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Workout Your Brain By Learning A New Word Every Day, You Will Get Smarter

Workout Your Brain By Learning A New Word Every Day, You Will Get Smarter

Have you ever been speechless because you are running out of words to speak your mind? Or have you ever read a word that you are familiar with but suddenly cannot recognize its meaning? Sometimes, there also might be the case that you have a word in mind but you forget how to spell it right. These situations do not prove you are not intelligent enough but somehow show that your brain needs some more training.

Workouts aren’t just for your body, your brain needs them too.

The brain, anatomically speaking, cannot be called a muscle, though it is partly composed of muscle tissues.

There’s a very good reason though why experts use the analogy of exercising your brain as if it is a muscle — if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Evidence suggests that mental stimulation improves brain function[1] and reduces the risk of cognitive decline and related diseases.

So what kind of workout does a brain need? Probably learning more words.

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Your body needs exercise, your brain needs new words.

We learn words by simulating how they sound and visualizing the concepts of the words. Instead of verbalizing the words, the brain is trained to recognize the words that frequently go together.[2] That’s why sometimes when a word is misspelled, you can still recognize it easily.

Whenever we read, the visual cortex of the brain is stimulated to recognize the words. With continuous practice, our brains get used to connecting images and concepts. This process improves our memory as it helps our brains to recall our learned concepts and connect them with the existing stimuli.

Research also suggests that the brain is a dynamic organism.[3]

“The brain changes as we learn more vocabulary, no matter the age, as vocabulary is learned at all ages.”

When we try to acquire a new word, the gray matter density increases as a result of learning, despite the age.

Researchers have performed a brain image analysis to show that people with similar verbal IQs can have different verbal knowledge levels when they try to increase the gray matter density through vocabulary acquisition. In other words, learning a new word is a practice to grow our brains and improve our intelligence.

Learning a new word is good. Taking up a new language is great!

Learning a new language can help you acquire a huge amount of vocabularies in a short time. A new language also teaches us new concepts and new realities.

Jay Rubin, the English translator to famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami, has illustrated this point finely:

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“It’s still fascinating to sit back and realize that my brain is working in a totally different way when I’m functioning in Japanese. I very often feel I’m writing original -almost original- fiction. What’s on the page is Murakami’s prose, not his language.”[4]

Japanese and English are vastly different; aside from containing very different sounds, they have completely different grammatical structures. According to Rubin, there’re also “intangibles” words in Japanese that explain concepts that don’t exist in other languages.

Apart from the foreign concepts, new words in our own language can also teach us new concepts. Going to learn something new? It’s very likely that you will learn a whole new list of vocabularies!

Kickstart with your brain workout schedule!

There are some easy ways to learn new vocabulary. You can try daily crossword puzzles on newspaper, or word-learning sites like Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. Just one click and you can learn a new word with all its meaning and usage explained.

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For those who like to take on challenges, learning an entirely new language might also be a good option. Apps like Duolingo and HelloTalk help you keep track of your learning progress and provide quizzes and games to keep you motivated. Of course, you can also take a language class and interact with your fellow classmates often.

But my favorite way of learning new words and phrases is always from watching movies and listening to different types of songs. When I see or hear any words or phrases I’ve never come across before, I’d immediately put them down on my notes (well it’s handy because I’m just jotting the new words down on my phone’s notes app.)

One single new word every day will eventually make up a big list of words. Start small and you’ll end up big!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Reference

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Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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Published on July 15, 2020

7 Ways to Improve Focus And Memory (Backed By Science)

7 Ways to Improve Focus And Memory (Backed By Science)

You know that feeling when you’re wide awake, but your brain isn’t? You want better focus and memory, but you just can’t seem to get there.

I call it “brain fog”—an annoying mental haze that results in difficulty focusing, trouble retaining information, and, as a result, compromised effectiveness.

For some reason, the fog always seems to sneak up on me when I need my brain power the most, like before an important presentation or on the day before a major project is due. However, with the right tools, I usually find my way back to better focus and memory in the nick of time.

Like the dense clouds that hover over city streets, brain fog can feel impossible to cut through.

Fortunately, the human brain is resilient. With a little training and redirection, it’s possible to reclaim your mind from the fog and all the frustration (and lost time) that comes with it.

Struggling to stay on task or retain information? Try these 7 science-backed methods for better focus and memory

1. Do a Short, Strenuous Workout

I had slept for a full eight hours and eaten a nutritious breakfast. I had even had an extra cup of coffee that morning. But none of it was enough to wake up my brain. (Of course, I also happened to be on an important deadline.) So, I did the last thing I could think of: I shut my laptop and hit the gym.

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There’s plenty of well-known evidence that physical activity can positively impact brain health, including a person’s memory. While many of exercise’s health benefits occur with regular, long-term activity, a single bout of exercise can also pack a significant, immediate, punch.

