100+ Practical Cognitive Exercises

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I use the term cognitive exercise to encompass all activities that “exercise” the brain, including meditation, self-hypnosis, and diary-writing.

The brain is a like a muscle, or a collection of muscles, just like your body. Similarly, you have to train these different muscles with exercise. There are many parallels between physical and cognitive exercise. You have to do it often. You want to hit all the muscles. There are a variety of ways to do it, some will work better for you, others will not. You need to consider your goals and choose the appropriate exercises. There’s a difference between doing it alone and with other people. The list goes on.

I’d like to share with you 100 practical cognitive exercises to strengthen your brain.

Some are quick and easy, some will take a little more time and effort. Some are specifically designed to exercise parts of your brain. Some are things you already do, and for these, just approaching it as a cognitive exercise and tuning into how it effects you amplifies it’s effect. Sounds simple, but it works.

  1. List out things that help you de-stress.
  2. Think about what you want your life to look at in 5 to 10 years.
  3. Think about things you have that others don’t and say thank you.
  4. Exercise
  5. Meditate
  6. Listen to music
  7. Breathing exercises
  8. Stretch
  9. Yoga
  10. Eat. Are you hungry? Feeding your brain is just as important as using it.
  11. Eat indulgently. Something that makes you happy. Ignore health.
  12. Talk to someone you love.
  13. Talk to a family member (you don’t have to love them).
  14. Talk to a relative. (not parent, child, or sibling)
  15. Talk to a semi-close friend.
  16. Think about how when you’re stressed, it’s a chemical reaction. You can mentally separate the feeling of stress from the problem if you practice this.
  17. Sing
  18. Dance
  19. Think about something completely random.
  20. Watch tv. One that’s familiar, that you used to watch a lot.
  21. Watch a movie. One with a main character that inspires you.
  22. Clean your room.
  23. Organize your closet.
  24. Clean around the house.
  25. Draw or paint something.
  26. Sculpt something.
  27. Send a thank you letter.
  28. Take a nap.
  29. Look at old photos.
  30. Write down the names of people you love.
  31. Write an email to yourself one year from now.
  32. Read your diary, or old social media photos.
  33. Visit family.
  34. Take a long bath.
  35. Create a bucket list.
  36. Create an anti-bucket list. That’s a list of things you’ve done that would be on your bucket list if you hadn’t.
  37. Do a body scan. Look it up, it’s a meditation technique.
  38. Cook food for yourself.
  39. Take a walk.
  40. Free write. Don’t stop writing for 5 minutes. Keep moving your hand.
  41. Write down your favorite dishes.
  42. Imagine a perfect future.
  43. Throw things away.
  44. Buy something for yourself.
  45. Buy something for someone else.
  46. People watch. Notice demographics, personality, clothes, mood, emotion.
  47. Approach and talk to a random stranger.
  48. Toss a ball with someone.
  49. Clear your desktop.
  50. Clear your email.
  51. Organize old photos.
  52. Play a board game.
  53. Organize files on your computer.
  54. Measure your heart rate.
  55. Do a color scan. Think “red, red, red…” with your eyes open to notice all red things in sight. Then do orange, yellow, etc.
  56. Read Wikipedia articles.
  57. Watch TED videos.
  58. Learn something new.
  59. Play a game.
  60. Wash your car.
  61. Read a book.
  62. Hang out with friends.
  63. Grab a drink with friends.
  64. Dance with somebody
  65. Dance by yourself.
  66. Discuss politics with a friend
  67. Give to a charity.
  68. Host a game night.
  69. Hug someone
  70. Draw your golden circle (Why, How What).
  71. Drive a different route to work.
  72. Eat alone at a restaurant.
  73. Go on a solo road trip.
  74. Write down a to-do list.
  75. Scan book titles you’ve read and think about them.
  76. Take an artistic picture of something in your house and post it.
  77. Regularly attend a weekly gathering.
  78. Write down the names of people who can make you smile.
  79. Have sex.
  80. Masturbate.
  81. Take a personality test.
  82. Ask people what they think of you.
  83. Tell people what you think of them.
  84. “You are who you’ve met” exercise. Write down a list of all the people who’ve influenced who you are and the most important lesson you’ve learned from them. Include friends, family, and even movie or tv show characters.
  85. Stare at one thing for a really long time.
  86. Volunteer
  87. Pick someone and imagine what it’s like to be them.
  88. Do something for someone.
  89. Get someone to do something for you.
  90. Build an IKEA table.
  91. Build an IKEA table with someone.
  92. Turn off your phone for a day.
  93. Go camping.
  94. Attend a music festival.
  95. Go to a concert.
  96. Watch a musical or play.
  97. Volunteer at an event
  98. Organize a group dinner or happy hour.
  99. Do a “silent night”. Only communicate in hand-written notes.
  100. Cook with someone.
  101. Reconnect with an old friend.
  102. Play or learn an instrument.
  103. Write your own obituary.
  104. Read about the brain.
  105. Do something embarrassing.
  106. Write down your strengths.
  107. Create a vision board.

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