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Published on January 1, 2020

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter

One of the most tasking, yet valuable skills, is the ability to think clearly. The skill is self-taught as no school will teach you its methodologies. People who learn how to think clearly maximize the benefits, while those who fail to do so pay for the consequences.

With unclear thinking, you will spend most of your time trying to correct mistakes. If you want to make informed and smart decisions, you need to learn how to think clearly.

How Do You Learn to Think?

This question applies to different concepts. It could mean how to think intuitively and critically, how to resolve an issue, how to make smart decisions, how to innovate, memorize, learn, study, discuss, or plan.

The major challenge most times is not learning how to think, but discarding irrational thoughts.

If you assess the question, ‘How do you learn to think?’ from the other side of the coin, it could also mean how to be open, how not to have prejudices or be judgmental, how to communicate effectively with others, how not to practice emotional thinking, how to avoid making assumptions or arriving at a quick conclusion, how to avoid labeling people or practice name-calling, how to see the world from a better perspective, how to be conscious of what’s going in the environment and know what the future holds.

All these begin with learning how to think. According to Descartes,

“I think. Therefore I am.”

Your thinking determines the quality of your being and your living.

So how do you learn how to think?

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Start by analyzing your thoughts, identifying your thought pattern, and thinking errors. You can also discover learning tools that boost your morale about steps to take in learning new concepts. For instance, you can practice by analyzing the pros and cons of any topic. You will improve as you spend more time learning how to think.

Here’re 6 time-tested ways to learn how to think clearly:

1. Take a Deep Breath

This is the first step. Your body regains its balance when that oxygen flows through your respiratory tract to your neural network.

Your body will find calmness by taking a large breath and your brain will be enhanced to think more clearly.

2. Organize Your Thought By Listing

Anytime you discover many thoughts running through your mind, there’s a need to get organized.

It is possible to list those things in your head. That way, you will generate a list that can help you on how to think clearly.

Here’s an example:

  • Do the laundry
  • Wash the car
  • Fix the PC
  • Read the book

Organizing your thought with mental listicles will help think clearly and become smarter.

3. Assess Your Attitude

Have you ever wondered how your focus correlates with your desires?

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For instance, imagine how you can brainstorm several ways and techniques to achieve your goal when you are determined to achieve it. The same approach applies to when you don’t want to attain a goal, and you focus on its negatives – why it’s a bad idea to desire such a goal.

If you’re going to achieve a clear focus and thinking, you will need to be sincere with yourself. What do you want from life? Why do you want it? This may take much of your time in the beginning, but you will realize that clarity of goals will help you learn how to think clearly.

4. Be Specific with Your Goals

It takes specificity to achieve any goal in life. The reason is you can’t think about the direction of a moving object.

As long as you keep changing your goals, you will keep mounting pressure on your brain to change its laser focus. This can only make you lose direction.

To maintain specificity, take a nap for some minutes and write those goals down as clearly as possible.

5. Leverage Your Passion for Taking Charge of Your Emotions

There’s a rationale behind this statement. As you strive to become smarter and better, your passion surmounts challenges as it becomes consumed with the pleasure that comes with actualizing the goal.

Your emotions, on the other end, can be submerged in the pool of those challenges as they feel the pain to ‘failures of losing that goal.’ You need to press on and use your passion to control your emotions to achieve clarity in your thought pattern.

6. Utilize Your Negative Thinking to Generate Positive Action

Oh yes! It’s possible. Do you know your negative thought pattern is an asset?

Negative thinking is the code that can unlock your imagination to actualize your desires.

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Anytime you think ‘why not?’, then switch by thinking ‘how to?’. This approach will fire your imagination up to redirect your negative thinking in producing positive actions.

Instead of focusing on the reasons you may not progress with your career, you can stimulate your thoughts by thinking of ‘How To’ become successful in that career.

Also, delete every negativity in your mind. Negative thoughts will prevent your mind power from flowing to take the right step in the line of your goal. So, keep your head clear, especially when processing an idea.

The awareness of these six steps will help you learn how to think and become smarter. But that’s not enough! You will need first to shift your paradigms.

How to Train Your Brain to Think Differently

Based on some findings that were published in Translational Psychiatry, MRIs was used to check the changes in the brain of individuals with schizophrenia. After treating them for six months, the more neural connection was discovered between their amygdala — which coordinates emotion on the brain, and their prefrontal cortex — which oversees high order thinking. The changes had a long-lasting effect

In another study, people battling with social anxiety disordered had a decrease in brain activity and volume in their amygdalae after nine weeks of online cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT).[1] It was also discovered that CBT helps in reconfiguring the brain in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as well.

So what are the CBT therapeutic skills recommended? Here are three of them to help you train your mind to think in new ways.

1. Prove Yourself Wrong

Sometimes, your brain tells you lies. So when it comes to that limiting thought that you can’t complete your degree or you can’t finish reading that book, take it up as a challenge.

Stretch yourself some more after you think you have reached your tipping point. Or challenge yourself to keep reading the next page until you get to the last page.

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Each time you nullify the negative prophecy, you’ll train your mind to think in a new way and see possibilities. In no time, your brain will begin to develop a new paradigm by understanding your capabilities and limitations from a different perspective.

2. Create Your Mantra

Do you think limiting thoughts? Or do you discourage yourself from attempting a challenge where you think you might fail?

You need to curate your mantra that you can utilize to talk down the negative messages. You can repeat things such as “Beat the best” or Do the impossible!”. These words will discard every form of negativity and limiting thoughts.

As you begin to speak positively, you will outgrow the negative thoughts and subsequently gain clarity in your thought pattern.

3. Reframe Your Negative Thought Pattern

Thinking things such as “I’m such an idiot,” or “this will never become successful” is not helpful. Every negative prophecy becomes self-fulfilling if there is no positive action taken to negate it. You cannot take a giant step with belittling thought.

Here’s the good news:

You can negate the negative thoughts with a true statement. When you think, “I’m not going to amount to anything in life,” speak to that thought,” if I keep trying, I will be what I want to be.’

When you think,” This is going to end in tears,” look at yourself in the mirror and say, it will turn out a success. Establish a more realistic statement by reframing your mindset. The more you do this, the more you become smarter.

The Bottom Line

Since every new skill requires constant practice, pay the sacrifice by putting these steps to work.

The more you practice clear thinking, the more you will build your mental muscle. Also, your brain will undergo changes that will positively impact you.

More Tips on Thinking Smarter

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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