Brain Exercises to Improve Memory and Cognitive Function

Read time: 4 min


July 5, 2023


In the pursuit of better mental health, we often turn to diet and exercise as our go-to methods. However, it’s easy to overlook the importance of regular brain exercises, and what they can do to our cognitive function, focus and memory. These short workouts are a key element in turning your brain from a procrastination station into a mean thinking machine. Our exploration will include memory exercises, brain exercises for memory, and a variety of activities to support mental agility, and feel free to use them whenever you feel a lack of clarity, brain fog, or inability to focus.

What are Brain Exercises?

Brain exercises are activities that challenge your cognitive abilities and stimulate different parts of the brain. They encompass a range of practices, from memory games and left-brain exercises to right-brain exercises. They work on enhancing various skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, attention, creativity, and memory.

Memory Exercises

Memory exercises are designed to activate the memory function of our brains. When practiced, they reinforce connections between brain cells, create new pathways, and improve recall.

An example of a memory exercise is the “Repeat and Retrieve” technique. This exercise involves repeating information immediately after receiving it and then attempting to retrieve it after a certain interval. This could be used when meeting new people by repeating their names and trying to recall them later.

Regularly practicing this exercise will enhance both short-term and long-term memory. It will help recall information faster and more efficiently, and could potentially delay the onset of memory-related issues in later life, like dementia.

Memory Games

Memory games are another enjoyable way to boost your memory power. They provide a challenging platform for the brain to recall and process information swiftly and efficiently.

Card matching games are popular memory games. The objective is to flip over two cards at a time, attempting to find a match. Start with a small number of cards and gradually increase to challenge your memory.

Playing memory games not only improves memory but also enhances concentration, attention to detail, and cognitive speed. Plus, it’s an engaging and fun way to spend your time, especially with your kids.

Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are tools that help encode and retrieve information effectively. These techniques include visualization, association, and chunking, which provide your brain with efficient recall cues.

A classic demonstration of a mnemonic device is using an acronym to remember a list of items. For example, to remember the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet), you can use the acronym ROYGBIV.

Using mnemonic devices helps us simplify and memorize complex information. It makes it easier to recall details, especially when learning new concepts or preparing for an exam.

Brain Training Apps

In today’s digital age, brain training apps are a convenient way to engage in brain exercises for memory. These apps offer a multitude of exercises that target different cognitive skills.

Lumosity is an example of one such app. It provides many games designed to improve memory, attention, problem-solving skills, and processing speed. You can track your progress over time and compare your performance with others.

Regular use of brain training apps keeps our brain active and busy, which further leads to improvements in memory and other cognitive skills. 

Concentration Exercises

Concentration exercises are a set of activities particularly aimed at refining our ability to focus on a single task or thought. They work by challenging the brain’s capacity to direct cognitive resources toward a p stimulus, thereby improving attention and reducing cognitive overload.

Incorporating practices such as mindful observation, where you focus on the details of an object or scene, or activities like listening to music or reading that require dedicated attention. Solving puzzles is another excellent concentration exercise, as it demands both focus and cognitive processing.

Also, engaging and examining philosophical practices such as stoicism or zen can significantly boost your concentration, as they are perfection-oriented schools of thought that can offer valuable insights and advice for the good life.

These exercises yield substantial benefits, not just on concentration, but also on other cognitive skills. Regular practice can lead to better attention span, increased productivity, and improved cognitive function. It allows the brain to process information more efficiently, ultimately leading to better memory and understanding.

Breathing Exercises

While not traditionally classified as brain exercises, breathing exercises have profound impacts on cognitive function. They work by altering our physiological state, thereby reducing stress, increasing focus, and promoting relaxation.

Exercises like deep breathing, where you take slow, full breaths, or box breathing, which involves breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and holding again, all for equal counts, are highly effective. Techniques such as pranayama from the yogic tradition can also be adopted for their cognitive benefits.

