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Science Reveals What Happens To Your Brain When You Do What Fits Your Values

Science Reveals What Happens To Your Brain When You Do What Fits Your Values

When do you feel energized the most? After a sufficient sleep? After taking a break from work? Or simply doing things you like the most? The answer might vary but it is quite sure that you won’t feel energized when you’re doing things you don’t like at all.

Our bodies send us different signals when we do things we like or dislike. The feeling of being energized and that of being fatigued are not only the result affected by our emotions. What we do actually changes our brains.

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Our brains naturally filter out what doesn’t fit our values

In our brains, the reticular-activating system constantly filters out information according to our hierarchy of values.[1] To put it simply, our brains filter out the information we value less and what remains is the information that fits our values.

Let’s take an example here. Imagine you are a composer and you are watching a movie with a friend who is a fashion designer. What interests you the most might not be the plot of the movie but the score of it. While the fashion designer who is watching the exactly same movie as you do tend to ignore the score and other features of it but focus on the costume design. You two have different values implanted in brains so you filter out different information that seems unimportant to you.

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Chemicals give us different tastes of life

What we love to do is determined by our values. This explains why not every artist value the same thing. Some value the power of words so they enjoy being novelists; some value the power of image so they become photographers.

But the fact that we are more energized in doing things we like is more closely related to the chemicals released by our brains. Serotonin and dopamine are the neurochemicals produced in our brains when we are taking part in activities that support our values. They are involved in well-being, appetite regulation, pleasurable reward, and motivation. They are like candies which give us the feeling of joy and sweetness.

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What if it is the other way round? When we are doing things we perceive as a threat to our values, our brains produce a higher level of cortisol and substance P. They are chemicals related to stress and pain. Unlike serotonin and dopamine, cortisol and substance P are like bitter herbs which give us the bitter taste, but they won’t help maintain your good health like what bitter herbs do. That’s why you feel demotivated and fatigued when you do things against your values.

You and I should follow what our brains love to do

To promote our mental health, it is better for us to do whatever that is compatible with our values. Either doing the jobs you like or learning something you like. This helps our brains grow faster and better.

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‘Love what you do and do what you love’ might sound a bit cliché but it is so true. This is beneficial to our mental health as proved by science. Passionate dream chasers dedicate most of their time to the things they value and spend less time on things that are less important. Just like what Emma Stone, the Oscar-winning actress, does along her road to Oscar. So determined was she that she dropped out of high school and went for a career in acting, which she valued much more. Probably when she acts, her brain releases those chemicals which make her feel the pleasure and motivate her. And that’s why we can see her wearing a big smile on the Oscar night.

What we can do is to follow our hearts and do whatever we like. That’s what our brains tell us to do.

Reference

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Sheba Leung

Translator. Sport lover. Traveler.

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Last Updated on October 17, 2019

13 Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Memory

13 Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Memory

Life is made up of memories – what you have seen, heard and done; and what you’re going to do. Every bit of information you take in is only useful if you can remember it at the right time. So, how can you improve your memory?

There are many scientific theories and observations on how memories work. These theories provide us with an understanding of how feelings, routine, context and recollection affect our memories. And here are some tips backed by the scientific insights for improving memory.

1. Method of Loci

Method of Loci is a popular mnemonic technique that helps you recollect a large amount of information.[1] It works by utilizing your spatial and navigational skills as you basically envision your memories as part of a geographical entity. This is the technique that the famous fictional detective Sherlock calls as his Mind Palace.

This method is extremely useful when you are preparing for a speech or an exam. Here is how you can make use of it:

  • Visualize a space you are most familiar with. It could be your home, your favorite park or your school.
  • Construct the rooms, shelves, furniture and everything inside it in your mind.
  • Imagine yourself keeping the items you want to remember in each of the rooms or in places.
  • Next time you want to remember something, walk through room by room to recall what you placed there.

Repeating this exercise has proven to be a great way of remembering loads of information with ease.

You can learn more about this method in this article: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

2. Acronyms

Acronyms are proven to be very effective in memorizing a group of words. Research has shown that our brains are better at retrieving things when we associate meaning to them.[2] This is why recollecting a single meaningful word or phrase is easy compared to trying to remember a list of words.

For instance, to memorize the directions on the compass, you can use the acronym NEWS (North, East, West, and South); or, when you want to remember the Great Lakes basin, you can make us of the acronym HOME (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) etc.

Make up your own acronyms to the list of things you want to remember. all you need to do is list the things that you want to memorize and arrange them in an order such that the first letter of each word spells a real word.

