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Activities to enjoy in your home: 7 brain-boosting ideas to keep you busy

Keeping your mind sharp and spirits high is vital at any age. Discovering or re-connecting with a hobby is great fun but also taps into your focus, creativity and memory recall while helping to relax you.

The experts at Stannah have shared seven fun activities that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home — from painting the stunning views outside different windows, to enjoying an audiobook in your favourite armchair and getting green-fingered in the garden.

Gardening

With spring in full bloom, there’s no better time to potter in the garden. Whether you’re tinkering in the greenhouse or tending to beautiful flowers in the sunshine, getting green fingered is a relaxing and rewarding hobby. Gardening takes time, focus and care, but with more time at home you could tackle a bigger project that you may have been putting off, perhaps moving beds around or starting a vegetable patch.

As well as creating a sense of pride, gardening is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so it’s sure to lift your spirits. Feeling at one with nature can bring peace when you need it most and on a deeper level, taking responsibility for living things may give you a greater feeling of purpose or worth.

In that moment, when you’re potting, weeding or watering, all that matters is the nature surrounding you. Any stresses connected to the world around you can slip away, giving your mind a break. Suddenly, you’re in control and cultivating a lovely little world to relax in — and the satisfaction of an orderly garden can be highly therapeutic.

Your muscles will no doubt tell you that gardening is also a valuable form of physical exercise. Our bodies release ‘endorphins’ — otherwise known as the ‘happy hormone’ — which boosts mood. If you’re new to nurturing nature, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offers useful tips and videos.

Listening to an audiobook or podcast

Rest assured; you’ll never need to worry about running out of reading material. Audiobooks have soared in popularity so whether you’d like to listen to a classic or journey into a new story, why not give them a whirl?

Audiobooks will test your memory without you even realising. Retaining the characters, places and plot sharpens the mind while an enthusiastic narrator who brings the story to life with different accents and voice inflections can make all the difference.
Podcasts can also broaden your mind. Like radio shows, they explore fascinating topics or simply musings on modern life. For example, ‘You Must Remember This’ will transport you back in time to the golden era of Hollywood, spotlighting forgotten stories. Alternatively, TED Talks are punchy, powerful lectures that may change how you think about topics varying from science to sociology. There’s a whole world of eye-opening insights and opinions out there.

The beauty of an audiobook or podcast is that you can multi-task — you can see to housework or enjoy other activities, like baking or sewing. Listening while you’re on-the-go boosts your physical wellbeing, but requires focus, so sharpens your mind too. The mental health benefits don’t stop there; tuning in can reduce stress and relax you. This is especially beneficial if you’re struggling to calm your mind and find it difficult to focus on the written word.

Reading

Whilst we are champions of listening to audiobooks, there’s still something so special about getting lost in a good book. Reading is a timeless hobby offering sheer escapism. You immerse yourself in a new world, fall in love with the characters who live there and can feel a whole spectrum of emotions. In fact, research shows that reading builds empathy as we learn about the psychology of characters with true-to-life feelings and experiences.

In this respect, reading broadens knowledge. From shining a light on historical or political moments, to unearthing why human beings behave in certain ways, the words on a page hold the power to teach us so much. Moreover, the need to recall past events and people in the narrative means reading sharpens memory.

Our Stannah Silver Census study revealed that nearly all (91%) of over-65s enjoy using their free hours to curl up with a great read — whether it’s a trusty hardback or kindle. One reason may be that reading is a great stress-reliever that pulls us away from everyday life and its challenges. Crucially, it’s great fun! Whether you’re fond of fantasy, crave a crime thriller or revel in romance, the options are endless.

Best of all, it’s never been easier to connect with fellow book lovers. Why not sign up to an online book club, where you can receive recommendations, discuss your favourite reads and meet like-minded people? Social interactions work wonders on mental health and wellbeing.

Online courses

A wise man once said, ‘Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere’. The internet is a treasure trove of information that offers endless opportunities to broaden your knowledge and learn a new skill. Why not embark on an online course? There are fun, lighthearted tutorials on activities varying from cocktail making to cake decorating. Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of learning sign language or photography or writing your own novel. Renowned author, Margaret Atwood, has hosted online creative writing seminars that are still available. Alternatively, add another string to your bow by learning a lifelong skill like first aid. You could even resume an academic education if you’d like to delve deeper into literature or satisfy your fascination in science.

