Memory lapses are common at every age, but as your grow older, your brain doesn't work like how it used to.
Forgetting names, memories, places, and something as simple as why you've entered a room when you know you're supposed to be for a reason are just a few signs that indicate cognitive decline.
The best part is that these exercises are super simple and fun.
Before we get into these mental exercises that'll keep your brain sharp, let's test your skills.
In the two images below, can you spot three differences in less than one minute?
Let's move on to the next image. It's okay if you haven't been able to spot all the differences in the beach photo.
In this misty image below, can you spot a soldier? It should only take you a few seconds.
Here's a hint: look for his helmet.
Now let's get to the answers.
Here are the three differences in the two photos of the beach. Think about how fast you were able to spot these. Did it take you more than a minute or only a few seconds?
Now for the soldier's helmet. How fast were you able to spot it?
Whether these cognitive exercises were simple or difficult for you is besides the point.
If you were able to spot these differences quickly, then you have all the more reason to continue keeping your brain sharp.
If these exercises were difficult, then you definitely need to try these next simple thought exercises to improve your brainpower.
1. Use your opposite hand
Your brain has the ability to adapt and grow, but only if you let it. If you don't expose yourself to new experiences, how are you able to learn?
Try using your non-dominant hand to do every day tasks to maintain your fine motor skills. If you're not left-handed, use your left hand to brush your teeth, write a brief note, text a friend, or hold a spoon.
When you use the opposite hand to do things, you're exercising the hemisphere of your brain that doesn't get used often.
It's going to be difficult at first, but you'll get the hang of it eventually.
Then you can brag to your friends that you're ambidextrous, and start comparing yourself to geniuses like Einstein who are also able to use both of their hands to complete tasks.
2. Try something new
You know the butterflies you get in your stomach when you're about to embark on a new adventure?
If you want to experience more of that, and improve your brain function, try something new!
Simply switching up your routine will do wonders for your brain.
If that's not a possibility for you, take a different route to work. Go on a different path when you bike around your neighborhood.
The possibilities here are endless! Just do something that makes you happy, and you'll be improving your brain function in no time.
3. Memorize something useful
Think about all the times that your memory has failed you. While there are things that we're just not good at, it doesn't mean that we'll forever be terrible at them.
For example, my husband is awful at remembering directions and I'm terrible at remembering people's names.
We improved our brain function by using a mnemonic device, which is a technique to help you remember something.
Say you want to remember the order of the planets. Instead of trying to remember every single name, create a phrase like "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles."
4. Learn a new language
If you're serious about reducing your risk of cognitive decline, learn a new language.
My dad's been learning German for five years at his own pace using the app Duolingo and Memrise.
He's turning 80 soon and his memory is still in tact, which I'm super grateful for.
Research has shown that learning a foreign language can actually increase the size of the brain.
The study suggests that exposing yourself to new sounds and phrases will reduce your chances of developing memory-related diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.
5. Read a book
Books are considered the superfood of the brain.
Researchers at Yale School of Public Health spent more than a decade studying how reading affects the brain.
They discovered that people who read books, in whatever format, for at least 30 minutes every day over several years lived longer than those who didn't.
The reason for why this happens is because reading forces you to think and, surprise, surprise, thinking is good for you!
I prefer reading mysteries because it forces me to connect what's happening in the book, but you can read whatever book you like.
So just remember, a book a day keeps the doctor away!
This one makes sense, right? The more you repeat something, the more likely you'll remember it.
Unfortunately, most of us don't repeat things out loud, which is the best way to remember it later.
For example, when someone introduces themselves to you for the first time, repeat their name once, maybe twice, out loud so that you can better recall it later.
Practice makes perfect.
There's no shame in putting a string on your finger, covering your fridge or desk with Post-It notes, or setting alarms.
We all do it, because every single one of us has a busy schedule that is nearly impossible to remember by heart.
These visual cues also work as repetition to remind you of tasks, and the more you're exposed to something, they more likely you are to remember it.
Eventually you'll have trained your brain so that you don't need so many visual cues or reminders.
8. Do math in your head
Hate it or love it, math is your friend.
If you like money, it's a good idea that you know how to do some simple math problems in your head. That means no calculator, pencil, paper, or abacus.
You don't have to solve a sheet of basic math homework in your head, but occasionally thinking what 20 minus 16 is or what 50 plus 34 equals to will improve your cognitive ability.
9. Listen to music
You've probably heard that classical music is good for a baby, but did you know it's good for you too?
Another music genre that's great to improve mental focus is hip-hop. Memorizing those smooth rap verses will give you a full brain workout.
Music also helps with creativity and to recall memories.
I can attest to this. Every time I hear '80s songs like "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper or "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears, I feel like I'm transported back to the best decade of my life.
10. Take a class
As Michael Jackson famously sang, "Don't stop 'till you get enough."
When it comes to learning, age is only a number! Prevent your brain from slowing down by challenging yourself.
If you've got time, take a class that you're interested in.
If you like exercise, go to a dance class and try to memorize the choreography. If you like cooking, challenge your taste buds by trying new foods. If you like music, learn how to play an instrument.
It's never too late! I started learning how to play the guitar when I was 39.
If you liked this article, see how fast you can solve these tricky riddles.