10 Activities to Improve Cognitive Skills

Updated on August 11, 2023
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)

The BEST 10 activities to improve cognitive skills!

Let's be honest, the majority of us often struggle with brain fog, attention deficits, and creative blocks caused by our brains only working at minimal capacity. We've all seen the memes about how most people feel like they're using their last 2 brain cells to get through the day...

While we can't all the Stephen Hawking, we can all make a difference in our lifestyles and improve our thinking abilities to get the best from ourselves to live more creative, fulfilling lives. 

To do all of this, we need our brains to be working at their optimal potential. 

So, how do we improve cognitive function and activate different areas of the brain? 

In this article, we are going to share some fun hacks and brain exercises to keep your cognition at an all-time high, as well as share some ways you can help your children to develop their genius.

Get ready to feel on top of your mental game and get inspired about improving your cognitive health today!

The Role of Cognitive Skills in Everyday Life

Cognitive skills are mental abilities that are essential for performing various tasks and activities in our daily lives.

These skills include memory, attention, perception, reasoning, and language skills. They are vital for our ability to problem-solve, make decisions, learn, comprehend, and carry out our daily tasks effectively. 

The impact of cognitive skills on our quality of life cannot be overstated.

Some of the most notable benefits of improving cognitive abilities are:

  • Improved memory retention: Memory skills allow us to recall important information, such as facts, figures, and procedures, helping us perform well on exams or remember important details during presentations.
  • Improved attention span: Attention skills help us focus on tasks, filter out distractions, and stay engaged in our work or studies. Perception skills enable us to interpret sensory information accurately, such as understanding graphs and charts or assessing visual cues in a presentation.
  • Improved reasoning ability: Reasoning skills allow us to analyze information, make connections, and draw conclusions, which are crucial for problem-solving and decision-making. Lastly, strong language skills contribute to effective communication, whether it's writing reports or presenting ideas.
  • Improved management of tasks: In our everyday lives, cognitive skills are constantly at play. For example, when we go grocery shopping, we use our attention and memory skills to create a shopping list, navigate the store, and remember where specific items are located. We use reasoning skills to compare prices and make informed choices.
  • Improved comprehension skills: When we read a book or watch a movie, our comprehension skills help us understand and interpret the content.
  • Increased ability to learn new skills: Cognitive skills also come into play when we engage in hobbies and leisure activities. Whether it's playing a musical instrument, solving puzzles, or playing chess, these activities require memory, attention, and reasoning skills.
  • Increased brain health: Regular practice of cognitive enhancing activities increases and strengthens connectivity between different parts of the brain. This means cognitive skills play a crucial role in maintaining brain health and preventing mild cognitive impairment as well as reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. 

10 Activities to Enhance Cognitive Skills

Let's get to the juicy bit! 

Here are 10 of the BEST activities that you can incorporate into your daily routine to boost your cognitive abilities:

