Keeping your brain engaged through hobbies is not only a way to fill your free time; it can even improve your cognitive function and focus. Do you remember the last time you took the time to learn something new for pure enjoyment, not because you had to? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time to take up a hobby.
A healthy lifestyle goes beyond physical fitness. Engaging in challenging activities is also essential to exercise our minds. Cell Journal research shows that the adult brain can add about 700 neurons to the hippocampus daily.
Learning new things and engaging in stimulating activities can result in our brains creating new neural pathways.
During challenging times, we can stay busy and stimulate our minds in various ways. The following are four of our favorite hobbies for cognitive function, which may help you remain engaged and keep your mind focused.
1. Drawing as a Mindfulness Exercise
If you start drawing in your spare time, you’ll quickly start looking at everything that surrounds you in a different light. You will suddenly see details you didn’t notice before. Instead of looking at your smartphone while waiting for the bus, you’ll start observing the people, the buildings, and the world around you.
Learning to enjoy the present starts here! Give yourself time to look, feel, and see things differently. In your head, you will imagine what your next drawing will be without even realizing it.
Are you a fan of countryside walks? Do you like to spend time by the window during a downpour? You can draw your sketchbook on any occasion. Take advantage of the present moment by learning how to draw a mouth, a beautiful landscape, an everyday scene, or a stranger’s portrait.
2. Going to the Shooting Range for Focus
Getting into shooting as a hobby may seem prohibitively tricky to many people. This is mainly because firearms can be costly, and all the paperwork can be overwhelming.
But it’s not as hard as it seems. If you’re a complete beginner, you can always turn to the pros for help getting started. Also, you can find cheap rifles and ammo at places like the Natchez Shooting Supply.
The sound of a gun being fired can be startling. First-timers may experience a fight-or-flight reaction – the body’s automatic response to what it perceives as a potential threat. As we evolved to defend ourselves in sticky situations, the fight-or-flight response also evolved to trigger various bodily reactions.
The brain’s function is affected by the rush of blood and neurochemicals. With an increased flow of conscious and subconscious information, mental focus and pattern recognition improve, while time seems to slow down.
When the “danger” passes, the nervous system releases all sorts of chemicals to restore normal function, while others that spiked linger. Some people experience intense pleasure after experiencing the initial reaction and the following come-down.
3. Playing an Instrument to Relieve Stress and Improve Memory
There are many reasons why playing an instrument is good for the brain. To begin with, music relieves stress. Learning an instrument can help you focus your energy on something gratifying. Furthermore, music soothes us, even if we are unaware of it.
When you play (or listen to) upbeat music, your mood elevates, and you feel more positive, whereas softer, more relaxing music can help you relax.
Learning a new musical instrument can also help improve your memory. In later life, people often suffer from forgetfulness, and learning a new musical instrument has been shown to improve cognitive function.
Researchers have found that musicians’ brains differ significantly from those of non-musicians of the same age when it comes to their neural structure as a result of playing music. Playing a musical instrument causes the Corpus Callosum, the nerve fibers that connect both sides of the brain, to expand considerably.
4. Learning a Language to Improve Multi-Tasking and Delay Dementia
People often view learning a new language as something they should have done as a child. You can, however, start at any time. You can learn new languages from home through online courses and apps like Duolingo.
The fact that you are no longer in school should not make you feel like you’ve missed the boat. Taking up a language later in life can even have positive cognitive outcomes. It has been found that learning a second language slows brain aging and may reduce the risk of dementia. Learning a second language can strengthen your ability to focus and develop new parts of your brain.
It has also been found that bilinguals are more capable of multitasking. It seems that switching between languages also translates into switching between tasks in daily life.
Obviously, the list above does not include every possible activity you can take up. There are many other things you may wish to pursue in your free time, such as exercise, video games, or crocheting, and they all have their benefits in terms of focus and mental health.
You can transform your brain into a more powerful force by choosing at least one hobby or as many as you can fit into your schedule. Discover things you enjoy, and you will reap the long-term benefits of improved memory and brain function.