Regular practice of these exercises leads to significant improvements in memory and cognitive function. They help reduce stress, a known inhibitor of cognitive function, and promote mental clarity. Moreover, they can lead to increased focus, better decision-making, and improved emotional regulation.

Visualization Exercises

Visualization exercises involve creating and holding mental images to enhance memory and concentration. They stimulate the parts of the brain associated with visual memory, thus aiding in the recall of information.

You could visualize a process, such as the steps involved in making a cup of tea, a concept like the water cycle, or specific events from your past. Creating mind maps or mental diagrams for complex topics can also be an effective visualization exercise.

Regularly practicing visualization exercises have proven to have profound cognitive benefits. They aid in the formation of new memory pathways and the reinforcement of existing ones, leading to better recall and understanding. These exercises also enhance creative thinking, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.


Meditation is a brain exercise that concentrates on mindfulness and self-awareness. It involves focusing on your breath, thoughts, or the sensations in your body, and allowing your mind to quiet and your attention to focus on the present moment.

Examples of meditation include focused meditation, where you concentrate on a single point, such as your breath or a specific object. Alternatively, mindfulness meditation involves being present in the moment and accepting it without judgment. There’s also loving-kindness meditation, which involves focusing on developing feelings of compassion and love towards yourself and others.

Practicing meditation regularly has a multitude of cognitive benefits. It improves concentration, reduces stress, and enhances memory. Additionally, it can foster emotional well-being, enhance self-awareness, and boost creativity and problem-solving skills.

Focus Exercises

Just as physical muscles benefit from regular workouts, so does the brain. Focus exercises are both the gym and the weights of this mental workout. They require intense attention, such as solving puzzles, reading complex material, or practicing mindfulness.

Focus exercises might involve working on a challenging puzzle, like a Rubik’s Cube or a Sudoku puzzle, or engaging in complex mental tasks like learning a new language or musical instrument.

Engaging in these exercises regularly stimulates various parts of the brain, which in turn results in improved memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Moreover, they can increase mental endurance, allowing for prolonged periods of intense cognitive activity.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a potent brain exercise that improves planning, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. By setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, we stimulate your brain to think creatively and logically.

An example of a SMART goal might be “Read two books on neuroscience in the next month.” This goal is specific (read two books on neuroscience), measurable (two books), achievable and relevant (if you’re interested in neuroscience), and timebound (in the next month).

Consistent practice of goal-setting exercises not only improves your ability to set and achieve goals but also enhances your planning and decision-making skills. It stimulates your brain’s executive functions and promotes creativity, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.

Eliminating Distractions

In our highly digital world, distractions are ever-present. Learning to eliminate these distractions can be a powerful exercise in improving cognitive function. This practice involves developing strategies to stay focused, such as creating a clutter-free workspace or setting specific ‘no-interruption’ periods.

This could involve tidying up your workspace before starting a task, turning off notifications on your digital devices during ‘focus periods’, or using tools and techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to structure your work time.

Regularly practicing distraction elimination leads to improved concentration, better productivity, and enhanced cognitive function. It can reduce cognitive overload, improve information processing, and ultimately lead to better memory and understanding.

Brain Dump

A brain dump is an exercise that involves releasing all the information, ideas, or thoughts that occupy your mind. This process reduces mental clutter, and improves cognitive function and memory.

This could be as simple as writing everything down on a piece of paper or a digital device, or speaking out loud and articulating your thoughts. The key is to allow your mind to release the information without judgment or the need to organize it.

Regular practice of this exercise reduces cognitive overload, enhances focus, promotes creativity, and improves problem-solving skills. It’s a simple yet powerful way to ensure your brain is functioning at its best.



Our brain, like any other muscle, requires regular exercise to stay in top form. Incorporating a variety of brain exercises, such as memory exercises, memory games, and focus exercises, can significantly enhance memory and overall cognitive function. 

Whether you choose traditional methods or digital platforms, remember that consistency is the key. So, keep your brain engaged, challenge it regularly, and enjoy the cognitive benefits that follow!

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