Staying at the top of your mental game is vital in today’s fast-paced society, where the weak get eaten, and only the strong survive. It’s all well and good popping into the gym once a week, but is your gray matter getting the same level of workout time? As every Olympic competitor worth their salt knows, it takes as much mental toughness as physical endurance to get to the top, and by neglecting your brain, you could be handicapping yourself needlessly. The question is, what are the best, most fun ways of giving your brain some much-needed workout time? Here are the top ways you can not only get your brain more active but also have a little bit of fun along the way.

Squash

Although not very popular in the US, the game of squash has a number of benefits no matter what your ultimate goal is. Obviously, all of that running and jumping around is good for your heart, lungs and muscles, but less attention is given to the mental improvements that you’ll find after a few attempts. Squash uses a small, fast-moving ball, and as a result, the players have to concentrate hard to keep it in view at all times. While enhancing hand to eye coordination, squash will aid your concentration levels, especially as you quickly work out where the ball is going to be and where you want to hit it so that it takes your opponent by surprise.

Risk

If that all sounds too energetic, then board games are great for your mental health. One of the most popular board games and one that is excellent for your brain is Risk, the world domination game that relies on a little bit of luck and a lot of forward thinking. Risk is good for your brain because it focuses on strategy. It’s like an intense game of chess with multiple players and world domination, which already sounds fantastic. Logic and unintended consequences make this a game that needs to be played as often as possible. By utilizing parts of our brains that we might not pay enough attention to on a day to day basis, we are able to increase our learning potential and even delay mental degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Dispatch

More and more people are playing Dispatch these days, and that’s no real surprise. Its unique playing format and style have ensured its popularity will continue to grow. A monthly subscription game, players receive clues in the post and have to solve the growing mystery. For wannabe detectives, Dispatch offers the best of everything. There is a bit of an olde-worlde vibe to Dispatch, that calls to mind old episode of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, so if you like that style of entertainment and wouldn’t mind having a go at giving your brain a bit of a challenge (and a fair bit of frustration, of course), then Dispatch might just be the game for your brain.

Escape Games

Escape games are proving popular nowadays, so trying one out for yourself is a lot easier than expected. Look up escape games in your immediate area, and find one that best suits your likes and personality. You can have murder mystery escape games, or you could even have a Game of Thrones themed escape game (depending on what’s available to you, of course). Therefore, if you want to exercise your mind, look up the best Escape Games available.

Candy Crush

It may be the bane of online social media existence, but there’s a reason that Candy Crush is one of the most popular online games of all time. In much the same way that games like Tetris effect the brain, Candy Crush is great for distracting you from your from addictions, so although you might hate getting all of those friend invites to play the game, Candy Crush might actually help you quit smoking. By causing you to focus on the game, with its required concentration levels, addictive behavior can be forgotten for a time, training your brain to forget about smoking or making another cup of coffee.

Download an app

There are thousands of ‘brain-training’ apps available these days. So many in fact that it can be a little overwhelming just taking the time to check out reviews so that you don’t waste your time or money on an app that is useless. However, brain training games have a number of benefits, and because the best ones alternate between different mental areas, they are able to focus on your memory, your concentration, lateral thinking, and problem-solving. All of these areas will keep your mind challenged and working hard. As one of the most popular of the brain-training apps available, Lumosity is one of the more popular and covers a wide range of mental challenges.

Get the knitting needles out

It may seem like a repetitive motion that eventually results in a poorly made scarf, but you’d be surprised by how much knitting or sewing can stimulate the grey matter. Research seems to indicate that the brain benefits from repetitive tasks such as these in the same way that it benefits from meditation and yoga, and is particularly useful for those struggling with depression or any form of anxiety. It can help because although you are able to fall into the repetitive motion, this can help to reduce stress hormones and give you little bursts of dopamine.

Mental stimulation is vital for mental health, and your brain benefits every time you use it in much the same way as your body improves the more you use it. The brain is a muscle and needs dusting off every now and again if you want to keep it fresh and vital. Due to that fact that we often allow ourselves to fall into the same everyday patterns, our brains can easily go unchallenged, which can lead to negative mental health issues like depression. Routine does not give our brains anything to do, and so it is vital that we try to stay away from tedium as much as possible. Games often introduce change to our lives, which prevents our brains becoming sluggish and stimulation is the key to mental health. As a society, we are repeatedly told that good health is vital, and that regular exercise should be incorporated into our weekly lives, and yet we often forget the importance of the most important muscle of them all.

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