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We spend much our time and energy focusing on improving our physical health. In fact, Women’s Marketing reports that the fitness and mind + body exercise industry was recorded at $390 billion globally in 2014! Despite this incredible price tag, one aspect of our health is often overlooked – our minds!

As we age we often see the impacts on our overall brain function as we begin to experience mental fogginess, loss of memory, and a significant hit to our problem-solving skills. The good news is that we don’t have to simply accept this to be fact, waiting for our mind to dwindle and decrease with age.

Your brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle in your body, it can be strengthened and kept healthy through attention and exercise. Experts have been studying the connection between a healthy lifestyle and improved mental health, discovering that your lifestyle choices can help to improve your long-term brain health, including a proper diet and a targeted workout designed to exercise the brain.

Here are 7 simple habits to add to your daily routine, helping you to effectively exercise your mind and keep it sharp:

1. Enjoy a Good Book

One of the most effective ways that experts have found to improve upon your mental sharpness is to read a book. Not only will you see an impact rather quickly, but experts say you will see a boost in your mental function for days afterward! The genre of book you are reading isn’t important, so pick out some of your favorites, sit back and enjoy!

 2.  Ask Engaging Questions

If you are hoping to learn something, but question whether you have the capacity to remember all that you are being taught, experts say to ask questions. When you show a genuine interest in a topic and care about the information being presented, you are more likely to remember what you hear.

3. Focus on Your Overall Health

As we previously discussed, the brain is a muscle just like any other muscle in the body. When your overall health dips, so too does the health of your brain. This impedes its ability to function optimally, and as you feel sluggish over all, so too will your mind. A well-balanced diet coupled with a good exercise routine will work to keep your body in shape, and your mind sharp.

4. Play Video Games

There has been a lot of negative attention on video games and video game systems due to the long hours that some gamers will spend glued to a television rather than engage in the real world. There is, however, an interesting study in which researchers found that playing first-person video games can actually boost your visual awareness in the real world, which is an important component in improving your IQ level. That’s right – experts are saying that playing video games can actually help make you smarter.

5. Engage in Deep Conversation

While topics like small talk may be our go to when we are having conversations with others, as they are easy and require little effort, engaging solely in small talk fails to challenge our minds. When we move the conversations from the weather or the latest sports updates to more in depth conversations about life, talking about what inspires us, or our greater purpose, this level of thinking works to exercise the brain.

6. Challenge Yourself to Learn Something New

When you learn a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, you are forcing your brain to think in new ways. Music itself has been associated with a number of studies, with experts pointing to the many ways it can help to advance brain development and improve memory. Another great way to improve your brain function through learning something is to learn a new language, which has been associated with improved planning and problem-solving skills.

7. Do a Puzzle

Challenging yourself to do a puzzle or try a brain teaser will force you to employ some mental skills that you may not be using on a regular basis. John E. Morley, MD., director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and author of the book ‘The Science of Staying Young,’ says: “Simple games like Sudoku and world games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next.”