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6 Habits To Largely Improve Your Memory and Brain Power

6 Habits To Largely Improve Your Memory and Brain Power

Would you like to become smarter? Remember things easier? Increase your brain’s overall strength? Good news! I’m going to show you six things you can start doing immediately that will improve your memory, strengthen your cognitive abilities and make you smarter!

Before I start with the six, I must tell you about the one thing that relates to all of them…being mindful.

The most important thing you can do to increase your brain power and memory is to be mindful.

This is basically paying attention on purpose. Being mindful is scientifically proven to increase the gray matter in your brain. Gray matter allows you to think clearer and remember more. The reason I don’t have mindfulness as one of my points is because you have to be mindful to do any of these things!

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Maximize Your Sleep Cycle

We sleep 1/3 of our life, or at least we are supposed to. When we sleep, we go through a cycle which include 3 stages. Each stage is 30 minutes (90 minutes per cycle), and the cycle repeats itself throughout the night. The first stage is light sleep, the first 30 minutes, and this occurs when we first fall asleep. The next stage is deep sleep, between 30-60 minutes, and in deep sleep our body heals itself. It does this by releasing the hormone HGH which repairs what the body needs repairing. If you are sore from working out, this is the stage that makes you not sore in the morning.

The final stage, or Stage 3, is the famous REM stage which occurs between 60-90 minutes. This is the stage that repairs our brains. REM is known as the dreaming stage, but is also the stage where it categorizing your thoughts and memories. During the night the cycles treat different stages with different priorities.

Your body is the first thing to heal and then it moves to the brain. This is why they say it is crucially Important to get 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night. The average American gets 6.8 and lives in a sleep debt most of their life.

Implementing – Do your best to get 7.5 hours of sleep and if you need to take a nap, take one! If you are one of those people that think sleep is weak and you run just fine on your 6 hours, try getting 7.5 and see how efficient you are, how much better you feel, and notice how good your mood is throughout the day!

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Maximize Your Food Intake

You get out what you put in! If you want your car to perform at its best, you put in high octane fuel. If you want your body and brain to perform at its best, you put in high octane food. Begin by cutting down on the amount of food you consume at one time. If you normally eat three larger meals, cut those down to six smaller meals throughout the day. Our brain works best with 25grams of glucose at one time…that is basically a banana. There are also plenty of foods that release hormones like dopamine that make us feel good. Some say two handfuls of cashews equals an antidepressant pill. Although they may be a stretch, why are you not snacking on cashews all day?

Implementing – First, cut down on the size of the meals you are eating! Next, simply think about what you are putting in your body. Everything you put in makes your feel differently, so put in the good stuff! Finally, if you are not sure, look it up. Google is at your fingertips, so use it… your body and brain will thank you!

Write it Down

When you physically write things down your brain looks at it differently than if you type it into your phone or computer. When you actually write it down, it cements it into your brain. When I was in high school I wasn’t a very good student and when it came time to take tests, I always made cheat sheets.

The fascinating thing was I never used them. About an hour before the test, I would look at the possible questions and write down the answers on a small piece of paper. I would then put the paper in my pocket and plan on pulling it out when it was time to retrieve the answer. The thing was, when I would read a question, the answer would come right to me because I had just written it down. I could visualize how I wrote it, and where I wrote it down on the cheat sheet.

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Implementing – There are several ways to start doing this. My favorite is write down tomorrow’s activities/responsibilities the night before. What this does is release any worry about what you have to do the next day and you will sleep like a baby! It also allows you to wake up the next day and just follow a schedule…no-brainer! Even though it is better to write things down by hand, have an app on your phone where you can always jot things down when they come to mind. We have so many great ideas that come and go, if you don’t capture them, you may lose it forever!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, or putting yourself “out there” has an effect on the way your brain sees things. Your brain reacts differently in new environments than when you stay in the same place. When your brain sees the same things all the time, it goes into auto-pilot. It has seen it before so it doesn’t have to work to understand. When you change your scenery, your brain starts to see new things and perceive things differently. It does this because it has to “pay attention.” This is where the magic happens.

What I mean by that, is there are things we all have in our heads which we have no answer for. We may be working on a project or just something you know you are missing and when we introduce our brain to new environments those missing pieces sometimes come to the surface…it’s amazing!

Implementing – This can be done so many different way, but the easiest answer is switching up a routine a bit. A few examples are driving home and working out. Instead of driving home the exact same way, even if it takes you another 5 minutes, take an alternative route to shake up the brain. If you exercise, that’s next; you should change up your routine a bit. Instead of running the same route or the same time and miles per hour on the treadmill, shake it up a bit. You can also add in a new form of exercise to do the same.

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Exercise

Besides being great for our body, exercising is amazing for our brain. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins that make us feel good. It also decreases our stress which eliminates the bad hormone cortisol, which I like to call the “dumb” hormone. Cortisol clouds our thinking and decreases our cognitive ability. So, to feel better and think clearer, jump on that treadmill, lift those weights, get to that yoga class or whatever form of exercise you choose is right for you.

Implementing – If you don’t already, start exercising! You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, there are plenty of workouts you can perform in the privacy of your own home. Beyond that, make conscious decisions to be more active. Take the stairs not the elevator, park away from the building instead of hunting for the best spot, and get up and take a walk every now and again…your body and brain will thank you!

Slow Down

Slowing down may sound like something a lazy person would tell you, but in fact here is why it helps. Being “busy” or “multitasking” are two of the least productive things you can do. When you slow down and mindfully concentrate on one task at a time, you give it 100%. When you multitask two things, you do each at 50% and when you do three, it is 33%, you get the picture. Besides doing the job better and more efficiently, you become less stressed which, yes, eliminates the cortisol in your brain. As we know this allows you to think clearer which will produce less errors. So, in fact, when you slow down you actually increase your productivity.

Implementing – This one is pretty simple, but for some reason one of the hardest. We are so “trained” to go fast, and get things done, but it is that mentality that creates the mess! So, write down the things your are going to do in the next hour/day and mindfully do them one at a time. You will find that you feel better as you get each one done and more relaxed. Slow down and enjoy life!

Start implementing these six habits and you will not only see your brain power and memory increase, you will see your mood lift like never before. So be mindful, put these to work and I’ll see you at the top!

Featured photo credit: Business Bootcamp by Sebastiaan ter Burg via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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