Giving the brain a challenge compels it to use new or rarely-used neural pathways that can prevent or slow the onset of cognitive decline. Image Credit: Unsplash/Robina Weermeijer

There’s only one way to keep your brain in top-notch shape – by challenging it.

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where you can find ways to ‘fulfil’ your brain’s potential.

American inventor Thomas Edison is known to have said: “There’s no substitute for hard work.” He was right in more ways than one. Studies by the US-based National Institutes of Health have found that doing cognitive tasks that feel difficult – problem-solving, learning new things, critically analysing a news report, debating with a friend – all challenge the brain, but it’s important to learn something to have a lasting impact.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada (ASC), a nonprofit organisation that supports people living with all forms of dementia, giving the brain a challenge compels it to use new or rarely-used neural pathways that can prevent or slow the onset of cognitive decline. It could be the very thing to slow down diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Here are some ways to challenge your brain:

1. Take up a new hobby

Constantly learning new things throughout life can help you build your cognitive reserve – ensuring the millions of connections in your brain are strong and resilient. Start with simple things, because even they make a difference – from cooking new dishes every week, to taking up painting, to completing a do-it-yourself renovation project. The process is as enjoyable as it is beneficial for the brain.

2. Play games

Puzzles, like today’s Word Search, Crossword, and Sudoku, all require you to focus, think strategically and test your memory – all great ways to exercise your brain. Whether you’re playing on your computer, phone, or on a board, games are a great way to socialise and train your mind. But remember, these kinds of games boost your brain to a certain extent, but don’t have the same impact if you already excel at them, or do the same type of puzzle each time. The key is to move on to challenging levels, whenever you feel like you’re plateauing.

3. Cross-train the brain

Apart from learning new things, you can cross-train your mind to get better at something you’ve always felt you were not good at. Feeling hopeless at something may cause the challenge to feel even tougher than if you were trying to achieve something completely new. The ASC recommends working at the problem consistently, so that your brain acquires some flexibility as you develop your skills. You could also try a variety of challenges surrounding the problem instead of sticking to one particular area.

4. Break your routine

A small challenge you could incorporate into your lifestyle is changing how you normally go about your day. For instance, change the order of your morning routine, or take a different route to work or the grocery store. These small changes help you to feel more prepared and get you ready to take on other, bigger challenges.

What do you think of these tips? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at