Mental exercise is a process of boosting brain power, ability, and concentration by performing specific tasks that are challenging to the brain. This does not need to be a formal process; many people find that completing things such as Sudoku puzzles or crosswords gives them some great mental exercise. Others play computer games or video games designed to challenge and exercise the brain. Studies have shown that this type of brain exercise throughout life can help to keep the memory sharp, improve concentration, and may improve performance solving difficult problems at work.
There are plenty of ways to get mental exercise in life without sitting down at a computer game or crossword puzzle. Reading a challenging novel, writing in a journal, or learning to play a musical instrument can all help to keep the brain sharp. Learning to play a musical instrument is especially challenging for people, often because it requires learning to read music and developing entirely new muscle memories. Physical exercise may also help to keep the brain sharp by increasing blood flow. Any activity where the mind and body are engaged can serve as a mental exercise, and tends to be much more beneficial than simply sitting in front of the television.
Crossword puzzles or word searches can also be great mental exercises. Number games such as Sudoku are also very beneficial, as well as trivia games. Even an activity such as manually balancing the checkbook can help to stimulate activity in the brain. Putting a large and complex puzzle together is another fun activity that can challenge the brain. Similar to learning to play a musical instrument, learning to speak a new language can also be a wonderful boost for the brain and can also be beneficial for travel.
Another one of the best ways to get mental exercise is to consciously try to break out of ingrained habits. Using the opposite hand than is usually used for eating or brushing the teeth, for instance, can help to encourage the use of both sides of the brain. Some people even try switching the computer mouse to the other hand, which can be quite challenging. In addition, driving a new route to work or school that requires additional concentration can help to wake up the brain, and prevent the "zoning out" that can often occur in the car. It takes effort to continuously stimulate the brain and get mental exercise, but it is worth it in the long run.