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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/

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Jenny Marchal

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

More Resources About Boost Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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