Brain boosting online activities for a rainy day

Spring is finally here! As the nights grow lighter and the sound of birdsong fills the air, it’s the perfect time to dust away the cobwebs of a long winter. Admittedly, feeling the spring spirit in the UK is entirely weather dependent: when the sun’s out we feel on top of the world, but those April showers can really dampen the mood. That’s where the internet comes in handy! 

We’re so lucky to have a world of connection, activities, and information right at our fingertips. And although most of us would be content to while away the hours on a YouTube loop or scrolling through hilarious meme after meme, it is possible to use this endless array of online resources in a productive way. 

Here’s a list of my top online activities to do that will broaden your horizons and boost your brain in the process, and the best thing is that many of them are completely free.

Go back to school

Sometimes, there’s nothing better for the brain and your productivity levels than to go back to school and learn some new skills. Postgraduate education is prohibitively expensive, and very few adults are able to give up their day jobs to immerse themselves full time at university again. But, thanks to the internet, it’s possible to take a variety of courses across fields as vast as Psychology, STEM, and The Arts. 

Udemy (www.udemy.com), The Open University (www.open.edu) and Future Learn (www.futurelearn.com) are three of the best online education websites to visit, and they all offer courses completely free of charge. Right now on the Open University website there are almost 1000 free courses and certifications on topics as diverse as Egyptian Mathematics, Creative Writing, and Approaches to Software Design. 

Games for everyone

If committing to a course of study doesn’t take your fancy, you can also indulge in some brain engaging activities by playing games and solving puzzles online. Yep, everything from solving a Sudoku puzzle to playing Scrabble and even a round or two of poker is possible online. 

Ok, so you probably don’t have dreams of becoming the next poker World Champion, or maybe you’ve never even played a game of cards before. Nevertheless, playing poker online can be a surprisingly useful activity. As a game that involves constant learning and strategic thinking, it’s one that has all manner of brain-boosting benefits. Recent research has shown that playing poker even helps with neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to develop new neural pathways. 

But, if you’re simply just not interested in playing traditional card or puzzle games, how about some specific brain training workouts instead? Sites and apps like Elevate and Happy Neuron specialise in progressive, brain training activities, with the latter offering a range of games to develop key areas like visual/spatial awareness, executive functions, attention, memory and language. Procrastination with a purpose! 

Stream culture to your living room

If that all seems like a bit too much hard work, then why not inject some culture into the hours of content that you absorb online? From April onwards, museums, galleries, theatres and opera houses from all across the globe are becoming much more digitally active, streaming performances, sharing content via social media, and even running online workshops and classes. 

The National Gallery of Art is currently running “virtual tours” of its different galleries and their various collections; just search #museumfromhome on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to take a peek at the treasure trove of art under its roof. In a landmark event, the 700 year old God’s House Tower in Southampton just conducted a virtual launch of its latest contemporary exhibit by Laura Eldret and Paul Vivian, with replay action and highlights now available across the organisation’s social media pages (@ght_soton https://www.facebook.com/GodsHouseTower/). 

Speaking of launches, contemporary dance house Sadler’s Wells is also streaming full-length performances via its Digital Stage, including the acclaimed brand new triple bill from the Ballet Boyz, featuring never before seen choreography from female creators. Upcoming performances include Ballet Lorent’s Rumplestilskin (a treat for all ages!), and there will even be dance workshops to take part in from April onwards.

And how’s about a bit of Mozart or Shakespeare to take the place of your typical YouTube viewing? Throughout April, in addition to its usual insight evenings, rehearsals and behind the scenes footage, the Royal Opera House will be broadcasting performances of classics like Cosi Fan Tutte, the Royal Ballet’s The Winter’s Tale, and Peter and the Wolf directly on its YouTube channel. It doesn’t get more refined than that!

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