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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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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

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