11 Ingenious Ways to Exercise Your Brain When You're Stuck Inside

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As the winter keeps going, it’s easy to find yourself spending more and more of your evenings in the comfort of your home. Just because you aren’t willing to brave the cold, however, doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of options to keep your brain on its toes. Here are a handful of fun ways to exercise your mind without ever leaving your living room.


If you’re interested in honing your mental acumen, it might be best to start with an activity designed specifically for the measurement thereof. There are a number of computer programs, notably the website and app Lumosity, that offer assessments of how well their users fare in certain areas of “brain fitness,” as well as exercises to boost these measurements, including memory, mental speed, and attention to detail.


While Lumosity offers a forthright assessment of mental progress, there are other, potentially more engaging ways to test your memory, as well as your general knowledge. No matter which subject intrigues or challenges you the most—be it geography, science, math, literature, or more—you’ll find a quiz on the Internet, or in app form, devoted to testing your relevant knowledge or comprehension.


If you’re holed up indoors with some company, there are plenty of ways to turn this option into a group activity. The popular app Heads Up and its non-digital forerunners offer a variety of subjects in which to try your hand at either giving or receiving clues. Games of this nature are believed to exercise both cognitive and communication skills.


Be it via pencil and paper or in app form, your standard crossword or Sudoku puzzle is a revered means of stretching your cognitive muscles. The Alzheimer’s Association has endorsed Sudoku as a potential tool for staving off the disease.


Likewise, word-building games like Words with Friends carry a shining reputation in the world of Alzheimer’s research. Distinguishing valid words from invalid ones among a collection of random letters is believed to tap into each of the chief components of linguistics: word structure, spelling, sound, and semantics.


If you’re interested in a longer-term project, learning a new language goes a long way to improving your mental fitness. Though picking up a new tongue can be a daunting task, programs like Rosetta Stone help to make the goal worlds more feasible, and to a particularly valuable end. Bilingualism is connected to denser gray matter in the brain, which aids in cognitive function, multitasking, and analytic skills, not to mention the fact that a second language can really help you out when you travel.


Video games are a surprisingly worthwhile pursuit when it comes to intellectual growth. The specific benefits vary from game to game based on the nature of the challenges with which the player is tasked, but many time-honored favorites—Super Mario, Starcraft, and Call of Duty among them—have been theorized to improve motor skills, spatial reasoning, problem solving abilities, eyesight, and even reading comprehension.


All you really need for a relaxing night spent drawing are a sheet of paper and a pencil, but many beginners won’t say no to a helpful tutorial on the side. Drawing is believed to boost your supply of positive brain chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, as well as to help construction of neuron synapses, which gives your conscious thought a readier accessibility to vivid memory.


There are few things more satisfying or mentally stimulating than building something with your hands, be it from large blocks of wood, model airplane parts, or clay. If you don’t have the aforementioned materials at your disposal, you can try any number of apps devoted to the joys of model construction. This community ranges from Sketchup, tailored specifically to architectural design, to 3D character animators like K-3D and Anim8or.


If you’re stuck indoors for long periods of time, you’ll want to exercise your body as well as your brain. Martial arts like tai chi kill two birds with one stone. The practice has been shown to improve the brain’s physical volume (a particular plus in warding off dementia) and memory function, and to reduce anxiety. Newcomers to the exercise can pick up some pointers from apps like Tai Chi Step-by-Step or Tai Chi Workout.


While the improvement of a brain’s cognition, memory, and motor skills are all tremendously important, boosting happiness levels is just as vital. The celebrated app Happify works towards the elevation of your mind’s positivity through games and quizzes; a happier brain thinks more clearly, tackles problems and challenges more efficiently, and is generally just more fun to spend these nights at home alone with!

Just as your brain needs constant exercise to stay sharp and nimble, Intel’s innovations continue to evolve in order to help you achieve your optimal performance. Learn more here.