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3. Rhyming

There is a reason why rhymes are still a popular way to teach kids. Because our brains are good at acoustic encoding which means – breaking down sound structures.[3] We can easily remember stuff when they sound similar.

The peg method can help you out. You first need to memorize the list in the exact order given below:

one = bun

two = shoe

three= tree

four = door

five = hive

six = sticks

seven = heaven

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eight = gate

nine = vine

ten = hen

After you have memorized this list, now connect the first word to bun, second word to shoe, and so on. This will help you in making a memorable connection.

Another way is to construct rhymes on the information you want to remember. For instance, if you want to remember that Mr. Jones runs a real-estate business, you can remember him with a rhyme – Mr. Jones from Homes.

Although this may seem a bit weird and funny, this method will help you in memorizing the stuff better.

4. Linking

This is a useful technique to help you stay sharp in many everyday scenarios like remembering shopping lists. This is a visualization and association technique where you associate meanings to visual imagery. However, it is important to ensure that the images stored in your mind are as vivid as possible.

For instance, if you want to remember a set of items, just link them up in a story. Let’s say that you want to remember the South England countries – Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, , Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Surrey, and Wiltshire.

You can link all these countries in the form of a story. An AVON lady is looking for a house. She is sweating and thirsty due to high SUMMER (Somerset). In the way, she came across a giant CORN (Cornwall), but it is about to WILT (Wiltshire) in the heart. She reaches the house and knocks on the DOOR (Dorset), which is attended by the DEVIL (Devon).

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She enters inside and found that a servant is seasoning the HAM (Hampshire), and everything looks extremely GLOSSY (Gloucestershire). Frightened of the whole atmosphere, the lady says SORRY (Surrey) and returns back to her path.

5. Chunking

Very few people bother to remember phone numbers by heart nowadays. But what if you lose your contacts and need a way to recollect those long numbers? This memory technique will be handy in those situations.

Chunking is basically breaking down the information into smaller pieces that are easy to remember. Start with a small number say 379372518. Break it to three chunks 378 372 518. This will help you remember better. Improve your skills every day by trying to remember more numbers this way.

6. Write It Down

Writing activates your brain cells and stimulates your reticular activating system (RAS).[4] So whenever you are trying to learn something, try writing it down. Review what you have written and test yourself.

You can also hand draw memory maps to further develop your memorization power.

7. Be Busy

Repeat all your brain exercises regularly and keep testing yourself to get better. A recent study revealed that our brain needs to be busy to keep itself fit as well.[5]

Test yourself repeatedly if you want to retain the correct information for the longest time.

Take walks or indulge in some physical activities as well. Research shows that healthy people who exercise regularly have better memories than those who don’t.

8. Give Yourself a Good Sleep

Sleeping is very much necessary if you want to be good at memory. A tired body that lacks sleep will not be able to recollect or retain information effectively. So rest well and make sure your body and mind are rejuvenated every day.

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9. Eat Healthily

Try to include more vegetables and fruits into your diet to improve memory. A study conducted by Harvard medical school backs this as well. Scientists believe that the antioxidants and vitamins from vegetables and fruits help to reduce oxidative stress in the brain and help battle age-related memory issues.[6]

Learn about the brain foods you should include in your diet: 12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

10. Play Video Games and Brain Training Apps

Now here is a fun way to improve memory. Playing video games may not seem the best way to study for an exam but, regular video game playing can actually improve certain memory-associated regions of the brain. Studies have shown that video games helps in total knowledge recall and can reduce dementia risk.[7]

Considering the benefits, maybe you can make brain training apps a regular pastime or something to do on your breaks.

11. Think of the Ways in Which Things Relate to You

According to a recent research, you can boost your memory considerably by contemplating why the information is important to you.[8] This signals your brain to convert the short-term memories into the long-term ones, thus helping you remember effortlessly.

12. Exercise Regularly

You might not see this coming but people who exercise daily, whether it be leisurely walking, have better memories when compared to their counterparts who do no physical activity.[9]

13. Don’t Just Memorize But Also Pay Attention to Essence

Although practice makes perfect, this might not necessarily be true when it comes to boosting memory. Scientists have found that while repetitive practice could help you in remembering things, you might miss on the bigger picture.[10]

That’s indeed true. Do you remember that one presentation when you memorized everything by heart without giving much thought to it? What happened next? Someone interrupted in between and you were not able to recall anything again!

Thus, rote repetition will not do any good. You need to complement repetition by a proper understanding of the finer details.

Bottom Line

Sharpening your memory is not rocket science. All you need to do is follow the fun and simple ways mentioned above, and eat right to boost your brain health!

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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