22 Ways To Overclock Your Brain
The brain is a three-pound supercomputer. It is the command and
control center running your life. It is involved in absolutely
everything you do. Your brain determines how you think, how you
feel, how you act, and how well you get along with other people.
Your brain even determines the kind of person you are. It determines
how thoughtful you are; how polite or how rude you are. It determines
how well you think on your feet, and it is involved with how well
you do at work and with your family. Your brain also influences
your emotional well being and how well you do with the opposite
Your brain is more complicated than any computer we can imagine.
Did you know that you have one hundred billion nerve cells in
your brain, and every nerve cell has many connections to other
nerve cells? In fact, your brain has more connections in it than
there are stars in the universe! Optimizing your brain’s
function is essential to being the best you can be, whether at
work, in leisure, or in your relationships.
It’s simple, your brain is at the center of everything
you do, all you feel and think, and every nuance of how you relate
to people. It’s both the supercomputer that runs your complex
life and the tender organ that houses your soul. And while you
may run, lift weights, or do yoga to keep your body in good condition,
chances are you ignore your brain and trust it to do its job.
No matter what your age, mental exercise has a global, positive
effect on the brain. So, here are 22 ways to boost your brain
1. Run Up Your Brain Cells
Research suggests that people who get plenty of physical exercise
can wind up with better brains. Scientists at the Salk Institute
for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., found that adult
mice who ran on an exercise wheel whenever they felt like it
gained twice as many new cells in the hippocampus, an area of
the brain involved in learning and memory, than mice who sat
around all day discussing Lord of the Rings in Internet chat
rooms. The researchers weren’t sure why the more active
rodents’ brains reacted the way they did, but it’s
possible that the voluntary nature of the exercise made it less
stressful and therefore more beneficial. Which could mean that
finding ways to enjoy exercise, rather than just forcing yourself
to do it, may make you smarter - and happier, too.
So, play a sport, train for an event such as a marathon, triathlon
or “fun run,” or work out with a buddy to help keep
2. Exercise Your Mind
It isn’t just physical exercise that gets those brain
cells jumping. Just like those head-pumped cabbies and piano
jockeys, you can build up various areas of your brain by putting
them to work. Duke University neurobiology professor Lawrence
C. Katz, Ph.D., co-author of Keep
Your Brain Alive, says that finding simple ways to use aspects
of your brain that may be lagging could help maintain both nerve
cells and dendrites, branches on the cells that receive and
process information. Just as a new weightlifting exercise builds
up underused muscles, Katz says that novel ways of thinking
and viewing the world can improve the functioning of inactive
sections of the brain.
Experience new tastes and smells; try to do things with your
nondominant hand; find new ways to drive to work; travel to
new places; create art; read that Dostoyevsky novel; write a
buddy comedy for Ted Kennedy and Rush Limbaugh - basically,
do anything you can to force yourself out of your mental ruts.
3. Ask Why
Our brains are wired to be curious. As we grow up and "mature"
many of us stifle or deny our natural curiosity. Let yourself
be curious! Wonder to yourself about why things are happening.
Ask someone in the know. The best way to exercise our curiosity
is by asking "Why?" Make it a new habit to ask "why?"
at least 10 times a day. Your brain will be happier and you
will be amazed at how many opportunities and solutions will
show up in your life and work.
Scientists tell us that laughter is good for our health; that
it releases endorphins and other positively powerful chemicals
into our system. We don"t really need scientists to tell us
that it feels good to laugh. Laughing helps us reduce stress
and break old patterns too. So laughter can be like a "quick-charge"
for our brain"s batteries. Laugh more, and laugh harder.
5. Be A Fish Head
Omega-3 oils, found in walnuts, flaxseed and especially fish,
have long been touted as being healthy for the heart. But recent
research suggests they’re a brain booster as well, and
not just because they help the circulation system that pumps
oxygen to your head. They also seem to improve the function
of the membranes that surround brain cells, which may be why
people who consume a lot of fish are less likely to suffer depression,
dementia, even attention-deficit disorder. Scientists have noted
that essential fatty acids are necessary for proper brain development
in children, and they’re now being added to baby formulas.
It’s possible that your own mental state, and even your
intelligence, can be enhanced by consuming enough of these oils.
Eating at least three servings a week of fish such as salmon,
sardines, mackerel and tuna is a good start.
Get out an old photo album or high school yearbook. Your brain
is a memory machine, so give it a chance to work! Spend time
with your memories. Let your mind reflect on them and your mind
will repay you in positive emotions and new connections from
the memories to help you with your current tasks and challenges.
