Monthly Archives: September 2016

7 Hobbies Will Make Your Brain Works Smarter And Faster

All parts of our body age. And our brain does too. We’ve all witnessed the natural deterioration of brain functions in older relatives. Unfortunately, they lose their short-term memories and they gradually lose the executive functions, as the right frontal lobe loses gray matter and gets “mushy.” Even without the dreaded Alzheimer’s, our brains just age. Now; however, neuroscience tells us that we can delay this process. In some instances, we can reverse brain deterioration by engaging in some pretty specific activities, most of which we would consider hobbies. Here are 7 of them.

1. Read Anything
Whether you love old classic comic books or the New York Times, brain researchers tell us that reading actually increases brain function in several areas. It stimulates the growth of new neural pathways as we absorb new information. Reading flexes those parts of the brain that deal with problem-solving, seeing patterns, and interpreting what others are saying to us about their feelings. It also improves memory, builds on prior learning (more neural connections), and exercises parts of the brain that allow imagination. Some research also points to speedreading as a method to increase synapses (electrical connections between regions of the brain), since the brains must process sensory information quickly. Indeed, for many students, speedreading is a valuable skill.

2. Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
For years, neuro-scientists have conducted research on the benefits of music instruction for children relative to improved cognitive functions – memory, problem-solving, sequential processing, and pattern recognition. Playing an instrument (the voice is also an instrument), increases gray matter volume and makes neural connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. For this reason, scientists believe that early musical training allows students to be better at both linear math work (algorithms, equation solving) and mathematical problem-solving (modeling, optimization, problem research). Playing an instrument ensures both sides of the brain work together much better.

Now, researchers tell us that taking up a musical instrument as an adult – young, middle-aged, or older – can produce the same neurological effects as it does in children.

3. Exercise on a Regular Basis
Here’s what the science tells us. Exercise produces a protein (BDNF) in the blood stream. As blood travels through the brain, cells absorb this protein, which is responsible for both increased memory and focus. One of the most notable experiments was a photo memory test given to experimental and control groups. The experimental group exercised before the test, while the control group did not. The experimental group’s test results were overwhelmingly better. Members were able to focus on the photos and then recall them after a period of waiting.

4. Learn a New Language
Several areas of the brain are used as we take in sound, give it meaning, and then respond to it – 4 areas in all. Bilingual people have more gray matter in their language centers. They can focus on more than one task at a time because parts of the brain that relate to reasoning, planning, and memory are more developed. Again, scientists began to study this in children first, looking at those in whose households a foreign language was spoken, but in whose schools only English was spoken. Being forced to take in sounds from two different languages and “sort out” which language was being heard forced these areas of the brain into greater functioning. Now, it is also known that learning a language at any stage in one’s life has the same forceful effect on the brain making it smarter.

5. Engage in Cumulative Learning
Cumulative learning is defined as that process by which we take what we already know and layer new information of the same type on top of that. For example, math is cumulative learning. Children first learn basic functions. Then they learn how to use those basic functions to solve word problems. Next, they learn algebra, using basic functions to solve equations. Every layer goes on top of what was learned before. As we age, and especially as we leave the workforce, we tend to cease cumulative learning activities. However, research says if we continue to engage in them we sharpen memory, sequential ordering, problem solving (executive functioning of right frontal lobe), and language. Maybe we should all take a math or writing class in our senior years!

6. Exercise Your Brain with Puzzles and Games
We need to think of our brains as both computers and muscles. The more information we put into our brains, the more functions they can perform. Likewise, the more we exercise our brains, the stronger they function. Brain plasticity is a term that is used to refer to the continually new connections that are made when we take in information, engage in thinking, and force ourselves to remember things. Crossword puzzles, deductive thinking activities, and strategic games such as chess or even some video games, force our brains to take in new information and make new connections.

7. Meditate / Practice Yoga
Meditation is no longer something that can be thought of as “that thing that Hindu and Buddhist monks do.” What research says about meditation is actually pretty astounding. First, it allows better control of one’s thinking when not in a meditative state. This control allows focus, concentration, and better memory. In fact, students who meditate do better on tests, and adults who meditate have better memories. Meditation increases gray matter in areas of the brain that control learning and memory. Senior citizens who meditate keep more gray matter than those who do not. For students with behavior problems in school, meditation has been shown to improve behavior and school attendance because it reduces stress and anxiety. It would appear that meditation is a great thing for all ages.

