When it comes to your brain, either “use it or lose it.”

That’s the message from Dr. Michael Maddens, chief of medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan. He says lots of new research shows that the human brain is flexible and can grow and change over time. But if you don’t take care of your brain, then the “white matter” that covers and protects neural cells will shrink as you get older taking your memory and cognitive function with it.

The good news is that you can slow long-term mental decline by challenging your brain with simple “brain games.” Here are some that are recommended by Cheryl Deep, a brain expert who runs a class at Wayne State University called “Brain Neurobics.”

  • First: Try flipping all the photos in your home UPSIDE DOWN. Deep says the key to keeping your brain running longer is to get it out of mindless routines. So flipping your photos is one easy way to get your brain to work a little harder to identify them each time you walk by.

  • The same goes for some other mindless habits we do every day. Like brushing your teeth, writing your name, or wearing a watch. Deep says little changes, like brushing with your non-dominant hand, writing your name backwards, or wearing your watch upside down will stimulate your brain in a way that causes new neural pathways to grow while strengthening old ones.

  • One more easy brain game: Have a conversation where you and a friend avoid the word “the” for two minutes. And whenever your friend speaks, count how many times they slip up and say it.

Want to go further? You’ll find more tips for exercising your brain at one of the fastest-growing brain game Websites: Lumosity.com.