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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

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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