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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
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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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

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    Published on August 2, 2021

    What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias

    What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias
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    Have you been feeling particularly cautious lately? Do you find yourself avoiding making major or seemingly risky decisions until you feel life has returned to “normal”? This isn’t unusual, and you are not alone. In these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, people would rather stick with what they perceive as safe. They veer away from making any sudden changes that could rock the boat and resort to loss aversion instead.

    After more than a year of having to take drastic measures to secure our safety as well as those of our loved ones, it’s not surprising to find that some people would choose to hunker down even when faced with issues that don’t pose any mortal danger to them.

    The pandemic has challenged us to become more resilient—a good thing—and even pick up an additional useful skill or two.[1] However, the flip side presents us with a potentially unfortunate side effect—that it could have altered our risk-taking behavior.

    Read on to learn what loss aversion is and how you can avoid this bias.

    Taking Risks, Making a Change

    Why is it important to have a healthy view of risk? Shouldn’t we approach life with caution to avoid making mistakes?

    I would say that, indeed, making careful, decisive choices will yield great results, so long as you can identify the line between being reasonably cautious and being downright fearful. There are also certain patterns in decision-making that you must watch out for.

    To illustrate further, I present you with this example: Let’s say you meet a kind stranger who offers you your choice of a great deal with absolutely no tricks. He gives you $45. Then, he asks you if you want to hold on to the money or give it back to him in exchange for a coin flip. If it’s heads, he’ll give you $100 right then and there. If it’s tails, you get nothing.

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    So, which one do you choose? Instant cash in your pocket or a chance to flip the coin? Think hard before you read further.

    When I present this coin scenario to different audiences, about 80% say they’ll take the $45 from the stranger. That’s the choice I made when I was also presented with this scenario many years ago. The same can be said for most people in studies of similar choices.[2] And why not? The $45 is a sure thing, after all.

    Back then, I thought that I’d certainly feel foolish if I took the risk just for a shot at getting $100 only to lose out. My gut instinct told me to avoid losing. I suppose anyone would feel the same way initially.

    Here’s the thing, though. If we run the numbers, the chance of getting heads is 50%, so in half of all cases, you’ll get the $100. In the rest of the cases, you won’t get anything. So, that’s equal to $50 on average, compared with just $45.

    Now, imagine if you flipped the coin 10 times, then 100 times, 1,000 times, on to 10,000 times, and then 100,000 times. At 100,000 times, on average you would win $5 million if you picked the coin flip for $100 every time, compared with $4.5 million if you picked $45 each time. The difference is an amazing $500,000.

    This means that picking $45 as your gift from the stranger leads to you losing out. The correct choice—the one that will mostly not lead to you losing—is to pick the coin flip. Pick the other choice and you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose over multiple coin flips.

    However, you might reason out that I presented the scenario as a one-time deal and not as a repeating opportunity. Perhaps, you’d say that if you knew it was a repeating scenario, then you would have picked differently.

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    The problem lies with this: studies have shown that our gut addresses each scenario we face as a one-off.[3] In reality, we are presented with a multitude of such choices every day. We are goaded by our intuition to deal with each one as an isolated situation. However, these choices are part of a broader repeating pattern where our gut pushes us towards losing money. We avoid risks—fearful of losing—and end up losing in the end.

    Why Are People Afraid to Take Risks?

    We are prone to shying away from risks due to a mental blindspot called loss aversion.[4] This is one of the many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired—what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases.[5]

    Research has shown that people are more sensitive to possible losses than potential gains.[6]

    Loss aversion goads us into having an unhealthy view of risk, causing us to have a knee-jerk and one-size-fits-all approach to risk-taking, which is to outright reject it. This rejection runs counter to the resilience and flexibility we gained during these uncertain times. It also poses a threat to how we can continue to adapt to the shifting nature of this pandemic, as well as how to smoothly transition to a post-COVID life.[7]

    The Sweeping Influence of Loss Aversion

    It’s easy enough to think that loss aversion only comes into play during major decisions or turning points. However, we are presented with a multitude of similar choices daily that—much like in the coin-flip scenario—represent a broader pattern that could cause us to lose out in life.

    Remember that loss aversion isn’t just limited to decisions that have a corresponding monetary result. It also applies to situations and circumstances where avoiding a possibly negative outcome might blind you to potentially positive changes in your life.

    Here are some aspects of life that can easily be derailed by loss aversion.

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    1. Exiting Toxic Relationships

    Have you ever stayed in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that has clearly already run its course? Perhaps this relationship already causes you distress or keeps you from reaching your personal goals.

    Yet, despite indications that you would have a healthier, happier life without this stressful relationship, you find it difficult to walk away because of the disruption it would cause in your life. You worry about the loss of your routine, and this holds you back.

    2. Making Much-Needed Career Changes

    People are particularly cautious about making career changes especially during this pandemic, opting to “wait it out” and just trudging on until life returns to “normal.”

    We need to remember that we may never get back the version of normal that we had pre-pandemic. Just as the world changed and readjusted to COVID, so did each individual, and so did employers.

    Jobs and employment are constantly shifting and evolving, more so now than before, so you have to weigh and consider if the loss of an old job is truly that daunting versus transitioning to a new career that could enrich your life mid- and post-pandemic.

    3. Dealing With Your Current Pandemic Life and Looking Forward

    Loss aversion can trickle down even to the smallest perceivable things in life. With our wariness of COVID-19 modifying our behavior when it comes to going out, physical distancing, and socializing, it’s perfectly understandable to someday come out of this pandemic more cautious, more health-conscious, and more aware of our security than we were before 2020.

    However, as we start to consider what the world will be like after the pandemic, we should also plan our lives accordingly. This means that while our social and networking circles were forcibly shrunk in the last year, there is no need to let our lives deliberately stagnate for fear of leaving our comfort zone.

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    It also means that, when the time is right, we must be willing to reintegrate our lives into a changed world and balance the risk with a potentially more meaningful life.

    Conclusion

    While it might seem daunting, looking ahead into the future calls for a reexamination of loss aversion. If left unchecked, it will keep you from living your best life as it goads you into focusing on what you could lose versus what you might gain.

    With or without the pandemic, viewing risk with a steady perspective can indeed be helpful when weighing how to proceed with major life decisions. However, focusing too much on the risk may lead to abject fear, which can keep you from making balanced, decisive choices.

    Identifying the repeated pattern of our choices and knowing how to tackle and transform each possible loss into a gain will go a long way in winning in life—with or without a pandemic.

    More Biases That Unconsiously Affect Us Every Day

    Featured photo credit: AJ Yorio via unsplash.com

    Reference

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