Tools for getting mentally fit

This past few weeks I've been challenging myself to lose a few kilos, get a little fitter and consume more wisely.  It's a sort of advance New Year's resolution and maybe by getting ahead of time there is a chance of avoiding the over indulgence that seems to go hand to mouth with the festive season.  Along with the physical challenges, I've been keen to exercise my brain more in a bid to get sharper on that front too.

One of the ways I've been doing that is through word puzzles.
We're keen fans of crosswords in our house and, although we sometimes share answers to clues, each of us likes to treat the crossword as a personal challenge. Respecting that individual approach we've even taken to photocopying the crossword so that we can each have a clean copy.

Over the past weeks of this fitness regime I've begun to notice that the solutions are coming much more quickly and so I've started to keep a record of how long each puzzle has taken to complete.  It's not anything formal and certainly not for competitive purposes in the family; it is simply to be able to prove to myself that progress is happening.  

Remember that point about clean copy? 
Now, when I do the crossword I note start and end times and record how long it has taken to complete on a clean copy.  Then - days or weeks later - the task is to do it again completing it faster than the first time. A double, personal challenge.
You might be thinking, well it's bound to be easier second time around. And sometimes, you would be right but sometimes it can take longer.  Why is that?
It can have a lot to do with the "form" or mood we are in; time of day; level of stress or tiredness.  My experience of doing and repeating the crosswords suggested that I should practise more to get my brain fitter.  Then I spotted something that my brain just might appreciate.

Online brain games
I was scrolling through a website when I noticed an advertisement for Lumosity. Don't worry! I am not trying to rope you in and the link isn't one of those affilaite things for me to earn a commission.  I tend to avoid ads and as you can see don't have any on my site but you know the saying.. when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  I looked at the list of scientific research projects and opted to join and yes...there is a fee.

So what happens? 
Each day I get an email prompt to remind me to do that day's selection of brain games. Some aren't easy and I've gone back over several to improve my score. Certainly a few cross words have been spoken.

One of the things I like is that alongside each game is a series of suggestions from other users on how to improve your score and one of the tips I liked is that accuracy is more important than speed.

For each of the elements (speed, memory, attention, flexibility, problem solving and so on) there is a running score and by clicking through your profile you can check your precentile placing against others of the same age group. Mixed reports for me there but I'm there to do better.
There is also an overall Lumosity Performance Index (LPI) and over the past week despite a couple of steps backwards, at least I can see that I am making progress.

Lumosity has one thing in common with the crossword copy.
It repeats the test expecting ongoing training to improve performance.
Now where is that crossword?