7. Cut The Fat
Can “bad” fats make you dumb? When researchers
at the University of Toronto put rats on a 40-percent-fat diet,
the rats lost ground in several areas of mental function, including
memory, spatial awareness and rule learning. The problems became
worse with a diet high in saturated fats, the kind that’s
abundant in meat and dairy products. While you may never be
called upon to navigate a little maze in search of a cheddar
cube, these results could hold true for you as well, for two
reasons: Fat can reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your
brain, and it may also slow down the metabolism of glucose,
the form of sugar the brain utilizes as food.
You can still get up to 30 percent of your daily calories in
the form of fat, but most of it should come from the aforementioned
fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Whatever you do, stay away
from trans fats, the hardened oils that are abundant in crackers
and snack foods.
8. Do A Puzzle
Some of us like jigsaw puzzles, some crossword puzzles, some
logic puzzles - it really doesn"t matter kind you choose to
do. Doing puzzles in your free time is a great way to activate
your brain and keep it in good working condition. Do the puzzle
for fun, but do it knowing you are exercising your brain.
9. The Mozart Effect
A decade ago Frances Rauscher, a psychologist now at the University
of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and her colleagues made waves with
the discovery that listening to Mozart improved people’s
mathematical and spatial reasoning. Even rats ran mazes faster
and more accurately after hearing Mozart than after white noise
or music by the minimalist composer Philip Glass. Last year,
Rauscher reported that, for rats at least, a Mozart piano sonata
seems to stimulate activity in three genes involved in nerve-cell
signalling in the brain.
This sounds like the most harmonious way to tune up your mental
faculties. But before you grab the CDs, hear this note of caution.
Not everyone who has looked for the Mozart effect has found
it. What’s more, even its proponents tend to think that
music boosts brain power simply because it makes listeners feel
better - relaxed and stimulated at the same time - and that
a comparable stimulus might do just as well. In fact, one study
found that listening to a story gave a similar performance boost.
10. Improve Your Skill At Things You Already Do
Some repetitive mental stimulation is ok as long as you look
to expand your skills and knowledge base. Common activities
such as gardening, sewing, playing bridge, reading, painting,
and doing crossword puzzles have value, but push yourself to
do different gardening techniques, more complex sewing patterns,
play bridge against more talented players to increase your skill,
read new authors on varied subjects, learn a new painting technique,
and work harder crossword puzzles. Pushing your brain to new
heights help to keep it healthy.
11. Be A Thinker, Not A Drinker
The idea that alcohol kills brain cells is an old one, but
the reality is a bit more complicated. In fact, a study of 3,500
Japanese men found that those who drank moderately (in this
case, about one drink per day) had better cognitive functioning
when they got older than those who didn’t drink at all.
Unfortunately, as soon as you get beyond that “moderate”
amount, your memory, reaction time is all likely to decline.
In the same study, men who had four or more drinks a day fared
worst of all.
Just as bad is the now common practice of “binge drinking,”
otherwise known as getting hammered on the weekend. Research
on rats found that those who consumed large amounts of alcohol
had fewer new cells in their brains’ hippocampus region
immediately after the binge, and virtually none a month later.
This suggests that the alcohol not only damaged the rats’
brains, but kept them from repairing themselves later on - in
human terms, that means you shouldn’t expect to pass the
Mensa entrance exam any time soon.
Take time to play. Make time to play. Play cards. Play video
games. Play board games. Play Ring Around the Rosie. Play tug
of war. It doesn"t matter what you play. Just play! It is
good for your spirit and good for your brain. It gives your
brain a chance to think strategically, and keeps it working.
13. Sleep On It
Previewing key information and then sleeping on it increases
retention 20 to 30 percent. You can leave that information next
to the bed for easy access, if it is something that won’t
keep you awake. If you are kept awake by your thoughts, writing
everything down sometimes gets it “out of your mind,”
allowing you to sleep (so keep a pen and paper nearby).
Concentration can increase brainpower. Obvious, perhaps, but
the thieves of concentration are not always so obvious. Learn
to notice when you are distracted. Often the cause is just below
consciousness. If there is a phone call you need to make, for
example, it might bother you all morning, sapping your ability
to think clearly, even while you are unaware of what is bothering
Get in the habit of stopping to ask “What is on my mind
right now”. Identify it and deal with it. In the example
given, you could make the phone call, or put it on tomorrow’s
list, so your mind is comfortable letting it go for now. This
leaves you in a more relaxed state where you can think more
clearly. Use this technique to increase your brainpower now.
