Because the brain itself is the center of cognitive thought, it is very difficult for us human beings to understand on a basic level that it is an organ just like your lungs, liver, stomach, skin, eyeballs, etc. And like those organs listed, your brain needs to be maintained in order to stay at the top of its potential. So for those of you out there looking to train your brain and boost your creativity, here are some fun thought exercises to train your brain.
If you are looking for some Sudoku knock-offs, this isn’t the article for you. As stated in one of my earlier articles, The Land of Imagination, creativity is boosted by physical activity. With a holistic approach to the brain and its needs, many of these exercises require more than one person and physical movement.
In fact, many of these exercises are games I learned in school studying theatre and with improvisational groups. So get ready to get off your behind and get those brain synapses lit.
How To Exercise Your Brain
1. “Yes, and…”
This is a game anyone with a background in improv would know. You will need at least three people for this one (and if you and your teammates are feeling hammy, an audience). The premise is simple enough, but the possibilities are endless. You and one partner will be given a scenario scene to start off by the MC to enact. “You’re being attacked by bubble gum monsters!”
But here is the catch: You can’t say no. If your partner says in the scene “Oh no, they’re cherry flavored!” you must agree with them and add something, hence the name “Yes, and…”
“Oh no, they’re cherry flavored!”
“Yes, and that one keeps sticking to my shoe!”
“It’s in my hair!”
“Your hair smells like cherries!”
“Blast you cherry-flavored bubble gum monsters!”
And keep going until the MC lets you stop.
The point of this game is to challenge you not only to think on your feet creatively but also to work with your teammate. In the exercise of your brain, think of this as the cardio you need to get everything pumping. I’ve seen this exercise used in business settings to practice problem solving and difficult conversations. By creating a scene in which you are forced to think quickly, work with a teammate, and build something together, your brain’s creativity center lights up like the 4th of July, and keeps it lit.'
2. Zip Zap Zop
If that game sounds too intimidating, this group brain exercise might be more your speed. (That’s a pun, by the way, but you don’t know why yet). For this exercise you will need a large group of people.
Get your group of people and gather in a circle in which everyone can make eye contact with one another. The rules for this game are simple enough. Someone makes eye contact with another person and claps their hand towards them (some versions feature an element where the person speaking shoots a clap towards the target, making it look like the top hand is skipping over the lower palm) and says “Zip!”
The receiver must immediately shoot their clap towards someone else while making eye-contact and say “Zap!” and the next person does the same saying “Zop!” and the cycle repeats until someone messes up. The repetition should maintain a rhythm of Zip Zap Zop Zip Zap Zop indefinitely. If you were to get competitive with this exercise, you’d eliminate people when they mess up and increase the speed of the rhythm with each start-over.
This exercise works to get your brain to focus and react quickly. Although it might not seem like a creative brain exercise on the surface, a large part of creativity is learning how to work within a flow or rhythm. By playing this game, you train your brain to think and react quickly while also having a lot of fun. See, you’re already learning how to be more creative.
This exercise works as a sort of confluence of the two previously listed exercises with an increasingly complicated level system depending on how hard you want to train your brain. I’ve seen a few variations of this game, but the version featured below was taught to me in a stage-combat workshop—so you know it’s going to be fun!
Level 1: Basic Whoosh-Whoa!
Like Zip Zap Zop, you will need a large group of people to gather in a circle. In a clock-wise manner, one-after-another, a wave is passed by sweeping your arms up and to your left while saying loudly “Whoosh!” Once the wave has passed around the circle at least one full cycle, anyone at any moment can reverse the direction of the wave by quickly facing the person who is passing the wave, lifting your hands straight up and shouting “WHOA!” The person who was passing the wave must turn around and whoosh the other way. If someone breaks a single rule or fails to execute a move correctly, they are eliminated.
Whenever someone is eliminated, the round starts over and wave must be passed around the whole circle again.
Level 2: Buzz!
Level 2 of this exercise adds to the complexity of Whoosh-Whoa! Start out the exercise exactly the same as you normally would, but in addition to just your basic Whoosh and Whoa moves, you now can shoot the wave to anyone in the circle (in a way very similar to how you would in Zip Zap Zop).
To pass the wave, you make eye-contact to someone in the circle and buzz at them. If they accept your buzz, they will continue whooshing away in whichever direction the wave had previously been going.
They cannot Whoa a Buzz. However, they can bounce the wave immediately back to you by crossing their arms and saying “Uh-uh”. With the wave passed back to you, you can either continue to Whoosh, or, if you are a Dragon Ball Z fan, you take the wave and with the most dramatic and loud Kamehameha attack you can muster shoot the wave back to them while they shake in mock explosion. After a Kamehameha attack, they must continue to Whoosh the wave along.
Level 3: Ramping
Caution: It's about to get complicated!
Oh that wasn’t difficult enough for you? Either you’re a regular who’s got one stellar brain or you might just be a masochist. Regardless, the next level might just be your undoing.
The third level of Whoosh-Whoa! is exactly the same as the previous two levels, but with another added move called ramping. If the wave is moving back and forth between two people who keep Whoa-ing, you have the option to skip the wave over them by hooking your arm as you would to shoot a basketball and saying with all the sass you can muster “Ramp!”
The person who catches the wave off the Ramp will continue to send the wave along in whatever direction it was headed and they cannot shout “Whoa!” in response. However – like all moves in Whoosh-Whoa! – a Ramp can be rejected and all someone who catches the wave after a Ramp needs to do to send the wave back to whoever sent it is to mirror them and say “Re-Ramp!”
But beware, because if you Re-Ramped somebody who likes shaming, you might just get in response the dreaded “Rizz-Ramp!” When you’ve been Rizz-Ramped, everyone in the circle moves in on you and starts shaming you for approximately 5 seconds like so:
Once the shaming has ceased, the wave continues along its merry way with a Whoosh.
There are a surprising number of variations of this game, and if you had fun with it, I recommend surfing the web for more levels of Whoosh-Whoa! to train your brain.
Much like Zip Zap Zop, this brain exercise makes you think fast on your feet and work in rhythm, but it also gives you added options to play with and get creative with in the process and train your brain.
So if you and a group of people, perhaps your office, need some epic brain games to work out your creative muscles, I recommend giving these three a shot. Not only are they fun, but they promote creativity, quick thinking, and team work.
What brain exercises do you use to get the creativity flowing? Tell us in the comments below.
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