You go to a gym to train your muscles, you run or hike to build your endurance, but what can you do to train your brain? Training your brain will not only speed up your memory recall, it will also help you learn faster. There is, after all, only a limited number of hours in the day.
If you want to give one of your most valuable assets a very real boost, follow some of these basic methods to super-boost your mental powers.
1. You are the company you keep
"Your network is your net worth," as the saying goes. This is not just a throwaway comment, there really is something to say for the company you keep.
According to the famous motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” We are social creatures, and the people we surround ourselves with voluntarily can have a huge impact on the way you think, your opinions, behaviors, and ultimately results.
According to various studies, like the work of social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, your closest friends and peers actually determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life. That really is significant.
It is no coincidence that high achieving people tend to like to associate with one another. The reason, when you think about it, is that peer groups tend to have similar interests and like to discuss topics freely and without objections.
By associating yourself with intelligent people or "doers" you will indirectly develop your own thinking and attitudes to life, success, and personal development. So, as cold as it might sound, you might want to think again about the friends you spend most of your time with.
2. Get enough shut-eye
Sleep, it turns out, is a very important factor when keeping your mind (and body) in tip-top performance. While we still don't really understand why animals, like humans, sleep, it is clear that it has some critical function in our lives.
Any lack of rest, relaxation, and/or excessive stress can seriously reduce the efficiency of your brain function. The human brain requires a large amount of energy to function. If you are constantly exhausted your mind won't be able to learn and improve.
Some studies also show that a lack of sleep can reduce your IQ. So make sure you get enough shut-eye!
3. Read, read, read!
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise but don't underestimate the power of reading. Reading exposes you to new ideas and can influence and improve your mind. Being well-read not only improves your vocabulary but will also make you more articulate.
Reading also improves your general knowledge making you more capable of holding interesting conversations. Reading expands your communication skills and develops your analytical skills and also exposes you to new ideas, and allows you to learn new skills.
It is rumored that highly successful people, like CEOs, read, on average, one book a week. While this might not be possible for you, you really should carve out time to read for at least an hour a day.
The best bit is you don't need to stick to dry scientific tomes. Books like Lord of the Rings or Moby Dick will do the trick. Of course, you can dive into some heavy philosophy texts if you really want to turbocharge your brain.
4. Food glorious food!
"You are what you eat", as they say. Food is the fuel for your body, and more importantly, for your brain. What you stuff down your throat can influence your brain function.
Foods high in nutrition work very well to power your brain. Walnuts, for example, are a fantastic source of brain food.
Fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon are rich in fatty acids that have been shown to help neuron function. Harvard recently conducted a great study on this exact subject.
You should also make sure you get a regular intake of Omega-3 too.
5. Play games!
Believe it or not, playing games is another powerful way to train your brain -- to a certain extent. Constantly facing challenges will help your brain go from strength to strength.
The brain can be lazy sometimes. Once it realizes it has mastered something, it stops trying.
The trick here is to use your full potential and push your limits. Brain games like Sudoku, brainteasers, and other problem-solving games really help here.
This is not just hearsay either. Various studies have shown that playing games, seems to increase gray matter in the brain and boost brain connectivity.
The right kinds of computer games can also boost your IQ!
6. Keep a diary or journal
If it's good enough for the likes of Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson, keeping a diary might be a good idea for all of us. Getting into the habit of constantly taking notes or writing down things or ideas effectively creates an extension of your mind.
Thoughts are fickle, ethereal things at times and unless jotted down they can be lost for good. By routinely recording your thoughts, you will enable yourself to think more clearly and thoroughly.
Good behaviors like this will boost your ability to think with clarity. Who knows one of those random. normally discarded, thoughts, could be your path to freedom and fortune?
7. Exercise your body as well as mind
Another great way to keep your brain on top form is to get plenty of exercises. Any efforts you make to train your brain will be thwarted if you don't keep your body healthy too!
Many studies have shown an apparent link between regular exercise and improved memory function, cognitive performance, and if you care about that sort of thing, academic achievement. Other studies have also shown that exercise is a great way to reduce depression and anxiety.
A little physical activity will make it much easier for you to keep your brain in top shape. And it doesn't need to be a daily slog at the gym. Here is a 15-minute daily workout from 1904.
Just make sure you also eat well!
8. Write with your hand
The modern world is addicted to keyboards and touchscreens. They are an efficient method of putting down information onto a page, rather than your hand, a pencil, and some paper.
But apparently, we are missing a trick here. You can learn a lot more efficiently by writing longhand. So, when it comes to training your brain, it might be a good idea to put the laptop to one side.
This happens because your brain's filtering system (the reticular activating system, or RAS) processes what you're actively focusing on at the moment. Writing triggers the RAS and lets your brain know it's time to pay attention.
If you want to kick your brain into action to achieve a goal, or solve a problem, physically getting it down on paper can prove to be a powerful tool too.
9. Dare to suck at something new
"A change is better than a rest", as the saying goes. This is also true when it comes to working that gray matter.
Try to actually do something new over and over again every day. New experiences force your brain to grow new pathways that will help you perform the new task faster and faster.
Think about when you were a small child. Your days were a constant trial and error exercise. Each and every experience strengthens the neural pathways and makes a task that much easier until it becomes second nature. Just like learning to walk.
And that brain-boosting wannabes is your lot for today. If you want to give yourself a little edge over the competition, why not practice some of these suggestions right now?
After all, "knowledge is not power, it is only potential".