new, unfamiliar dish.
Search for a wholesome, healthy and totally new recipe on the Internet. Then make it. Cooking a dish you’re not used to making will keep you mentally on your toes. And then, of course, comes the best part: eating it.
Mental fitness is as important as emotional- and physical well-being. Keeping healthy in mind can actually even help us keep healthy in body and heart! So if you want to live a bold life, start by taking practical steps toward building strong and resilient mental fitness. Pick any one of these suggestions and do it!