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Increase Your Powers of Observation

Increase Your Powers of Observation

    My husband and I were walking down a busy street in downtown Chicago.  Suddenly, my husband gasped.

    “What?” I said.

    “You didn’t see that?”

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    “No, what are you talking about?”

    “In front of us.  A bird just swooped down and tried to grab a sandwich out of that woman’s hand.”

    “No kidding, that’s crazy!”

    “You’re really not that observant, you know that?”

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    He was right.  Even though I’m a writer and have been told countless times that keener observation makes for more interesting prose, this is not my strong suit.  When I’m out and about, I’m usually in my head too much to carefully process what’s going on around me.

    You may naturally focus inward, but when you’re at work, being a great observer is critical to your success.  You will be better able to size up what’s working and what isn’t, and adapt your approaches to fit your environment.  It’s also easier for good observers to pick up on unspoken messages and cues, resulting in stronger and more empathetic relationships with other people.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions is to practice some techniques that colleagues and friends have shared.  Maybe they will help you too.

    Be mindful

    Once a day, pick a time to relax in a quiet, peaceful place.  Close your eyes and let the tension in your muscles go.  Try to stop all of the activity in your mind, instead focusing on your breathing and the sounds and smells around you.  Acknowledge how the space under you feels.  If your mind begins to wander, gently pull yourself back to the present and stay there for 15 minutes or more.

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    Sit in a public place and journal

    Take a few minutes to sit in the park, library, or shopping mall.  Really see the people around you and pay attention to what they’re wearing, how they’re walking, and the interactions they have with others.

    Record the details coming through your senses, such as the construction work that just began one street over, or a late customer banging on the door of a closed store.  Write whatever comes to mind, including how the scene makes you feel.

    Create stories

    When commuting on the train or waiting in line, observe the strangers in the vicinity.  Take note of their characteristics and behavior and imagine what their lives are like – where they live, what they do for a living, who their family members are, etc.  You can do the same thing with photos of people you spot in magazines or online.

    Eat consciously

    Instead of wolfing down your lunch while working at your desk, have a meal with no distractions – even conversation.  Eat slowly as to observe how the food smells and tastes, and its texture as you chew.

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    Walk instead of drive

    Walking allows you to interact more with your environment, which is helpful in honing observation skills.  Note the weather, the amount of commercialization and traffic, the influence of nature, and whether the scene around you is calm or chaotic.  Guess what urban planners, residential developers, or landscape architects had in mind when they designed the locale.

    Take off your headphones

    Similarly, while in transit on foot or in a vehicle, you can better observe your surroundings and listen to interesting conversation and noises if you aren’t devoting all of your attention to your iPod.

    Consume entertainment actively

    It’s tempting to zone out while listening to a favorite song or watching a great movie.  But once in a while, it’s smart to practice your observation skills by thinking about the meaning behind a songwriter’s lyrics, or what the director was getting at when s/he shot a scene a particular way.  This may also help you enjoy your entertainment more fully!

    (Photo credit: Macro shot of a woman’s green eye via Shutterstock)

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    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

    But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

    I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

    Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

    1. Nuts

    The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

    Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

    Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

    Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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    2. Blueberries

    Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

    When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

    3. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

    4. Broccoli

    While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

    Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

    Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

    5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

    Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

    The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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    Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

    6. Soy

    Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

    Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

    Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

    7. Dark chocolate

    When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

    Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

    15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

    8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

    Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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    B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

    Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

    Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

    To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

    9. Foods Rich in Zinc

    Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

    Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

    Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

    10. Gingko biloba

    This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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    It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

    However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

    11. Green and black tea

    Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

    Find out more about green tea here:

    11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

    12. Sage and Rosemary

    Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

    Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

    When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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