23 Ways to Sharpen Your Mind

by Lillian Whitaker

From puzzles to pottery, these activities can help boost your cognitive skills—and even your mood.

Brain Games

Jigsaw puzzles require concentration, problem-solving skills and creativity, which mean they’re good for your cognition as well as your stress levels. Plus, you can have your pick of pretty, immersive designs.

To improve your focus, try balancing and stacking these faceted oak blocks—and be rewarded with a modern tabletop sculpture. Areaware Balancing Blocks, $72, Bergo Design, bergodesigns.ca

Tackling a jigsaw puzzle can improve your memory and visual-spatial reasoning as it requires concentration, creativity and problem-solving. And there are endless inspiring designs to choose from.

Areaware Dusen Dusen Pattern Puzzle, 500 pieces, $36. 313 Design Market, 313designmarket.com

Areaware Gradient Puzzle, 1,000 pieces, Bergo Design, $52, bergodesigns.ca

Voyage 01 by Reena Mistry, 500 pieces, The Great Indoors Puzzle Co, $40, greatindoorspuzzleco.ca

Foliage Puzzle, 1,000 pieces, Winners, $15, winners.ca

games that help your brain | brain games more games Photography: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder | Sourcing: Emily Howes

Game Night

The best way to boost cognitive function is to incorporate a range of activities into your life. These beautiful puzzles and games will help you get a bit more playful—and liven up a Saturday night at home with family or friends.

For the design-minded minimalist, this vibrant chess-and-checkers set is made from sustainably grown rubberwood. Moma 2-in-1 chess and checkers set, 313 Design Market, $75, 313designmarket.com

Interior designer Jonathan Adler’s eye-catching acrylic backgammon set doubles as a checkers board and comes in a velvet-lined glossy lacquer box. Jonathan Adler Checkerboard and Backgammon set, Bergo Design, $560, bergodesigns.ca

Spice up your group chats with this deck of cards that encourages you and your crew to debate current events, history and scandals. Agree to Disagree Card Game, Marshalls, $6, marshalls.ca

Grab your bean bag chair, fire up a Pink Floyd LP and chill out with this ’70s-inspired backgammon set. Hitchcock Yellow Tabletop Backgammon Set, Hopson Grace, $395, hopsongrace.com

Studies show that some video games can be beneficial to brain function—especially when there’s a memory test involved. The Big Brain Academy game for Nintendo Switch features tricky, fast and fun challenges that test your recall, visualization and analytical skills. Nintendo Switch, $380, nintendo.com; and Big Brain Academy: Brain vs Brain, $40, nintendo.com

Crokinole, a game thought to have been invented in Canada in the 19th century, puts your dexterity and hand-eye coordination to the test. Flip over the board for a game of chess or checkers. Deluxe Crokinole, Chess and Checkers Board, Lee Valley, $179, leevalley.com

This wooden puzzle comprises 22 pieces and has multiple solutions—build a rectangle, a robot, a tea kettle, or a shape of your own creation. Wooden Puzzle, Etsy, $69, etsy.com

games that help your brain | brain games Photography: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder | Sourcing: Emily Howes

Smart art

Art therapy is the practice of engaging in activities such as painting and dancing for mental health benefits—studies show it can help alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression and even prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s easy to get started.

This pottery kit contains the tools you need to sculpt, carve and paint plant pots, trinket dishes and more, no kiln required. Sculpd Pottery Kit, $79, sculpd.ca

Create a dreamy landscape masterpiece with this paint-by-numbers set, which comes with acrylic paint pots, a cotton canvas, a mini easel and two paint brushes. Paint by Numbers kit, Etsy $30, etsy.com

Practice mindfulness with this artful colouring book that’s full of abstract, geometric patterns. Poketo Modernist Colouring Book, 313 Design Market, $25, 313designmarket.com

games that help your brain | brain games plants Photography: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder | Sourcing: Emily Howes

Grow for it

The benefits of being a plant mom go beyond pretty interiors. Studies show gardening, and even just observing nature (including your houseplants), can elevate your mood and reduce feelings of stress, sadness, anger and fear.

Barebones Gardening tool set, Goodee, $118, goodeeworld.com

Medium Rhonda Pot, Foli, $25, foli.ca

Medium Potted Monstera, Foli, $65, foli.ca

Medium Pothos Plant, Foli, $35, foli.ca

Small Potted Jade Plant, Foli, $55, foli.ca

Orange watering can, $8, homesense.ca

games that help your brain | brain games baking Photography: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder | Sourcing: Emily Howes

What a treat

Experts agree baking inspires happiness and reduces stress—it encourages people to express themselves creatively and can tame a ruminating mind. Plus, baking for others sparks feelings of wholeness, fulfillment and togetherness.

Add rainbow-bright hues to your bakeware lineup with these colourful measuring cups. 8 Piece Measuring Cup Set, $20, bedbathandbeyond.ca

No matter your cookie preference—be it sugar, ginger or shortbread—these cutters will give your treats a professional edge. Our Table 30 Piece Tin Cookie Cutter Set, Bed Bath and Beyond, $25, bedbathbeyond.ca

Next: These Activities Help Prevent Dementia, According to a New Study