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We never stop learning. But unlike our school days, when our brain is constantly challenged and exercised to become better, our adult lives don’t make time for this. In 2015, give your brain a boost. It’s easier than you think and takes only a few minutes of your life each day — something you can easily turn into a habit.

Why You Should Only Pick One Brain-Boosting Habit

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Resolutions are easy to make, but difficult to follow through on. Why? Usually because we make one too many resolutions as the new year rolls around. Our ambition tells us, “Sure, we can spend a few minutes a day to meditate. In fact, we should also start reading more, maybe a book a week. Oh, and we’ll start building our memory as well.” And by February, none of them stick.

It’s difficult to form a new habit. Scientists at University College London guess it takes about 66 days to form a new habit, so don’t overburden yourself with trying to do more than one of these at a time. Instead, pick one brain-boosting activity and follow through on making that a habit.

In fact, there are plenty of great apps that can aid in your quest for a better mind. For example, Justin has detailed how HabitRPG can make forming new habits addictive HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive Change your habits for the better by tying them into challenges in a role playing game. Level up for doing things you know you should and lose hit points for indulging in habits you know... Read More . Here are a few common brain-boosting activities and how technology can help you follow through with them.

Build A Reading Habit With Dripread

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We’ve been told to read more from an early age, but just in case you aren’t following through because you thought it’s all hokum, there are actual scientific benefits to reading. Studies have found that reading builds better comprehension and logical structure, slows down the rate of decline in your memory, increases your empathy, and much more.

The common excuse is, “I don’t have the time to read a book.” We have a few tips on how you can read more books each year 5 Tips To Read More Books Every Year 5 Tips To Read More Books Every Year There are just so many amazing books out there. To never have finished at least some is a regret waiting to be felt. Forestall it by reading more and reading smart with the following tips. Read More , but perhaps automation is the key here.

Dripread is one of three great sites to read books via email 3 Great Sites That Help You Read Books By Email 3 Great Sites That Help You Read Books By Email Maybe the single most important reason for reading books by email is convenience. Come to think of it, when we spend most of our waking hours staring at a computer screen and reading all sorts... Read More . Sign up and you can upload ePub files of your favourite ebooks. In case you use a Kindle, you can break the Kindle DRM and use them here How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere When you pay Amazon some money for a Kindle eBook, you probably think it’s yours now. I mean, you paid some money, you got some content, and now you have it, just like any other... Read More . Add only one book at a time. You can even email your ebook to upload@dripread.appspotmail.com, from your registered email account.

Every day, Dripread will email you a section of the book. At the bottom of the email, you’ll see a “Done Reading” button. Click and the next day, the next section of the book will be sent. If you don’t click the button, the same section will be re-sent. Each section doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to read, and just like that, you’ll be getting through a book before you know it.

Build A Meditation Habit With Buddhify

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Mindfulness meditation has several benefits, be it increasing your ability to focus for long periods of time, ease anxiety and stress, and even increase levels of empathy. In fact, journalist and author Dan Harris succinctly explains why you should meditate and turn it into a regular exercise—it’s just a four-minute video and well worth your time if you need to be convinced.

The thing about meditation is that you can practice it anywhere, at any time; you don’t need any external apparatus whatsoever. But it doesn’t hurt to have some, especially if you’re starting out.

We’ve looked at some great apps to practice meditation Practice Mindfulness With Help From Your iPhone & These Apps Practice Mindfulness With Help From Your iPhone & These Apps Inner calm and tranquility? There's an app for that. Read More , but if you’re a beginner, Buddhify ($2.99) is the best way to go. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and makes it easy for a newcomer to get into the practice.

You start off by choosing what you are doing right now, like taking a work break, commuting, browsing the web, or something else. Then pick from the options Buddhify gives you (each with their own play time listed) and start meditating. The voice will guide you through a quick meditation exercise. Over time, you can check out your stats to see how you are doing. Buddhify doesn’t have a built-in reminder, but in my experience, keeping it on my home screen has been enough of a reminder to do it every day.

If Buddhify isn’t your scene, there are plenty of other tools and resources for meditation Meditation Made Easy: Tools & Resources To Aid Your Well-Being Meditation Made Easy: Tools & Resources To Aid Your Well-Being If you have come to the conclusion that meditation is a method to calm your mind and achieve well-being worth trying, then we can help you with resources and tools. Read More to choose from.

Build Your Focus And Memory With Elevate

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Apple has picked Elevate as its App of the year, and you can immediately see why. Also available for Android, this free app gives users brain-training exercises in a fun and engaging manner.

