By Bernard Croislle, M.D. Neurology, Ph.D. Neuropsychology

Many people are devoted to exercise to bulk up their bodies, but the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to more than just the muscles in our bodies — it also applies to the neural pathways and connections in our brains. There are a variety of brain exercises and activities that can successfully work each of the brain’s five major cognitive functions on a daily basis. In addition to the tasks you can perform daily, you can also train your brain with HAPPYneuron online brain exercises and a personalized brain fitness program.

Our minds consist of five main cognitive functions:

  • memory,
  • attention,
  • language,
  • visual-spatial skills,
  • and executive function.

It’s important to challenge, stimulate and effectively exercise all five areas to stay mentally sharp as our brains age. Here are 5 daily brain exercises that can help you do this.

1 — Memory

Memory plays a crucial role in all cognitive activities, including reading, reasoning and mental calculation. There are several types of memory at work in the brain. Taken together, these are the cognitive skills we may notice most when they begin to fail. To maintain a good memory, you need to train for it, which can be easier than you think. Listening to music is not only enjoyable, but by choosing a song you don’t know and memorizing the lyrics, you boost the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain, and improve your memory skills. Challenge yourself even more by showering or getting dressed in the dark or using your opposite hand to brush your teeth. These challenges help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.

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Improve your memory with this HAPPYneuron game.

2 — Attention

Attention is necessary in nearly all daily tasks. Good attention enables you to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions and to focus on several activities at once. We can improve our attention by simply changing our routines. Change your route to work or reorganize your desk — both will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again. As we age, our attention span can decrease, making us more susceptible to distraction and less efficient at multitasking. By combining activities like listening to an audio book with jogging or doing math in your head while you drive forces your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time

Improve your attention with this HAPPYneuron game.

3 — Language

Language activities will challenge our ability to recognize, remember and understand words. They also exercise our fluency, grammatical skills and vocabulary. With regular practice, you can expand your knowledge of new words and much more easily retrieve words that are familiar. For example, if you usually only thoroughly read the sports section, try reading a few in-depth business articles. You’ll be exposed to new words, which are easier to understand when read in context or easier to look up on a dictionary site if you are reading the news online. Take time to understand the word in its context, which will help you build your language skills and retrieve the word more readily in front of your boss in the future.

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Improve your attention with this HAPPYneuron game.

4 — Visual-Spatial

We live in a colorful, three-dimensional world. Analyzing visual information is necessary to be able to act within your environment. To work this cognitive function, try walking into a room and picking out five items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Too easy? Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. The next time you’re waiting on your coworker or friend to arrive, try this mental exercise. Look straight ahead and note everything you can see both in front of you and in your peripheral vision. Challenge yourself to recall everything and write it down. This will force you to use your memory and train your brain to focus on your surroundings.

Improve your attention with this HAPPYneuron game.

5 — Executive Function

Without even realizing it, you use your logic and reasoning skills on a daily basis to make decisions, build up hypotheses and consider the possible consequences of your actions. Activities in which you must define a strategy to reach a desired outcome and calculate the right moves to reach the solution in the shortest possible time are actually fun activities you do daily — like social interaction and, yes, video games. Engaging in a brief visit with a friend boosts your intellectual performance by requiring you to consider possible responses and desired outcomes. Video games require strategy and problem-solving to reach a desired outcome — like making it to the final level. “It’s not just Halo, honey; I’m exercising my executive brain functions!”

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Improve your attention with this HAPPYneuron game.


As we age, it’s important to flex our mental muscles as well as our physiques. Now that you’re aware of the five main cognitive functions and how to exercise them, it will be easy to find daily activities that will help you break a mental sweat and keep your brain in shape. If you need a little structured help, HAPPYneuron has fun and challenging brain exercises to work the brain in all five areas, as well as a virtual coach to serve as a personal trainer and ensure you get the most optimal brain workout for you.

Culled from Happy Neuron