Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 8, 2021

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more. We spend so much time focusing on improving our body; shouldn’t you also focus on learning how to train your brain?

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Think dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Keep reading to learn how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills, as well as your short and long term memory.

1. Work Your Memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer, has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book, The Creative Habit, she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies. Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

Advertising

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you.” Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.” Then, try to sneak his name into other parts of the conversation: “I also really loved that movie, George!”

2. Do Something Different Repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster by improving specific cognitive functions.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does. And with enough repetition, you made that happen!

How does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait until the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking, “Of course, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Advertising

However, by doing something really small that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

If you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what to do with it in order to train your brain.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action-taker.

3. Learn Something New

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better it’s going to perform for you.

For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music), to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking and a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Research has shown that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s[1].

If you want to learn new stuff more effectively, identify your learning style first. By understanding your own learning style, you can maximize your strengths in learning and learn quicker. Don’t know your learning style? Take this assessment for free and find out.

Advertising

4. Follow a Brain Training Program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. For example, the free Fast-Track Class – Spark Your Learning Genius can help you improve your memory, think faster and train your brain to learn anything faster.

5. Work Your Body

Indeed, exercise does not just work your body, but it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions[2]. But it’s not just that—exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Remember, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend Time With Your Loved Ones

If you want to train your brain and develop optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life. Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid Crossword Puzzles

Many of us, when we think of how to exercise your brain, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true—crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies have offered conflicting views and show they are not enough by themselves if you’re looking to train your brain and prevent disease like Alzheimer’s[3].

While they may be fun, they don’t do much to sharpen your brain.

Advertising

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain health and fitness, then you might want to choose another activity that involves higher-level problem solving skills

8. Eat Right—and Make Sure Dark Chocolate Is Included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally in the long term. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well[4].

Power Foods for The Brain.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine, and dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant functions that can improve the way your brain functions[5].

    Next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The Bottom Line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s time to choose one of the above steps and get started.

    Improving your ability to learn and remember will take time, and you won’t see results overnight, but will dedication to a brain training routine, you will absolutely see results. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    More on How to Train Your Brain

    Featured photo credit: Til Jentzsch via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science News: Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills
    [3] Scientific American: This Is Your Brain on Crosswords
    [4] Thrive Global: Power Foods for The Brain
    [5] Harvard Health Publishing: Your brain on chocolate

    More by this author

    Maria Brilaki

    Maria helps people create habits that stick not just for a month or two but for years and decades.

    How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More How to Think Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy 7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person 10 Things Nice People Do Differently That Make Them Achieve More

    Trending in Brain Power

    1 What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It? 2 What Is Abstract Thinking And How To Develop It 3 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 4 Do Memory Supplements Work? 10 Supplements to Boost Brain Power 5 10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on April 28, 2021

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

    These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

    What is a Fixed Mindset?

    Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

    People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

    People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

    False Growth Mindset

    Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

    I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

    Advertising

    It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

    Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

    Fixed Mindset Triggers

    A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

    The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

    Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

    Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

    Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

    Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

    Advertising

    How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

    Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

    Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

    So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

    You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

    Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

    Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

    1. Do Not Blame

    If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

    2. Aim for Self-Awareness

    Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

    Advertising

    So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

    3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

    Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

    4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

    Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

    Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

    5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

    Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

    Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

    6. Reflect and Reassess

    Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

    7. Do Not Compare

    When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

    Advertising

    If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

    8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

    Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

    If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

    Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

    It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

    Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

    Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

    It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

    More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

    Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next