To improve your memory with exercise, think short bouts and high exertion. The more strenuous the workout, the better the brain boost. In a recent study, researchers found a group of people who rode on a stationary bike for 20 minutes had an improved ability to remember faces[1].

Rather than taking a long, leisurely walk on your lunch break, try running up and down the stairs a few times, or find a place to do some jumping jacks for a few minutes. You’ll not only jump start your energy and sharpen your focus, but you’ll improve your memory in the process.

2. Exercise After You Learn

If you’re starting a new job, learning a new skill, or just attending an important meeting, do yourself a favor and plan your workout for four hours afterward. Along with boosting your focus, a bit of high-intensity movement can also be a simple way to retain recently learned knowledge—but only if you exercise at the right time.

In their research, scientists had participants learn a set of picture-location associations. One group rode a stationary bike at high intensity right after learning, another group did the exercise four hours later, and the final group didn’t do any physical activity.

Using an MRI, researchers found the individuals who exercised four hours after learning retained the most information compared to the other learners[2].

3. Cut the Distractions

There’s a time and a place for a break to re-calibrate your brain, but these breaks should be intentional. Constant interruptions won’t do you any favors, except for interrupting your workflow, and they certainly won’t lead to better focus and memory.

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I find I’m most productive and focused when I don’t give myself the opportunity to mentally switch gears. That means I keep distractions to a minimum the best I can.

When I want to achieve a state of “flow,” I put my phone on airplane mode so I don’t receive notifications that will veer me off track. I also eliminate unnecessary distractions by keeping my desk and office space clear of clutter when possible, and closing all other tabs on my internet browser.

Since the brain isn’t hard-wired to multi-task, I also try not to listen to podcasts or distracting music, which compete for my attention. Instead, I opt for classical music, which has been thought to improve focus by enhancing brain activity[3].

4. Go Outside

When it comes to better focus and memory, a little fresh air and beautiful scenery can go a long way. Even if you simply sit outside for your lunch break, you’re giving your brain more oxygen, which can boost your energy levels and improve overall brain function.

Spending longer chunks of time in nature can have profound, immediate effects on the mind. One study found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent in people who spent just one hour in nature[4].

Don’t let the cloudy or cold weather keep you from the outdoors; researchers found the same effects across the board. Surprisingly, even simply viewing nature photos had a similar effect on people.

If you absolutely can’t venture outside, temporarily move your workstation to an area with plants (or go out and buy a potted plant or some fresh stems for your home office). One study found that adding live plants to an office increased employee productivity by 15 percent and improved workers’ concentration[5].

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5. Meditate

Having a hard time focusing or remembering important details? Train your brain and body to stay in the present by practicing mindful meditation, which can also benefit your mental and physical health.

Scientific evidence shows meditating can actually change your brain structure, leading to a sharper short-term memory and an improved ability to learn[6]

Meditation can also help the brain with emotional regulation and sustained attention[7].

Luckily, you don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits of meditation. One of my favorite ways to meditate is simply sitting with my eyes closed for five minutes and taking deep breaths from my belly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Whenever I get distracted by an outside noise—or more likely, if my brain wanders to whatever I have coming up later on that day—I try to shift my focus back to my breathing. Those ten minutes make a huge difference in both my focus and my overall mood.

6. Grab a Cup of Coffee (or Two)

Fortunately for me, there’s actual scientific evidence behind my favorite afternoon pick-me-up habit: a hot cup of coffee. Can’t get out for a quick bout of exercise? Simply walk to your favorite coffee shop (or your kitchen), instead.

By getting up or going out for a drink, you’ll not only glean the benefits of some exercise and a much-needed break, but the process of sipping your drink, you’ll become more productive. A 2016 study found a caffeine jolt (as low as 40 mg, which is around four ounces of regular coffee) can improve alertness, attention span, and reaction time.

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A bit of caffeine can even help with vigilance, or the ability to sustain performance on boring tasks[8].

7. Do Something Else

Training your mind to remain in the present can lead to better focus and memory. However, zoning out or doing something else completely, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, has a similar effect on the mind.

Here’s why losing focus is more productive than you think: when you’re concentrated on something, your frontal cortex is busy resisting distractions. If you stay concentrated for too long, your ability to resist distractions will become fatigued, and that Netflix show or your Instagram feed will become all the more appealing[9]

Let your mind take a break from the task at hand if you’re losing steam. Instead of forcing yourself to focus, daydream, solve another problem, or engage in an engrossing, hands-on activity, like washing the dishes.

Sure, it may feel counterproductive to take your mind (and hands) off the project you’re trying to focus on, but you’ll probably come back to the task with a refreshed mind—and maybe, if you’re lucky, a kitchen full of clean dishes.

More Tips on Obtaining Better Focus and Memory

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

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