Note: If you enjoy this article, consider reading 5 Ways Of Enhancing Brain Power [Part 1].
No matter how high your current I.Q. or level of education, there are still tons of great things that you can do to boost your brain power! Boosting your brain power doesn’t always deal with reading books or hanging out with scientists on a daily basis! There are many great methods that you can use to improve your brain’s overall level of cognition. The following 5 methods included in this article will definitely help you flex your neural connections a bit and allow you to build a better brain! In follow-up to the first part of this series (posted above), are 5 more great ways of enhancing your brain power!
1. Take Control Of Your Thoughts (Neurofeedback)
Taking control of your thought-patterns is much easier than most people imagine!
Though the concept of Neurofeedback sounds slightly New-Agey, there is a method of thought-control that you can use to actually boost your brain power! Most people that use it don’t have any idea as to how it works, but definitely are able to testify that it is highly-effective. It is not exactly a method of relaxation or meditation, though you can use it to help yourself relax! What is it? It’s called neurofeedback, and it is slowly gaining credibility in the field of psychology and scientific community.
Neurofeedback stemmed from the practice of Biofeedback and the terms are often used synonymously. Neurofeedback works by showing people (giving them feedback) of real-time measures of things like: brainwaves, heart rate, skin temperature, etc. and encourages them to take conscious control over it. The amazing part of this practice is that though people don’t think it will work initially, walk away with astonishing results proving that they were able to do it!
Neurofeedback has recently gained popularity in neuroscience and psychology to help patients boost their brain power and recover from diseases and disorders like anxiety or ADHD. The very first attempts of neurofeedback were done to increase the amount of alpha brainwaves (associated with a calm, relaxing mental state) displayed in an individual’s E.E.G. So far, researchers and neurofeedback practitioners have had much success with treating things like ADD and ADHD. They have also found plenty of scientific evidence that proves its effectiveness! It also has been effective in treating certain cases of depression, anxiety, stroke, brain injuries, and epilepsy.
Some experimenters have even used brain scanners that allow individuals to see and control brainwave activity in specific parts of their brain! This is an amazing advancement, in my opinion! What about for people that don’t have a brainwave problem? Can neurofeedback be effective for boosting the brain power of an ordinary, average guy? Definitely. Neurofeedback has been proven to improve memory and levels of calmness before exams in many average people.
It has also been effective at improving technique in dancers and musicians. With this said, virtually anyone can benefit from the practice. There is also evidence that the practice of neurofeedback can boost our confidence, levels of creativity, enhance our sexual performance, lift depression, balance brain activity, improve relaxation, and change personality traits. All of this improvement just through the act of controlling out thoughts!
2. Pay Closer Attention (Cut Distractions)
No matter your level of genius, creativity, or common sense, none of it matters unless your mind paying attention!
Paying attention is a fairly complex brain function that allows us to focus on details or see the “big picture.” Though there is no single best way to improve concentration, there are many things you can do to improve it! The first way to enhance your concentration is to increase your level of arousal. When you are in a highly-focused, beta brainwave state, your level of arousal is much higher than usual. The brain’s concentration-state of mind is controlled largely by the production of the neurotransmitters: dopamine and noradrenalin. Dopamine induces a “goal-oriented,” pleasurable, yet highly productive state of mind. Noradrenalin induces an vigilant, slightly paranoid state of mind. It is not shocking that doing activities to raise dopamine levels boost our ability to pay attention.
One way to boost our ability to pay attention is by taking drugs like amphetamines (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) – drugs that treat ADHD. Caffeine also works well to boost our levels of concentration. I personally prefer a drug-free approach due to safety concerns associated with taking drugs. I know (from experience) that these drugs are not the way to go: they are a short term solution to a problem that needs a long term approach.
Another great way to boost your ability to pay attention is to get a good night’s sleep, eat brain foods, and get plenty of exercise! Meditation is also a great practice to incorporate into your lifestyle. Studies have proven meditation’s effectiveness at increasing our ability to pay attention. After you have chosen one of the methods mentioned above to improve your focus, you need to begin cutting distractions. Studies conducted at the workplace discovered that it takes at least 10 minutes to regain a quality state of focus after becoming distracted.
Psychologists highly recommend that you avoid doing work near noisy, annoying, distracting appliances like the dishwasher, fridge, or T.V. It is best to drown out background noise while working by finding a quiet place to work, using earmuffs or earplugs (if necessary), or even listening to music to kill the other noise. There are plenty of tactics you can use to help you keep paying attention. Pick one method you like best and stick with it!
3. Can You Learn From The Nuns?
If you don’t want to develop senility throughout your old age, you should consider asking a Nun what to do!?
A convent in Mankato, Minnesota may seem like an abnormal place to run a brain experiment… But, a study of 75 to 107 year old nuns has revealed great insight into keeping the brain healthy and powerful moreso than most other experiments to this date! This “Nun study” was done with over 600 total Catholic Nuns and an expert of Alzheimer’s disease and aging.