All of these hobbies are things that we can easily incorporate into our daily lives. Given what science now tells us, they will keep our brains wonderfully healthy.

Effective Tips To Make You A Faster Learner

The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible? If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter. The following 10 tips will help you do that.

1. Analyze your learning style.
Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are.

Is your memory associated to sound? Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners. If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.
Do you relate information to visual content? If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.
If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures. A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying/listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.
2. Use the right EdTech tools.
Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management, brainstorming, etc.

One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online. StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study. If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear. You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused. Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity. Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time. Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science. Finally, you should also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

3. Train your brain to accept new information.
Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks. One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

4. Get some exercise.
You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too! Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused. If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

5. Work on the ambiance.
If your roommate constantly invites friends over for a beer, you won’t be able to study no matter how hard you try. Students who want to learn quickly need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

6. Take a lot of notes.
Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes. This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material, but it will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.
Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

7. Make mind maps.
Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn. You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens. Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

8. Experiment with memorization methods.
Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some students memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence. However, memorization can also be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

9. Find the right context.
Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information. Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joys of learning. With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

10. Study every day.
It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit. The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read. If you start studying as soon as possible after you cover new concepts in class, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

Tips To Memorize Things Quicker Than Other People

e1People like to joke that the only thing you really “learn” in school is how to memorize. As it turns out, that’s not even the case for most of us. If you go around the room and ask a handful of people how to memorize things quickly, most of them will probably tell you repetition.

That is so far from the truth, it’s running for office. If you want to memorize something quickly and thoroughly, repetition won’t cut it; however, recalling something will. The problem is that recalling something requires learning, and we all learn in different ways. Below are some universal steps to mastering the art of recalling so that you can start memorizing a ton of data in a short amount of time.

Before we start, you need to establish something: are you an auditory, visual, or experiential learner? If you’re an auditory learner, then the most effective way for you to grasp information is by hearing it. As you can imagine, visual learners favor seeing something in order to learn it, and experiential learning types are more akin to learning from events and experiences (or, doing something with the material). Most of us are a combination of at least two of these categories, but I will denote which step is most favorable to your most agreeable learning style so that you can start to memorize things quickly and efficiently.

Step 1: Preparation
To optimize your memorization session, pay close attention to which environment you choose. For most people, this means choosing an area with few distractions, though some people do thrive off of learning in public areas. Figure out what is most conducive to your learning so that you can get started.

Next, start drinking some tea. I could link you to mounds of scientific studies that confirm green tea as a natural catalyst for improving memory. Mechanically speaking, our ability to recall information comes down to the strength between neurons in our mind, which are connected by synapses. The more you exercise the synapse (repetition), the stronger it is, resulting in the ability to memorize.

As we get older, toxic chemicals will damage our neurons and synapses, leading to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s. Green tea contains compounds, however, that block this toxicity and keep your brain cells working properly a lot longer.

Step 2: Record What You’re Memorizing
This is especially useful if you’re trying to memorize information from a lecture. Use a tape recorder to track all of the acquired facts being spoken and listen to it. If you’re trying to memorize a speech, record yourself reading the speech aloud and listen to yourself speaking. Obviously, this is most helpful for auditory learners, but it’s also handy because it ensures that you’re getting more context from a lecture that will help you learn the information faster.

Step 3: Write Everything Down
Before you start trying to recall everything from memory, write and re-write the information. This will help you become more familiar with what you’re trying to memorize. Doing this while listening to your tape recorder can also help you retain a lot of the data. This is most useful for experiential learners.

Step 4: Section your notes.
Now that you have everything written down in one set of notes, separate them into sections. This is ideal for visual learners, especially if you use color coding to differentiate between subjects. This will help you break everything down and start compartmentalizing the information being recorded in your brain.

Step 5: Apply repetition to cumulative memorization
For each line of text, repeat it a few times and try to recall it without looking. As you memorize each set of text, be cumulative by adding the new information to what you’ve just learned. This will keep everything within your short-term memory from fading. Keep doing this until you have memorized that section and you are able to recall the entire thing. Do not move on to another section until you have memorized that one completely. This is mostly visual learning, but if you are speaking aloud, then you are also applying auditory.

