Most of daily activities — that are not totally mindless — will sharpen your mind when practiced over a year.
This is the power of the compound effect. Even if you engage your intellect only marginally in some activity, it can bring significant effects over a year.
I practice(d) most of the below activities for at least a year. It’s hard to estimate their effect of my brain’s acuteness, but I got some interesting results that speak for themselves.
1. Learn new knowledge
Our capacity for learning is astounding. In the last few years I studied multiple topics, most of them for the first time in my life: self-publishing, personal development, habits development or online marketing.
It’s not about becoming an expert (especially not in 10 minutes a day), but about the web of associations your brain creates. Now I get ideas regarding personal development while reading a scripture, or a thought about how a brain works pops out when I study my website traffic.
2. Consolidate old knowledge
For about 2 years I had been studying professional documentation learning about databases. I had been working with databases at that moment in time for more than 8 years, but I had very little formal knowledge (two 6-month courses on university).
I passed three professional exams, obtained two certificates and got a better job (35% higher salary). All of that came from 10-minute study sessions.
3. Learn new skills
One skill I deliberately practiced for 10 minutes a day has been speed reading.
I quickly doubled my reading speed and maintained my skill at this level. Thanks to those practices I read a few dozen books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.
4. Practice gratitude
I keep three gratitude journals. Filling them with my entries takes about 10 minutes.
This activity will not only sharpens your brain, it will improve EVERYTHING in your life.
Gratitude makes your brain positive and when your brain is positive:
“Every possible outcome we know how to test for raises dramatically.” — Shawn Achor
I tested it on myself. It works. For everything indeed.
Studies had confirmed that meditation improves performance and productivity. I suppose it sharpens brain as well.
Surely, it magnifies your self-awareness and self-knowledge is one of the foundations of success.
“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves — their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.” — Peter F. Drucker
Thinking in writing has this magical quality of clarifying your thoughts. What was a tangled web of incoherent associations in your head becomes on paper a clear and concise project/ plan/ train of thoughts/ discovery.
It’s also great for gaining self-knowledge.
Ancient philosophers knew that already and modern research confirmed common sense: A sound mind in a sound body.
People who exercise regularly have better cognitive abilities.
8. Listen to different music
I mean, a different kind of music at every session. The nature of connection between music and brain performance is still an enigma for scientists, but one thing we know for sure: it’s powerful.
I’ve seen an awesome documentary about how old people with dementia living in a vegetative state got animated when listening to a music from their youth.
And different kinds of music activate different part of our brains.
9. Listen to podcasts
You may learn something. You may hear some fascinating stories or facts.
The best in this activity is that you can do it in background while doing something else (chores, workout, walking, etc.)
10. Solve puzzles
There is a plentiful of logic games out there. Don’t focus on getting to another level. Instead try a new game every week (or even every day).
11. Solve real problems
I work in IT support in my day job (applications, databases and servers maintenance). I HAVE TO solve real-life problems every single day. I had no idea what it meant for my creativity and attitude till I started studying personal development.
Most people stay stuck in “I can’t” attitude. I don’t. Finding a way out is my second nature.
Brainstorming, narrowing down options, trial and error approach — they are for me as natural as breathing.
Admittedly, I did it for a lot more than 10 minutes a day.
12. Come up with ideas
Ask a question and brainstorm 10 different answers. Preferably to some practical problem. Even better if it pertains to your life.
Claudia Azula swears that idea generation train your brain like a good workout trains your body.
Bonus: write them all down (see #6 above).
13. Use your non-dominant hand for daily exercises
Brush your teeth, answer the phone or do any other everyday trivia. It’s known that cerebral hemispheres control one side of your body each.
When you use your non-dominant hand neurons run through your less used hemisphere. It’s sharpening your brain in my dictionary.
14. Learn new words
Extending your vocabulary expands your mental horizons.
Your vocabulary is like a set of filters your brain uses to process all the sensual impulses and channel them to your conscious mind.
This article was originally published on Medium.