Some people seem to be able to learn and remember things so quickly, while others have trouble and struggle through even the simplest of tasks and lessons. What is it that makes it so simple for some and not for others? Are they just smarter, or are there tricks that can be learned to make your brain work better?
The answer can be both, but most likely the ones who are able to function at a higher level do so for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their brain potential. It’s simply a matter of making their lifestyle more conducive to learning and thinking. Here are 9 simple tips to get you started.
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1. Step away from the television and get some exercise
No couch potato ever can boast about his or her brainpower. There is a growing problem in this country with obesity and the physical and mental problems that go along with it.
Exercise is not simply a body fitness regiment; it’s a brain fitness activity as well. Your brain needs more oxygen than the rest of your body, and it gets it from your blood circulating properly. If your veins are full of plaque build up, the blood does not flow and cuts off your oxygen supply to the brain. It also causes heart attacks and strokes, which bring on a whole other set of brain problems.
In addition, remaining stagnant, sitting in front of a television, and snacking on junk food will bring on diabetes, which affects the glucose levels in your brain. When the brain goes through fluctuations in sugar levels, it causes memory problems, and these problems can eventually lead to an early onset of dementia.
Move your body every day to retain your brain’s ability to function properly by getting the proper blood flow and sugar levels – dance, swim, take a walk, ride a bicycle or take up a sport like bowling, tennis, or golf.
Tension, anxiety, and stress are the number one reasons people have trouble with their memories. When you are distracted by the amount of tension around you, you have trouble concentrating, and you feel as if you are always forgetting things.
Stress leads to depression, which increases the level of cortisol in your blood, and in your brain. Scientists have found that an increase in cortisol slows down certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus where short-term memory is stored. If you are unable to store short-term memory, you can’t store long-term memory either. After prolonged periods of depression, you lose your ability to retain any new information.
One way to lower your stress level is to lay back with some music (not rap or hard rock) that is soothing, and allow your mind to wander into calmness. Another is to learn meditation or yoga.
3. Get the proper amount of sleep
If you hear someone tell you they don’t need more than 4 hours of sleep a night, they are just kidding themselves. A consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night is needed to function correctly. Neuroscientists have found that the brain processes all the day’s activities when you sleep, and it needs this time of no external activity to catch up on what you did throughout the day. It’s also useful to take a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, so the brain has an opportunity to process the information and store it to memory while it’s still fresh.
4. Make notes
When you need to remember something, writing it down can often help. Writing oxygenates the blood to areas of the brain responsible for making memories. Keep a journal, write some emails, start a blog, comment on someone else’s blog, etc. All these things help you to remember better and store memories.
5. Get the proper nutrition
Feeding your brain is not just a saying – it is a fact. The type of food you put into your body has a direct impact on how well your brain functions. Your brain gets its nutrition from the blood, and certain foods react better than others to the overall function of the brain. Fifty to sixty percent of your brain is made of fat, but it’s not all the bad kind. The fat in your brain protects your brain cells by insulating them. The better the insulation the better they function, and the less likely they are to be attacked by the disease. Eating a healthy balance of “brain foods,” like fruits and vegetables, nuts, dairy, protein, and vitamins will ensure your brain gets the nutrients it needs to keep I functioning at optimum levels.
Don’t forget to make sure you start the day right with a good, healthy breakfast – full of non-sugary grains, fruits, and energy boosters that keep your glucose levels constant and avoid the roller coaster ride that sugar can give you. A sugary breakfast gives you an instant high, but quickly spirals downward and then leaves your brain unable to focus or recall information it has just learned.
6. Play games that stimulate your brain
Numerous studies have proven that stimulating your brain by doing activities that work in different areas of the brain than you normally do. By cross-training your brain to stimulate more than one area, you have a better chance of fighting off dementia as you get older. Do crossword puzzles, play games on the computer that challenge you (but don’t limit yourself to just one game that you are used to), play chess, write, and have fun while making your brain stronger.
7. Learn to visualize what you are trying to remember
Visualization is the easiest form of memorization. Most memory experts will tell you that when you visualize something you form an image in your brain that makes it easier to recall. One fun test would be to take a picture and study it for 30 seconds, and then try to remember everything you saw there (without looking). You can also draw your own pictures as a reminder of what you want to remember.
Studies have shown that the more you interact with others the less chance you have of depression. It also helps by stimulating your brain through conversation. Join a book club or group that meets to discuss issues you are interested in. Play cards with your friends and family. Get involved in a political campaign, or participate on the board of local church or charity organization. Social interaction definitely helps to improve your memory.
9. Mentor someone
By teaching others some of the things you have learned you are not only passing on valuable information, you are stimulating your own brain. Teachers have found that by having other students help to teach their peers it helps both to learn and remember more. You can’t teach what you don’t understand. Older people can become mentors for businesses or children (Big Brothers/Big Sisters), and become tutors at local schools.