He offers a few suggestions of things practically anyone can do to beef up their brainpower:
1. Work on your weaknesses: “Since novelty and variety are the keys to battling routines and enhancing cognitive ability, engaging our minds outside of our established domains would be more beneficial,” says Breznitz. For example, if you’re really good with numbers but not such a big literary buff, try picking up a classic such as Moby Dick and see if you can read the whole thing. You may find that you’re actually a closet book-lover.
2. Take the road less traveled: Take a different route when going to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. Because we travel them with such frequency, driving routes are one of the biggest routines we have—and one of the easiest to practice breaking. Just make sure you leave a little earlier than normal to give yourself some time in case you get lost or your new route takes longer than you anticipate.
3. Dominate your non-dominant hand: Pretty much everyone has a dominant hand that they use to eat, write, and perform other daily activities. Mix things up by recruiting your neglected hand to some activities. Your non-dominant appendage might not be up to the task of transcribing a beautiful handwritten letter, so you may want to start off small by holding your fork in the other hand during mealtimes. Take it slow and try to avoid getting frustrated. Remember, challenging exercises like this may make you feel foolish, but you’re actually helping to preserve your mental capacity.
4. Change your point of view: You don’t have to limit yourself to academic or physical challenges. Emotional experiments can serve the dual purpose of helping your personal life as well as your mental health. For example, say you’re in a fight with your husband over who should take care of managing the family’s finances. You’re an accountant by trade, so you feel that you have the perfect knowledge base to handle the job. But your husband is more involved in the day-to-day running of the household, so he feels that he has a better handle on how much money is needed to support the family versus how much money can be saved for the future. Try to really listen to what your husband has to say, and attempt to approach the issue from his point of view. Forcing yourself to get out of your own head and examine the problem from a different perspective will tax your brain and, as an added benefit, you may find that empathizing with your husband’s position helps the two of you come to an agreeable compromise.
The Curiosity Challenge: 8 Ways to Construct Cognitive Reserve originally appeared on AgingCare.com.