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    7 Mental Habits That Can Improve Memory And Problem-Solving

    Your brain is the one thing you can exercise without breaking a sweat.

    Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

    Our brains work a lot like muscles. 🧠

    Without stimulation, the mind grows bored, frustrated, and lethargic. Luckily, your brain is the one thing you can exercise without breaking a sweat!

    As a professional mentalist, I've spent countless hours onstage talking about what the mind can do. Lately, though, I've found myself thinking a lot more about what our minds actually need — and there's clear overlap between the two.

    Here are a few mental skills that you can start practicing from the safety of your couch to help keep your mind sharp.

    1. Practice writing or drawing with your nondominant hand.

    2. Pick up a Rubik's Cube.

    View this video on YouTube

    While it may seem a bit retro, the Rubik's Cube has recently become one of the most popular tools for training the brain. Learning to solve a Rubik's Cube has been shown to be psychologically valuable by actively developing problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and mental coordination. Plus, you can always increase the difficulty by jumping out of a plane, like this guy. This video and Reddit's /r/cubers community are great places to start learning.

    Get a Rubik's Cube on Amazon for $9.99.

    3. Get familiar with memory association techniques.


    Most people think a good memory is something you’re born with, but it's actually ever changing — and one of the easiest things to improve. I’ve taught memory systems to corporate audiences around the country, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who couldn’t apply the basics within a day of practice.

    By learning a mnemonic association system, you can learn to recall names, faces, speeches, and even numerical information like birthdays and passwords. And the best part is that with a little practice, it will help you learn any other skill you set your mind to. If you’re new to the world of memory, I highly recommend starting with The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School, and at Play by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas.

    4. Learn how to spot when someone is lying.


    The science of deception has long fascinated researchers, and there is no substitute for the work of Paul Ekman for learning about micro-expressions and nonverbal communication. Ekman pioneered the field and was the inspiration for the TV show Lie to Me. His website offers free and paid resources, but for a faster start, try this free deception quiz from the New York Times and see if you can spot the lies.

    5. Start meditating. (Or meditate more!)


    Study after study has shown that as little as 15 minutes a day of meditation can improve everything from your motor skills to your immune system.

    I am someone who struggles with ADD, so meditation plays a huge role in my own mental health and is now a standard part of my preshow ritual when I need my mind to be operating at its absolute sharpest. To learn the basics, start with a guided meditation on the Headspace app. (Or stream a free 10-minute version here.) Dan Harris’s book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is also great. If you feel as personally attacked by that book title as I first did, then it’s probably for you.

    Read more: "I Tried Popular Anti-Anxiety Habits and Here's What Happened"

    6. Count cards.


    Counting cards may not be a skill that you need, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to do it. Unless you get caught! Since I would never advise you to try this at a casino, let’s focus on the personal benefits instead.

    In addition to improving your memory and focus, card counting is a great way to practice mental math while getting your mind used to multitasking under pressure. To get started, head on over to this website to learn the basics — then why not put your skills to the test in a virtual blackjack game?

    7. Learn another language. (Or the building blocks of several!)


    When you're traveling, one of the best ways to build rapport with strangers is to make an earnest effort to speak with them in their native language. I prefer Duolingo if I know I’ll be in a place for more than a few days, but I also find it helpful to memorize a few stock phrases in as many languages as possible. Plus, studies show that learning a new language at any age can enhance perception and improve decision-making.

    Read more: "13 Apps That'll Teach You Something New Every Day"

    Jason Suran is an award-winning mentalist, magician, and corporate lecturer. His work has been featured on ESPN, NBC, and Fox. Currently, he offers virtual performances and lectures for audiences around the globe. Follow him on Instagram or visit his website.

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