The prospect of achieving your goals from the comfort of your own home can feel exciting and motivating and the process of learning itself can be incredibly fulfilling, whilst also providing mental stimulation. You’ll sharpen your memory by recalling previous classes by putting your skills into practice! Doing so has also been proven to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Joining classes, listening closely and doing a little homework if needed also requires self-discipline. You may welcome this sense of routine, especially in retirement.

You’ll also widen your social circle by interacting with people who share your interests, whether on video calls   or via forums. Being part of an online community can feel heartening. Our social health is closely connected to our mental wellbeing, with shared interests often being a springboard for strong friendships.

Online courses are increasingly popular, so why not enter an activity or skill you’d like to learn into Google to see what’s possible. Websites like Reed offer a whole range of options that might inspire you — you’ve got nothing to lose and but perhaps  plenty to gain.

Painting or drawing

Art, whether it’s painting or drawing, is a traditional hobby that never gets old. There’s no pressure to be the next Vincent Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo but it can really feel liberating to take a blank sheet or paper and let the creative juices, paint or ink flow. Art is a form of self-expression, so there’s no rhyme or rhythm to it — you could draw a household object, a photo of the grandchildren or view from your window. For those feeling a little braver, you could paint a vibrant abstract piece — there are no rights or wrongs with expression.

Creating art promotes stress relief, as your mind relaxes and your hand does the talking. By stimulating your creativity you can relieve mental strain but don’t worry, even if you don’t consider yourself ‘artistic’, anyone can build this skill — if the piece doesn’t go your way and it’s time to improvise, you’ll also nurture your problem-solving skills. It’s a win, win!

Painting or drawing can be a soothing yet mentally stimulating activity. It takes focus and, if you’re copying a physical object or view, memory. This will test your hand-eye co-ordination and, in turn, improve your motor skills. Moreover, it will keep your brain active for a sustained amount of time.

Once you’ve completed your artwork, the sense of pride will brighten your day — a feeling that you can experience over and over, if you choose to frame or hang it on a wall. If you’re looking for inspiration or expert guidance, check out the range of online courses available.

Needlework

From sewing to knitting and crocheting, needlework is a wonderful hobby. It again can reduce feelings of stress or anxiety while encouraging mindfulness whilst you become immersed in the stitches you create, allowing you to truly unwind and relax.

This activity has also proven to increase dopamine — a hormone associated with happiness — leaving you feeling positive. The activity can also enhance your motor skills as the art requires attention to detail which can also improve your hand-eye co-ordination skills.

Whether you’re knitting a new scarf or snuggly socks, colourful artwork to frame or sewing for the sheer fun of it, needlework requires creativity.

Inspiration and step-by-step guides are just a click away, on websites like YouTube which offer free video tutorials to suit varying levels of skill. If you’ve never tried needlework before, Stitch & Story is a fantastic website with handy tips.

Puzzles

From traditional jigsaw puzzles, to a crossword or sudoku in the paper, to memory games on your mobile phone, if you have a thirst for thinking, nothing beats a brainteaser!

Not only is doing a jigsaw puzzle wonderfully nostalgic but it exercises both the left and right-hand sides of the brain at once. Here’s the science: the ‘left’ brain is logical and works in linear fashion, whereas the ‘right’ brain is creative and intuitive. It’s a mental workout that boosts both your problem-solving skills, short-term memory and attention span. It’s no wonder Bill Gates is an avid puzzler! Studies show that people partial to a puzzle have less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss or dementia.2

Doing a jigsaw puzzle also improve your visual-spatial reasoning as it requires figuring out how individual pieces slot into the bigger picture, which can help with daily tasks like using a map or parking a car. The activity also has a calming, meditative effect and in fact, as a nation we’re now searching on Google for ‘jigsaw puzzles’ more than other home-based hobbies like ‘computer games’, proving a resurgence in their popularity. Why not treat yourself?

Brainteasers like sudokus, word searches and crosswords similarly keep your mind sharp and relieve stress. For example, sudoku tests your logic, while a crossword requires long-term memory recall. Better yet, you’ll learn fun facts as you go!

Virtual versions of your favourite brainteasers are only a click away. Simply Google a game that takes your fancy on your computer or download it as an app onto your mobile phone or tablet. If word or number games aren’t for you, there are always classics like chess or bridge. Better yet, if you’re craving company, most games offer multi-player options. So, suggest a friend or two signs up or challenge them. Otherwise, there’s a world of players waiting to take part.

You needn’t look far to find enjoyable activities that light a spark in your life, support your health and happiness and, ultimately, allow you to keep on being you.

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