Step 6: Write it down from memory
Now that you can recall entire sections, write everything down from memory. This will reinforce everything you just have just learned by applying it experientially.

Step 7: Teach it to someone (or yourself)
The most effective method for me when I was in school was to teach the information to someone else. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can lecture the knowledge to someone sitting right in front of you (or the mirror, if you can’t convince anyone to sit through it) and explain everything extemporaneously. If what you’ve learned needs to be recited verbatim, then do this in front of someone as well in order to get a feel for what it will be like to recite the text to the intended audience.

My favorite method for this is creating tests for other people. Take the information and predict what questions will come out of them. Use multiple choice, matching and so on to present the data in test format, and see how someone else does. All of this is experiential learning, since you are actually practicing and manipulating the concepts you’ve learned.

Step 8: Listen to the recordings continuously
While doing unrelated tasks like laundry or driving, go over the information again by listening to your tape recordings. This is certainly auditory learning, but it will still supplement everything you’ve shoved into your short-term memory.

Step 9: Take a break
Finally, let your mind breathe. Go for a short time without thinking about what you just learned and come back to it later on. You’ll find out what you really know, of course, and this will help you focus on the sections you might be weakest at.

Know More About 13 Signs You’re A Pretty Quick Learner

According to a study it is discovered that fast learners (specifically language learners) have more white matter and less symmetrical brains. Learning fast or being a quick learner depends on how we use our brains. Sometimes what seem so sophisticated needs the simplest solution. Here is how to know if you are a pretty quick learner.

1. You are not afraid to say “I don’t know”
Pretty quick learners accept that they do not know it all. They keep their minds open and are willing to ask questions and quiz for answers to know more. While some are reluctant are hesitant to show their ignorance on a subject, quick learners are not.

2. You use the Pareto principle
Quick learning has productivity attached to it. According to Vilfredo Pareto you get 80% of your results from 20% of the things you do. Quick learners make use of this principle by focusing on the fundamental and the most used items in a series of difficult tests. They don’t chase after the whole bunch at once but major their strength on the most necessary ones first.

3. You are able to visualize it
When dealt with problems, quick learners are multidimensional. They take advantage of how to deal with it with all their senses. They visualize it by taking advantage of their mental powers to drive solutions and learning.

4. You simplify
Quick learners know that difficult problems do not need a difficult approach. Many great minds from Thomas Edison to Henry Ford and even Steve Jobs looked for ways to address challenges with simple solutions. They simplify and immerse themselves in their goals to find the easiest and simplest way out of a hole.

5. You take action
After all is said and done, at the end of the day it is up to you to take action. If you are learning a new language you really cannot make so much progress if you do not speak the new language, whether you get it right or not. Quick learners learn by doing and taking decisive action.

6. You are selective
You do not go after all the possible explanations or solutions to a problem. Rather you take your time to broadly consider those that are worthy of your attention and assessment. Through this you are able to go after the most promising solutions available.

7. You use Parkinson’s Law
Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week points out that much can be gained by combining the use of Parkinson’s law and Pareto’s principle to achieve solutions and learn faster. While Pareto’s principle means streamlining to get more out of your time, Parkinson’s Law means you limit the time for learning so as to gain only the most important things. Quick learners only allocate enough time to grasp only the most important part of a topic and waste no time on the less important parts.

8. You know when to stop
Quick learners know when to stop and not to proceed. If something is not going in an answerable pattern, they retreat. They understand the law of diminishing returns and focus on only things that provide a return on their investment.

9. You know how to anticipate the future
What becomes old and stale is of no use to a quick learner; rather they have to be able to adapt and anticipate future trends and situations. You can focus on the future and how you can apply every topic you are learning to it.

10. You understand that many questions have no answers
Through selection you already have a sense of not going after the wrong questions or topics. You already know that when a question is complicated and has so many threads attached to it, there probably is no solution for it.

11. You can explain it to a kid
After immersing and absorbing yourself in a topic, you can communicate your thoughts and opinions on the subject matter (even to a kid).

12. You are positive
Quick learners do not show any negative attitude to learning what is important to them. They are positive even when they are faced with setbacks and challenges.

13. You can seek the opinions of experts
You know there are people who are better than you on a subject. Nobody learns so much without dedicating themselves to the tutelage of a master!