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
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. Here are a few common brain-boosting activities and how technology can help you follow through with them.
Build A Reading Habit With Dripread
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, but perhaps automation is the key here.
Dripread is one of three great sites to read books via email. 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. Add only one book at a time. You can even email your ebook to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
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, 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 to choose from.
Build Your Focus And Memory With Elevate
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.
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!