15. Make Love For Your Brain
In a series of studies by Winnifred B. Cutler, PhD and colleagues
at the University of Pennsylvania and later at Stanford University
it was found that regular sexual contact had an important impact
on physical and emotional well being of women. Sexual contact
with a partner at least once a week led to more fertile, regular
menstrual cycles, shorter menses, delayed menopause, increased
estrogen levels, and delayed aging. Brain imaging studies at
UCLA have shown that decreased estrogen levels are associated
with overall decreased brain activity and poor memory. Enhancing
estrogen levels for women through regular sexual activity enhances
overall brain activity and improves memory.
In Dr. Cutler’s study the occurrence of orgasm was not
as important as the fact that sex was with another person. Intimacy
and emotional bonding may be the most influential factors in
the positive aspects of sex. As a psychiatrist I have seen many
people withhold sex as a way to show hurt, anger, or disappointment.
Dr. Cutler’s research suggests that this is self-defeating
behavior. The more you withhold the worse it may be for you.
Appropriate sex is one of the keys to the brain’s fountain
16. Play With Passion!
You can’t do great work without personal fulfillment.
When people are growing through learning and creativity, they
are much more fulfilled and give 127% more to their work. Delight
yourself and you delight the world. Remember what you loved
to do as a child and bring the essence of that activity into
your work. This is a clue to your genius; to your natural gifts
and talents. da Vinci, Edison, Einstein and Picasso all loved
to play and they loved to explore.
17. Cycles Of Consciousness
Your consciousness waxes and wanes throughout the day . For
most it seems to go through 90 minute cycles, with 30 minutes
of lower consciousness. Watch yourself to recognize this cycle.
If you learn to recognize and track your mental state, you can
concentrate on important mental tasks when your mind is most
“awake”. For creative insight into a problem, do
the opposite. Work on it when you are in a drowsy state, when
your conscious mind has slowed down.
18. Learn Something New
This one might seem obvious. Yes, we capitalize on our brain"s
great potential when we put it to work learning new things.
You may have a specific topic for work or leisure that you want
to learn more about. That"s great.
Go learn it. If you don"t have a subject in mind right now,
try learning a new word each day. There is a strong correlation
between working vocabulary and intelligence. When we have new
words in our vocabulary, our minds can think in new ways with
greater nuances between ideas. Put your mind to work learning.
It is one of the best ways to re-energize your brain.
19. Write To Be Read
I am a big proponent of writing in a journal to capture ideas
and thoughts. There is certainly great value in writing for
yourself. I continue to find that my brain is greatly stimulated
by writing to be read. The greatest benefit of writing is what
it does to expand your brain"s capacity. Find ways to write
to be read " by writing things for your friends to read, by
capturing the stories of your childhood, starting your own blog
or whatever " just write to be read.
20. Try Aroma Therapy To Activate Your Brain
One day, as I was falling asleep, while listening to endless
speeches at a conference, my brain suddenly perked up when I
caught a whiff of lemon from someone’s cologne. I immediately
felt alert and found it much easier to pay attention to the
presenter. I discovered aroma therapy really is useful and I
have used it ever since revitalize or to relax.
Energizers include peppermint, cypress and lemon. Relaxants:
ylang ylang, geranium and rose. A few drops of essential oils
in your bath or in a diffuser will do the trick. You can also
put a drop or two in a cotton ball or hanky and inhale. One
caveat for the workplace; make sure no-one is allergic to the
oils before you use them.
21. Drugs To Increase Brainpower
Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine help students consistently
score higher on tests. Since caffeine restricts blood vessels
in the brain, it isn’t clear what the longer-term effects
may be when it comes to your brainpower. So instead of coffee
breaks try gingko biloba and gotu kola herbal teas. Ginkgo biloba
has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, and improve
22. Build A Brain Trust
Surround yourself with inspiring people from a wide variety
of fields who encourage you and stimulate your creativity. Read
magazines from a wide variety of fields. Make connections between
people, places and things, to discover new opportunities, and
to find solutions to your problems.
Remember that no matter what your age or your occupation; your
brain needs to be constantly challenged to be at its peak in terms
of performance. Whether it’s doing logic puzzles, memorizing
lines from Shakespeare, or learning a new skill, keep
your brain busy, if you don’t want it to rust away
like a car in a junkyard.
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