Initially, you are asked to choose which aspects of your brain you want to train — focus, memory, articulation, and much more. Every day, Elevate will give you three exercises. These are essentially games based on your chosen subjects. The app tracks how you do on each game and adjusts its difficulty accordingly, progressively getting tougher as you get better. A calendar tracks all your achievements, show you can see just where you started and where you are now.

The whole thing takes no more than 10-15 minutes a day, and you will get a daily reminder to do your exercises. For best results, Elevate recommends playing at least four times a week.

Of course, there are also other “games for your brain” worth checking out Exercise Your Mind With 'Games For The Brain' Exercise Your Mind With 'Games For The Brain' It is very important to keep your brain occupied and working hard. Not constantly, of course, as we all need time off from thinking, from calculating, from forming ideas. But exercising it on a regular... Read More and even brain-training websites with collated resources 5 Sites To Boost Your Brain Fitness With Fun Games & Puzzles 5 Sites To Boost Your Brain Fitness With Fun Games & Puzzles Read More .

What Other Brain-Boosting Activity Would You Want?

Reading, meditating, focus, and memory are only some of the brain-boosting activities you might want to resolve to do in the new year, but it’s definitely not an exhaustive list. If your desired result isn’t covered here, drop a line in the comments and we’ll try to help you out!

Image Credit: Geralt, Nemo.

  1. KerryJ
    January 7, 2015 at 1:24 am

    I'm learning to play the ukulele. It's using parts of my brain I thought had atrophied, plus elevates my mood.

  2. Johnny A
    December 26, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Meditation perhaps, but I prefer prayers to the creator of the Universe...

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 27, 2014 at 5:30 am

      Meditation as a form of prayer, or Prayer as a form of meditation, is a perfectly good way to do it. While meditation doesn't need you to be religious, that doesn't mean you can't use it for religious practice. More power to you, I say :)

  3. Eric
    December 24, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    According to this TEDx talk, the best way to stimulate neuron growth is physical exercise:
    Enhancing the plasticity of the brain: Max Cynader at TEDxStanleyPark

    My guess would be though that what enhances intelligence is the organization between neurons, not simply the total number of neurons.
    I have been using one of the number-system courses in Memrise (Memrise has all sorts of courses). It's been mildly helpful so far. I am able to recall the combination to a padlock that I only use 5-7 times a year. Normally I would forget a padlock combination within 2-3 weeks.

  4. Saikat
    December 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Any of the three listed above don't take more than 20 minutes per day. That's probably less than the time we spend on Facebook or spend on commercials. But the benefits -- life changing!

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 24, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Spot on, good sir, spot on. But I'm not substituting my Twitter time for this :D

  5. favor
    December 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for the reinforced ideas they are all sure ways of boosting the brain. I have done reading , games, but am not yet good at meditating and focus. This is an excellent pieces..

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 24, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Anytime! :) Which brain-training games have you tried? How have they helped?

  6. bvssunnydale56
    December 24, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Thanks, good and useful article. I have to recommend TheBrain software, which I started using earlier this year, because it actually - and easily - shows you relationships (between anything, thoughts, people, places, projects, whatever) - which I find helps me a lot in terms of organization, thinking, and remembering (which in turn makes me feel like I have a grip - ordinarily I don't feel like I have much of a grip..). Although the visual metaphor is mind-mapping it's really a lot more than that in the sense of visualizing relationships/connections. There is a little up-front work (took me about 30 days of incremental daily input before it started to be truly useful) and I admit I never have gotten into most of the sophisticated things it can do but it gets my 2014 award for brain-boosting-habit. I would love to hear what others have to say on this subject. Thanks again for an excellent article.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 24, 2014 at 6:01 am

      Thanks! Is this the program you're recommending? http://www.thebrain.com/

    • Lamees
      December 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      My comment is off the subject but this could have been in a science fiction scenario 20 years ago, right?

    • Lamees
      December 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      I was referring to thebrain idea in my previous comment.

  7. Michael Dowling
    December 23, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    From what I've read,brain training software is BS,and just doesn't work.The reading one may be the exception.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

      I read a lot of those studies before writing this. Here's an overview of some: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-babble/201401/brain-training-apps-wont-make-you-smarter
      ---
      There are a few points worth noting in all of them.
      1) None of those studies were done over a long period (20 to 30 days seems to be the measurement they used)
      2) Small sample sizes
      3) All of them note that you do get better at the specific performance task, but it doesn't translate into overall brain-boosting

      And none of them tested Elevate, but that's completely an aside because I just like Elevate :D

  8. Venus Vavadiya
    December 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I will surely go for buddhify... Thanks :)

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 24, 2014 at 6:02 am

      Welcome! I also just discovered Stop, Breathe & Think, which might be worth a look for you before you spend your money on Buddhify: stopbreathethink.org

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