I receive a lot of questions about how to enhance the brain, become smarter, learn how to focus and concentrate, and how to simply quiet the brain.
The brain is our central computer, orchestrating multiple functions at a mind boggling pace. We are but aware of a small fraction of what our brain is actually doing at any given moment in time, as much is run on auto-pilot. Thought however, is something we supply the brain with based on our emotions, experiences, perceptions, expectations, personality, and attitude.
Just as any other organ of the body must be cared for and tended to consciously, so does our brain. It must have proper nutrition, hydration, electrical conductivity, circulation, rest, sleep, protection, be free of toxins, get plenty of oxygen, and plenty of exercise.
Today, I'm going to focus on the exercise element of the brain. Just as a muscle weakens when not used, so does the brain in it's own peculiar way. For instance, take a person who has just retired from 30 years of hard labor i.e., on their feet all day, lifting and moving things around, making important decisions, decisions that needed to be made quickly, and ran a crew of 75 employees. Suppose this new retiree wanted to move, down size, to a home with little maintenance.
As the years passed since retiring, he grew into a daily routine, he woke, got dressed, made the same breakfast each day, walked the dog the same time each day, same route, had lunch the same time, same food, same company (he and his dog), listened to the same news station throughout the day, and watched his favorite tv shows every night. He may have been challenging his brain when first adapting to this routine after all the hustle and bustle of just leaving his job, but now it's all done on auto-pilot. He no longer finds himself thinking about much because he thinks about the same things each day, or has other things (radio, tv), fill his mind for him. Hence, the brain is set to 'idle'. It's ready for attention but will sit idly by until its master decides otherwise. What once was calculating complex issues is now settling for simply being.
This can happen to anyone. Wake up, use the same toothpaste, put on shoes the same way, drive the same route to work, deal with the same people and their emotions/personalities all day, have the same type of conversations, eat the same type of foods, and so forth.
There are times that a routine is our saving grace, for sure. One just needs to realize when the routine has served its time, and we are ready to change things up, whether it's mentally, physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.
A young child learns so much so quickly, and his or her capacity and desire to experience is simply over the top!!! Hence, they adapt all along the way. They conform to no one set of ideals, their minds are free and open to everything.
Although, it is wise to learn from our mistakes in youth, I believe it is also wise to keep a healthy portion of the spontaneity, curiosity, excitement, adventure, and willingness to learn everyday, alive and well... throughout our adult life.
So, when people write and ask me about how to 'charge' their brain, so to speak, I would have to begin by saying:
DUMP OUT THE TRASH, first.
Yes, dump out the excuses, the lethargy, the resistance to change. Dump out the memories that do not serve you in a positive way. Dump out the I can'ts and install the 'I CAN' program.
Then make a commitment to yourself to only allow what you DO want fed into your brain, in. This means filtering news, gossip, images, music, literature, relationships, and so forth.
This also means dumping the garbage labeled 'food' products, that are products for sure, but certainly not food. Commit to putting health into your system at least 80% of the time each day, and work your way up from there.
Drink good pure water. Get out and get some clean, fresh air, breathe deep. Get daily physical exercise, and LAUGH!!!!!!
Laughter is not only good for our brains, every single cell in the human body responds to laughter, just as every single cell in the body responds to our thoughts, be they true or false. Beware. You hold the key to the treasure chest, what you find inside is solely your creation. Think wisely.
Now, on to the exercises for the brain. The brain welcomes these exercises!!!! Many involve what I call a 'cross-crawl' pattern, meaning, it makes the left and right hemisphere's of the brain work together, synchronicity!
There is something here for everyone. Work your brain daily.
1. Puzzles: Set up a table, or use one you already have out, and get a good size jigsaw puzzle. You will be surprised at how many people who stop by your house will be drawn to the table and start toying with a few pieces while chatting.
2. Word puzzles: Crosswords, Search and Finds, you name it. Keep a book by your bedside, or in the restroom, or in the truck.
3. Write often: This could be as simple as keeping a journal, starting a blog, writing a friend, to writing a book.
4. Read challenging information: Find pieces by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Look for pieces and books from the old school boys: Darwin, Newton, Galilee, Aristotle.
5. Play an instrument: It's never too late.
6. Sing: Yep, in the shower, the car, the gym, at work, sing!
7. Dance: You know where there's singing, there's dancing, right? So bust a move!!!
8. Memorize poetry: Emerson, etc.
9. Sketch: Go outdoors, or at work, or while on a call, it works just about anywhere, but it requires the brain to think, make configurations, etc.
10. Build your vocabulary. One thing I've alway had fun with was the vocabulary section in each issue of Reader's Digest, to me it's like an adult version of a mini spelling/vocabulary test.
11. Write with your opposite hand: I'm very right-handed, never wrote left-handed. I had to have bones fused in my right wrist several years ago that left my right hand in a solid cast for 4 1/2 months! No use of it whatsoever. I was forced to learn to do things with my left hand. Writing was one of the toughest. Strange thing occurred: I found the more I started using my left hand, I started thinking differently, seriously.
12. Play memory games: Yep, you know the ones kids love to play. It can be card games, or even on a computer.
13. Create a stimulating, enriching, playful environment where you spend a good part of your time. No one wants to be in a cubicle, no windows, everything very 'plain'. Liven it up with pictures, music if you can get away with it, keep a few interesting challenging books nearby, make it colorful and pleasant. Hold a weekly challenge: Who can do the most push-ups?
14. Work on expanding your attention span. In todays world of technology, studies have found over and over and over again, that both the attention spans of children AND adults has dwindled to about 3 seconds!!!!! What do you think about that?! First thing, turn of the devices unless necessary, do not allow them to become vices (social media, gaming, porn, whatever), YOU need to keep charge. Get outdoors. Get together with a friend and work on a project one of you needs help with, find places you can work on your attention. Listening to another speak is a great opportunity to keep your attention, but too many times, we're busy thinking about what we want to say while the other person is speaking. Put on a talk, that's on a cd, take notes, listen, pay attention.
15. Learn a foreign language: Let me know if you learn Russian, as I'm looking for someone to 'talk' with.
16. Paint, sculpture.
17. Play chess, bridge, and other challenging games.
18. Exercise: Play group sports this way you must think ahead, move, predict, etc.
19. Expose yourself to new opportunities. Keep life alive and fresh.
As you incorporate many of the things on this list, you will find your ability to focus, concentrate, and pay attention will grow. Your brain will be happy, and you will be happy!!!