Intro: How to Train Your Brain for Free
If you're interested in brain training, the first thing that comes to mind is probably video games like Brain Age or Big Brain Academy, or maybe another online program like Lumosity. In fact, probably every brain training method you can think of is probably some sort of product that will set you back a little money. But the fact of the matter is that brain training could be totally free, and even more effective then the paid solutions out there. Without further ado, I present the Ultimate Guide to Free Brain Training.
Step 1: Shift Your Mindset
Realize that paid products like Brain Age or Big Brain Academy or Lumosity.com aren't the only things out there. Convince yourself that using free brain training methods are just as good as the paid thing. No matter what salesmen will try to tell you, any simple activity that gets you thinking hard and working your mind is brain exercise. Daily structure and “workouts” are great, and so is some type of progress check, and you can get those with the games and subscriptions and software. However, they're totally unnecessary.
Step 2: Get Proper Brain Nutrition
There are four main areas to good brain fitness: Brain Exercise (like DS games do), Physical Exercise, Proper Nutrition, and Stress Management
While most "brain supplements" or "brain vitamins" don't actually have medically-proven benefits, Omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish) do seem to improve brain functions and attention, especially anything concerning intense work in your frontal cortex. Without spending extra money on supplements, try eating some mackerel, salmon, tuna, or herring for dinner.
Other brain-friendly foods are leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, or collards.
Step 3: Learn to Manage Your Stress
One fun and free way to keep stress levels low is to stay clued in to your social network. Call a friend, schedule a date, send a letter to a family member. Another thing to keep in mind is to stay empowered. Be confident and believe in yourself, believe that you have control over your life and environment.
Physical exercise, which is a pillar of brain training in and of itself, will also help lower your stress levels. When you exercise, your body will release hormones that will make you feel happy, and will get rid of stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercising will also improve the quality of your sleep and help you stay relaxed throughout the day.
Step 4: Get Moving, Get Physical!
If you participate in a sport like tennis or soccer, you'll be working your body whilst thinking intensely about the game at hand. On top of all of that, the exercise naturally reduces your stress. That's 3 of the 4 areas right there! In reality, any basic exercise is good for your brain fitness, but if you play a sport, then that's the optimal solution. Be sure that your heart is up in your target workout range for 20 minutes at a minimum to consider it a “workout”, and do it at least 3 times a week.
Step 5: Efficiently Train Your Brain: Meditate
If you're into efficiency and killing two birds with one stone, pay attention to this advice: Meditate. Meditation will not only lower stress levels (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), but it also improves your overall health, pain acceptance, physical function, and emotional control. In the area of brain exercise (what everybody thinks of when you say Brain Training or Brain Age), meditation is one of the best ways to exercise your mind. Trying to clear your mind of thoughts and focus on the present moment exclusively is a great way to exercise your brain and attention. So to work on both brain exercise and stress management, consider simple mindfulness meditation.
Step 6: Get Brain Exercise for Free
You could do a simple google search for “brain teasers” and do those. Your brain exercise pillar could be fulfilled simply by being really active in life, reading 20 minutes every night, or dedicating yourself to learning a new topic. Brain exercise does not have to be expensive, it just has to be SOMETHING.
Over at SharpBrains.com they also have a lot of free brain teasers (and science behind them), so you can use that as a resource. You could also try Sudoku.
No matter what salesmen will try to tell you, any simple activity that gets you thinking hard and working your mind is brain exercise. Daily structure and “workouts” are great, and so is some type of progress check, and you can get those with the games and subscriptions and software. However, they're totally unnecessary. Brain training online and offline can both be free, so go and get it!