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6 Brain Exercises That Seem Weird But Can Definitely Make You Smarter

6 Brain Exercises That Seem Weird But Can Definitely Make You Smarter

Have you ever wondered why some people can easily come up with creative ideas at a drop of a hat or have the ability to give quick responses? If you feel that you struggle to think creatively or quickly, there is some good news for you.

Your Brain Will Thank You If You Don’t Make It Feel Bored

Scientific research [1] shows that neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) can occur in the hippocampus part of the brain. In other words, if we externally stimulate our mind on a regular basis, we can speed up the brain-building neurons and form new neurons in the process, causing us to become quicker and more creative in our thinking.

Standard brain training can help stimulate the brain but the key is conducting exercises differently from our normal practices. If we make a habit of giving ourselves new stimulations in our day-to-day routines, we will cultivate a more creative and smart thought process.

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Try out these simple but effective exercises to get your mind thinking differently!

1. Switch Up Your Morning Routine

This may seem like a strange way to change the way you think but simply do a daily routine differently can help stimulate our brains in weird and wonderful ways.[2] When we get stuck in the same routine every day, the brain activity in the large areas of our cortex start to decline which is counteracted when we switch up a routine.

Take your dog for a walk through a different route, eat something different for breakfast or watch a different TV program. Watching something different such as kids’ TV can help you notice the world through the wonderment of children’s eyes which is something we can often forget to do or take for granted.

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2. Brush Your Teeth With Your Non-Dominant Hand

Doing activities with our non-dominant hand stimulates the opposite side of the brain and causes rapid expansion in the cortex that process information from the hand to the brain. Larger access to the right hemispheric functions as a result of using our non-dominant hand results in more creativity and intuition in our thought processes.[3]

The best way is to brush your teeth with your other hand remembering to open the tube and put the toothpaste on the toothbrush using your non-dominant hand too.

3. Scan Items At The Supermarket

If you find you always visit the same aisle and know exactly where to head for your groceries, then your tunnel vision is stopping you from stimulating your brain and creating those new neurons.

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Visit a different aisle and make sure you look from the top shelf all the way down to the bottom. Really take in what you usually don’t bother to see. Pick up ingredients, read the labels and really think about it. It’s all about being more mindful,[4] and by doing this you’re breaking up your routine and getting your brain to experience something new or something you wouldn’t normally think of doing.

4. Read Differently

Listening to someone read or reading aloud, causes different parts of the brain to be stimulated than if we were just reading silently to ourselves.[5]

Read a book aloud or read a book with a friend or partner, taking it in turns to read and listen. This will not only help stimulate those neurons but also experience a book in a whole different way.

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5. Eat Unfamiliar Foods

Foods and smells cause connections between our noses and the emotional center of the brain. By switching up our food and experiencing new flavors and smells, we are stimulating the brain in a different way.

Along the lines of mindful eating, try a cuisine you’ve never eaten before. Really take in the smells, textures and all the ingredients that have gone into the dish. If you’re culinarily inclined, cooking it yourself will add to the experience.[6]

6. Make More Social Connections Throughout Your Day

Interacting with people is one of the best ways to fire up our neurons and create more positive connections, upping our feel good factor to boot.[7]

Stimulate your cognitive abilities by interacting with as many people as possible in your daily routine whether it’s with the shop assistant, coffee barista or your neighbor. Find as many opportunities as possible to say hello or have a small conversation.

Reference

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9809557
[2] https://www.helpscout.net/blog/disrupt-daily-routine/
[3] http://www.nwitimes.com/niche/shore/health/using-your-other-hand-benefits-your-brain/article_6da931ea-b64f-5cc2-9583-e78f179c2425.html
[4] http://www.mindful.org/putting-mindfulness-to-work/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7820564
[6] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/23/mindful-eating-how-to-get-more-from-your-meals
[7] http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/social-connection-makes-a-better-brain/280934/

More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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