The Best Hobbies for a Real Mental Workout

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    Gardening is surprisingly good for the brain
    Gardening is surprisingly good for the brain

    Photo Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0

    For many years, we assumed that puzzle games such as Sudoku and crosswords were an excellent way to keep the mind active and healthy into old age. But recent studies have found that these two games may have no effect on age-related cognitive loss due to dementia. The studies carried out on 500 individuals concluded that cognitive loss is not preventable. What they did find, however, is that if your loss starts from a higher level, the effects will take longer to have a noticeable effect on your everyday life.

    So, this means that those of us who maintain a healthy mind could conceivably stave off the effects of age-related cognitive loss for a little longer than expected. But how do we keep our brains in shape, especially if we’re not into puzzles or even reading? Well, it turns out that there are plenty of hobbies that can help exercise the all-important parts of your brain. Here are some of our favorites.

     

    Exercise

    Any kind of physical activity is good for the mind
    Any kind of physical activity is good for the mind

    Photo Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0

    Did you know that working out not only keeps you fit and healthy but also helps with brain health? Physical activity helps increase the number of blood vessels that bring blood to the parts of the brain responsible for thought. It also encourages the development of new nerve cells and increases and improves the connections between brain cells. That’s got to be a good thing.

    Those better connections can result in a more efficient brain that is also more adaptive. So, even if all that powerwalking you do in the evening isn’t shifting that excess weight as quickly as you’d like, it’s still doing your brain a world of good. Perhaps, it’s time to sign up for the gym.

     

    Card Games

    Did you ever wonder why retirement homes actively encourage their residents to play card games as much as possible? Research carried out by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute shows that card games such as poker, bridge or even a simple game like Go Fish have linked to better memory and increased brain volume. That’s right, so when you see older people playing poker, there’s a lot more to it than social activity.

    Now, we’re going out on a limb here to suggest that you’ll want to pick up something a little more challenging than Go Fish or Snap, and for that reason, we’re suggesting poker. Learning how to play Texas Hold ‘em or even Omaha Hi-Lo isn’t as hard as you might think. Sure, it’s a tough game to master, but the basic rules are easy enough to pick up. The other great thing about poker is that it’s one of the most played card games in the world, and you can now play it online easily, too.

     

    Playing a Musical Instrument

    Music is an incredible stress reliever
    Music is an incredible stress reliever

    Photo Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0

    Now, this is a good one, and like poker, it’ll take a little bit of study. Scratch that, it will take quite a lot of study. But if you have a genuine interest in music and prepare to put a little effort in, then this could be an ideal brain booster. Music is a proven stress reliever, and learning to play is great for your memory.

    Research into how learning to play an instrument affects your brain has provided us with some fascinating results. Studies show that it can help improve your verbal memory (possibly through the memorization of notes and lyrics). It also helps your spatial reasoning, and believe it or not, your literacy skills. And you guessed it: All those things are an incredible help regarding brain health. One thing we will say, though, is that you may want to set yourself some achievable goals. If you’re trying to master a particularly difficult piano piece, then you may find that your frustration counteracts the positive benefits of learning the instrument in the first place.

     

    Gardening

    Gardening has many benefits, chief of which is the ability to calm your nerves and ease anxiety. Interestingly, there is a type of bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae that people often ingest or inhale when in the garden. That bacteria helps to stimulate serotonin production. And if you’ve no idea what that is, it’s the chemical and neurotransmitter found in our brain that induces feelings of happiness. It’s no wonder gardeners always look so happy.

    This production of serotonin, alongside the physical activity you undertake when gardening, makes it one of the most beneficial hobbies you can take up. Even people who live in apartments can still enjoy these benefits by growing plants indoors or on their balconies. The other advantage to choosing this hobby is that it encourages you to get outside and learn more about how important plants are for our well-being.

     

    Art

    This one might be one of the most intimidating hobbies on our list because most people don’t consider themselves capable of creating art. But you have to remember that art is only that: Something you create. It doesn’t have to be worthy of an exhibition in the Tate Modern gallery or the Louvre; it only has to be something that you enjoyed creating.

    There are many forms of art that you can try out. You could try painting landscapes (getting outdoors again), sculpture or make things out of old pieces of cardboard lying around the house. The possibilities are endless, but what’s so great about art?

    For a start, it helps open up that creative section of your mind that you may have neglected since childhood. It also helps you focus more and pay closer attention to the finer details. Most significantly, though, is the fact that it creates more brain connections, and this stimulates more activity between different parts of your brain. As you can imagine, this helps keep your mind in healthy shape and working efficiently.

    So, if you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby, and you don’t know what to try, then consider something that will not only relieve your boredom but also help keep your brain in good shape. It matters not one bit if it’s poker or art. What matters is that you enjoy doing it.

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