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Four Activities to Train Your Brain - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Have you ever wanted to sharpen your focus or commit something to memory? Maybe you just had a morning where you woke up at 5:20 a.m. for no reason and need to get in the zone.

Whatever the circumstances involved, there are times when we could all use a little mental boost. The idea here is to find little things we can do to improve our daily mental functioning and give our brain the workout it needs.

It should be noted that these apps won’t help you win the Nobel Prize in physics, but they will serve as a good form of mental exercise. If there’s some app that claims to do more than that, ask to see the psychometrics research.

Wait, psychometrics? It’s an article about training your brain. I figured I had to throw in at least one fun vocab word. Psychometrics is the science of measuring mental capacities and processes.

While I’m not sure if any of these things permanently improve your brain function, the games and techniques will help you focus and remember things.


I love this game, but it’s an absolutely maddening little puzzler. Make sure you’re done with work for the day, because Threes will have you hooked from the start.

Initially, you manipulate the tiles on the board in order to combine 1 and 2 to make 3. After that, you combine 3’s to get 6’s which become 12 and so on. The goal is to keep playing until you run out of moves and the 4 x 4 board fills up. It gets harder as the numbers get higher.

There’s an ad-supported free version and then an ad-free version that costs a few dollars. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Xbox One.

I haven’t been able to get beyond 384 in terms of the number levels. Any tips you might have are certainly appreciated!

Brain-Training Apps

From the standpoint of focus and mental exercise, there are a lot of apps that claim to be able to train your brain so you’ll do better on tasks requiring skills like memory and concentration.

One I played with briefly was Lumosity. This, like similar apps and sites, works to build up your skills over time. I can see how it could be really helpful if you got in the habit of practicing every day. If you want access to the full suite of games and challenges though, these services tend to be subscription-based and the cost can start to add up.

This won’t necessarily be a problem for everyone, but many of these apps rely on good, quick twitch muscles and dexterity in order to accurately test your mental abilities. You also want to get a sense of how quickly the person can translate thoughts into action. I have a physical challenge where this is a little more difficult, so I wasn’t able to fully put Lumosity through its paces.

Newspaper Puzzles

I know what you’re thinking: Who gets a newspaper nowadays? Fair enough, but when I think about the following, I always picture the puzzle page. There are online and mobile versions of all of the following mind-sharpening exercises.

  • Crosswords
  • Word jumble
  • Sudoku
  • KenKen

Puzzles like KenKen challenge your math and puzzle skills at the same time. You can double up that way.

Maybe it’s because I make my living with words, but I’m very much partial to games like Scrabble as well. Games of comparison like Apples to Apples are also cool.

Memory Palace

Among the better books I’ve read in the past few years is Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. Foer was a freelance journalist who had an assignment to cover the 2005 U.S. Memory Championship. After interviews with some of the competitors, Foer decided to give the competition a shot.

It’s a great book that recounts his year of training and everything he learned. One of the main lessons is that anyone can remember even long and complicated things. It’s just a matter of technique.

One of the things that’s extensively covered in the book is the “memory palace” method.

In this exercise, picture in your mind a big, empty house. It should be a house you know well so that you have lots of nooks and crannies to hide your memories.

Let’s say you’re asked to remember the order in which you see a deck of cards. The trick to this is to associate the thing you have to remember with an image you’re not likely to forget. Here’s how it works.

The first card might be the king of hearts. For me, this is Michael Bublé because my grandma likes his love songs. The singer would be standing in the driveway as I pull up to the house.

The 2 of hearts is the Olsen twins, because I think everyone loves Michelle Tanner. They’re in the front garden. The 2 of spades is represented by those rascals the Dukes of Hazzard in the foyer.

You keep the sequence straight naturally just by walking through the house.

This can also work to help you remember phone numbers and all kinds of other information that’s actually useful. It’s also really fun to come up with crazy images.

As great as these techniques are, one of the most important things we can do to help with the retention of information is to get a good night’s sleep. While we dream, our brains sort out information so it can be stored for the long haul.

What games do you like to play to keep your mind sharp? Share with us in the comments.

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