  1. Meditation: Meditation involves focusing attention in a calm and controlled way to promote mindfulness. Meditation is not only beneficial for relaxation and mental health but also for cognitive enhancement.(1) Regular meditation practice has been found to improve focus, attention, and memory. Even just a few minutes of meditation each day can have a positive impact on your cognitive abilities. Find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  2. Brain exercises: Brain exercises, such as crossword puzzles, sudoku, or online brain-training apps, provide mental stimulation and challenge. These activities promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and memory recall.(2) Dedicate a few minutes each day to completing a crossword puzzle or playing a brain-training game on your phone.
  3. Reading: Reading is an excellent cognitive activity as it stimulates imagination, enhances vocabulary, and improves concentration. It exposes you to new ideas, enhancing creativity and critical thinking skills. This is especially a great activity to enhance cognitive performance for older adults. Make it a habit to read a book, article, or even a short story every day. Choose genres that interest you and challenge your thinking.
  4. Memory games: Memory games, like matching cards or mental recollection exercises, improve short-term memory and retention and long-term recall. These mentally stimulating activities challenge your brain to remember and associate information effectively to support cognitive health. Play memory card games with a friend or family member, or try to memorize a list of groceries or items and recall them later.
  5. Physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, running, or any form of exercise, improves blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain. This boosts cognitive function, including memory, focus, and overall brain health.(3) Take a brisk walk, do aerobic exercise, dance or engage in your favorite physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day to preserve cognitive function.
  6. Problem-solving games: Solving puzzles, riddles, or logical thinking games, like Monopoly, stimulates critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These activities challenge your brain to think creatively and find alternative solutions. Engage in crossword, jigsaw puzzles, or online puzzle games to exercise your problem-solving abilities. You can even try playing video games that challenge your brain's ability to overcome challenges and keep your attention span. 
  7. Listening to music: Listening to music has a positive impact on cognitive skills, such as memory recall, attention, and mood regulation.(4) It can also enhance focus and creativity. Create a playlist of different genres of music and listen to it while working, studying, or relaxing.
  8. Drawing: Engaging in creative activities like drawing helps improve spatial reasoning, attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, and concentration. It also enhances your ability to visualize and express ideas visually. Allocate some time each day to doodle, sketch, or engage in any form of drawing that interests you.
  9. Visualization: Practice visualization exercises and mentally picture scenarios. This enhances creativity, memory retention, and problem-solving skills. By visualizing, you stimulate your brain to think in a more vivid and imaginative way. This is one of the best ways to relax and promote your ability to effectively stimulate your cognitive processes. Close your eyes and imagine you are in your favorite place or visualize successfully completing a task or achieving a goal.
  10. Play: Engaging in playful and social activities, be it board games, outdoor games, or creative conversation, stimulates cognitive skills such as memory, creativity, and problem-solving. Playfulness promotes a positive and engaging mindset. Spend time with friends or family by playing and engaging in stimulating activities like board games, card games, or outdoor activities that require teamwork and strategy.

Top 5 Activities for Children to Improve Cognitive Skills

Children's cognitive abilities are still developing and engaging in specific activities can boost their mental skills and psychological growth.

Here are some activities suitable for children to enhance their cognitive abilities:

  1. Educational games: Playing educational games designed to improve cognitive skills, such as memory-matching games or interactive learning apps, can enhance a child's memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.
  2. Creative play and movement: Engage in imaginative and creative play, such as building with blocks or creating stories. This helps children learn new skills whilst also promoting cognitive development, language skills, and problem-solving abilities.
  3. Reading: Encouraging children to read books helps develop their vocabulary, comprehension, and language skills for optimal brain function. It also stimulates their imagination and critical thinking abilities.
  4. Puzzles: Solving puzzles, such as jigsaw puzzles or shape-sorting puzzles, can enhance a child's spatial awareness, problem-solving skills, and logical thinking by providing powerful cognitive stimulation.
  5. Outdoor activities: Physical activities such as playing tag, riding a bike, or climbing promote cognitive development, as they require focus, coordination, and problem-solving skills. Not only this, but regular exercise for children has been linked to better overall health and blood flow. (5)

By incorporating these activities into your child's routine, you can support their cognitive skill development and provide them with a solid foundation for lifelong learning and success! Improvements in cognitive function from a young age have been proven to have a lasting impact as children age.(6) It leads to better long-term memory, faster processing speed, increased mindfulness, and a healthy brain.

Conclusion: The Importance of Cognitive Activities 

Cognitive skills are vital for our daily functioning, whether it's at work, school, or in our personal lives. They play a crucial role in problem-solving, decision-making, learning, comprehension, and carrying out day-to-day tasks.  

By engaging in activities that improve your cognitive skills, such as meditation, brain exercises, reading, and engaging play, you are supporting your brain health. This strengthens connectivity between different areas of your brain to increase perception and information processing abilities for overall well-being. Regular practice of these activities also prevents cognitive decline. 

Similarly, providing children with opportunities to engage in activities that promote cognitive development will support their growth, improve brain health and improve perception. This leads to better information processing as your children get older.

Let's prioritize and nurture our cognitive skills for a sharper mind and an improved quality of life!

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These premium over-the-counter supplements provide excellent cognitive support and cellular protection, and some natural nootropics also stimulate the growth of new neurons. Using these powerful ''smart drugs'' on top of your cognitive activities is guaranteed to boost your abilities so that you can excel.