The nun’s high-levels of longevity is largely attributed to their lifestyle. They do not drink or smoke, they live quietly and socialize, they are calm, deeply spiritual, and have a healthy diet. All of these small differences in lifestyle appeared to make huge differences in brain power and aging later in life. A relatively low percentage of the nuns suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but many have avoided dementia and senility that most individuals develop. Many of the nun’s brains revealed no signs of excessive aging.
The overall study revealed a few common factors that helped the nuns’ brain power: having the correct amount of vitamin folate, verbal ability early in life, and having positive emotions early in life. Also, activities such as: sewing, doing crossword puzzles, and exercising helped prevent senility. Spirituality and the positive emotions resulting from it, also had significant benefits. Individual differences also matter: irregular metabolism, strokes, and head injuries, all increase your susceptibility towards developing Alzheimer’s disease.
You definitely don’t need to become a nun to stay mentally fit, though! We can all work towards brain power improvements! With that said, this study can provide us with a plethora of great advice to take from the lives of some nuns and apply it to our own lives!
4. Physical Exercise Vs. Mental Exercise
Staying active through physical exercise can not only make you stronger physically, it will boost your brain power!
Are you the type of person who hates studying? Well, according to researchers, exercising for just 30 minutes a day up to 3 times per week can significantly improve your ability to concentrate, use reasoning, and your overall learning abilities by nearly 20 percent! The brain boosting effects of exercise are even more powerful and easier to observe in old people. Elderly individuals that are able to walk regularly perform much better on memory tests than their non-exercising friends. Even more impressive is the fact that over several years, their overall cognitive performance shows much less decline than those who don’t exercise. Every extra exercise session has significant benefits!
Though elderly individuals display the most noticeable changes in mental performance, they are not the only group of people that benefit from exercise. Children have been studied too: school-kids that exercise 3 to 4 times per week get higher exam scores than those who don’t! Though the effect is most observable in male schoolchildren, females do definitely benefit as well! Research suggests that aerobic exercise boosts cognition by getting extra oxygen to the brain.
There is also another great reason that your brain is so fond of physical exercise: it promotes neurogenesis a.K.a. “the growth of new neurons (brain cells)!” Until recently, scientists figured that we were born with a maximum amount of brain cells and that we could not replenish lost or killed brain cells. New studies, however, have confirmed that exercise definitely produces new brain cell growth (in people of all ages), even in adults!
The brain boosting effects of exercise are most seen in the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This is also the brain region that is easily damaged by cortisol – a brain-cell killing stress hormone. This is why if you are ever feeling stressed, the best thing you can do for your brain is to go for a hard run! Even relaxing, stretching-type exercise like hatha yoga can work wonders for your cognition. Scientific researchers have discovered that bending backwards – as opposed to forward bending and standing – is the best way to get a quick mood lift!
Apparently, not only does a fit body positively affect our brain, our brain can actually produce changes in our body! In 2001, researchers at the “Cleveland Clinic Foundation of Ohio” asked volunteer participants to spend 15 minutes each day thinking about exercising their biceps. After 12 short weeks, their bicep muscles were 13 % stronger than they were before! This is very interesting and a phenomenon that (in my opinion) should be studied more! The effects from this study were amazing, just from spending 15 minutes “thinking” about exercising a certain muscle group!
5. Get A Good Night’s Sleep (Seriously…)
You should never underestimate the power associated with getting a good night’s sleep!
Cheating your brain of sleep is actually very harmful to your brain! Depriving yourself of sleep is one of the many things that kill brain cells! (Yikes!) Your ability to problem solve, plan, learn, and concentrate all are significantly reduced. Intelligence scores are lowered. You become unable to properly function: if you have been awake for twenty-one hours straight, your cognitive abilities are equal to someone who is legally drunk! You should not be on the road… lack of sleep is just as bad for your brain as driving drunk. And, you don’t need to pull an all-nighter to suffer from the dangerous effects: just 2 to 3 (back-to-back) late nights with early mornings have the exact same negative side-effects!
What is also interesting is the fact that if you allow someone who isn’t sleep deprived to get an extra hour of sleep, they perform much better on normal tasks requiring high levels of attention, such as taking a test! These are not the only benefits resulting from a good-night’s sleep either! While you are sleeping, your brain is able to process new learned skills, the formation of memories, and solve problems.
An example is working on an extremely difficult math problem… Instead of working 8 hours straight trying to solve the problem, you would be better off working for a couple hours and taking a cat-nap. Why? Because, while you are asleep your brain refreshes and reactivates the neural circuits that it used when you were working on the problem. It then rehearses your memories as you worked on the problem and converts short-term memories into the long-term storage. The same applies to other skills such as learning a sport, playing an instrument, and driving a car.
There is also plenty of evidence that getting quality sleep helps us produce moments of problem-solving insight. Many people claim that their problems are solved sometimes in their dreams. One famous story and example, is that of the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. He claimed to suddenly “understand” a problem he was trying to solve with the periodic table in a dream, after he had spent an entire day struggling with the problem! It appears as though sleep allows the brain to juggle new experiences and memories, and provide us with flashes of creativity and ah-ha moments! If you are ever in doubt about a problem or stressed out, snooze on it! You may be surprised at what your brain is able to accomplish!