Monthly Archives: October 2016

Some Things You Can Do Every Day To Benefit Your Brain

e3A mind is a valuable thing to waste. You’ve heard the saying many times, but it truly does ring true. Your mind is your most valuable asset. You need to take care of it. So here’s a list of 10 things you can do every day to benefit your brain:

1. Take a nap.
Refreshing your body can also help you improve brain function, increase memory, and improve your mood. Even just 15 minutes can make a huge difference in your day-to-day life. So take a nap, feel refreshed, and help your brain all in one. Naps improve your brain performance, so why are you still awake?

2. Do something creative just before going to bed.
When you’re tired, your brain can be more creative. Take advantage! Whether you’re writing the next great American Novel or dusting off the old paint brush and canvas, finding your creative outlet just before going to bed can yield great results. So tap your inner Picasso and create something beautiful. Just don’t fall asleep with the brush in your hand.

3. Focus on one task at a time.
Did you know that it’s literally impossible for your brain to multitask? By focusing on one task at a time, you can keep your brain working at maximum capability and accomplish more than you imagined. Find a task you need to finish and focus solely on it. Leave the phone in the other room, turn the TV off, and focus. Your brain will thank you.

4. Do cardio. And exercise.
You’ve heard that cardio leads to a healthier, better body. But it also helps the mind. Find 15-30 minutes a day and get moving! You don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment. Just a walk around the neighborhood can do wonders and benefit your brain.

5. Write. Like on a real piece of paper.
Computers, iPads, tablets, smartphones and the connection to the internet everywhere means it’s becoming less and less likely that you will pull out a piece of paper and write. But research suggests handwriting makes you smarter. So leave the computer on your desk during your next meeting and write your notes.

6. Take a multi-vitamin daily.
Your car needs oil, your smartphone needs a battery, and your brain needs nutrients. A daily multi-vitamin will ensure that you get your body what it needs. And it will help your brain according to research from the British Journal of Nutrition. Pro-tip: Take your mutli-vitamin with a healthy smoothie to get your day off to a great start.

7. Learn a new language.
Learning a new language is one of the best ways to benefit your brain. It forces your brain to adapt. Learning a language can enrich your life and help you explore new culture, but also has great benefits for your brain. So grab your Rosetta Stone or use a free service like Duolingo and learn something everyday.

8. Play Words With Friends.
The hit game Words with Friends is addictive, yes, but also has great benefits for your brain! Research has found that Scrabble or other word games help increase your IQ and improve your brain power. So play your favorite variation of “jabberwock” and have fun with your friends while benefiting your brain.

9. Meditate.
Meditation is one of the best, oldest forms of relaxation. But it also helps your body and mind! The benefits for your brain found in this study show that meditation benefits nearly every part of the brain. So spend time every day in meditation! You’ll feel more relaxed and truly will be in a better state of mind.

10. Be optimistic.
Being optimistic not only helps you enjoy life, it also does wonders for your brain. When you think positively, research suggests that your brain can be a huge beneficiary. So start taking life with the glass half full approach and help your attitude and your brain.

Tips To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn

Whether you’re learning Spanish, a new instrument, or a new sport, we could all benefit from accelerated learning. But the problem is, there’s only so much time in the day.

The key to accelerated learning is not just putting in more hours, but maximizing the effectiveness of the time spent learning.

The Bucket And Water Analogy
Let’s say you were to fill up a bucket with water. Most buckets should not have any problem retaining the water inside, until it starts overflowing at the top.

But in reality, this isn’t how our brains function. In fact, most of the information that enters our brain leaks out eventually. Instead of looking at our brain’s memory as a bucket that retains everything, we should treat it for what it is: a leaking bucket.

leaking-bucket

While the leaky bucket analogy may sound like a negative connotation, it’s perfectly normal. Unless you were born with a photographic memory, our brains weren’t designed to remember every fact, information, or experience that we go through in our lives.

How To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn
The development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s — widely attributed to the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine— outlined how humans learn.

As research shows, it turns out that humans remember:

5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)

Learning-Pyramid-synap (2)

Yet how do most of us learn?

Books, classroom lectures, videos — non-interactive learning methods that results in 80-95% of information going in one ear and leaking out the other.

The point here is that instead of forcing our brains on how to remember more information with “passive” methods, we should focus our time, energy, and resources on “participatory” methods that have proven to deliver more effective results, in less time.

This means that:

If you want to learn how to speak a foreign language, you should focus on speaking with native speakers and gain immediate feedback (instead of mobile apps)
If you want to get in shape, you should work with a personal fitness trainer (instead of watching Youtube workout videos)
If you want to learn a new instrument, hire a local music teacher in your city
Ultimately, it comes down to this…

Time Or Money?
How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time to do X…”

I’m certainly guilty of this myself, as I’ve made excuse after excuse about the lack of time I have in my life.

But time is the greatest equalizer of all. No matter who we are, where we are in the world, or how much we strive for efficiency, there are only 24 hours in each day. Every single minute is unique, and once it’s gone, it can never be regained, unlike money.
“You May Delay, But Time Will Not.”
― Benjamin Franklin
So if we all have 24 hours in a day, how do we explain the success stories of young millionaires that started from nothing, or a full-time student going from beginner to conversation fluency in Spanish after just 3.5 months? They learned how to maximize for effectiveness instead of only efficiency.

Let’s say person A spent one hour learning a language and retained 90% of what they learned. And person B spent nine hours learning and retained 10% of what they learned. Doing simple math, person B spent 9x more time learning than person A, only to retain the same amount of information (A: 1 * 0.9 = B: 9 * 0.1).

While the exact numbers can be debated, the lesson is clear. The way to have more time is not to go for small wins, like watching 5-minute YouTube tutorials instead of 15-minutes, but to go for big wins, like choosing the most effective method from the beginning. Or constantly relying on free alternatives, when investing in a premium solution can shave off months, if not years, worth of struggles, mistakes, and most importantly, time.

It’s making the most out of the limited time we have by focusing on solutions that deliver the most impact, and saying no to everything else.

The ability to retain more knowledge in an age of infinite access to information and countless distractions is a powerful skill to achieve any goal we have faster.

By learning how to remember more information everyday, we can spend less time re-learning old knowledge, and focus on acquiring new ones.

Tips Steps to Read a Book Every Day

e2The universal reason people give for not reading is that they don’t have time. Since most people read around 200 words per minute (wpm), about as quickly as they speak, most people can take a week or two to finish one book. If you’re only finishing a book every few weeks, it hardly seems like a good use of time.

Luckily, anyone can learn to read a book every day. If you could read 5 times faster, you could theoretically get through 5 times as many books. You could learn new things much quicker, be more cultured, get through the news quicker in the morning, and more.

The problem with normal speed reading is that it can be very hard to apply above certain speeds. You have to turn pages, or wait for them to shift on your e-reader, and moving your eyes around the page slows you down. But there’s an excellent solution that I use to get through a new book every day or two.

Step One: Learn to Speed Read
First you need to start training yourself to speed read. The easiest way is to simply start using Spreeder to practice (I’m not affiliated with them in any way). They have a few articles on how to speed read most effectively, but it can be distilled to these main points:

Don’t speak the words as you read them. You can read faster than you can speak, so mouthing each word as you go slows you down.
Don’t try to read each word in your head, but rather create a mental picture of the overarching message being conveyed. Your mind also has a speed limit for speaking individual words.
Keep your eyes fixed on the center of the page and read from your peripheral vision. Be sure that you’re far enough from your screen for this to work.
You don’t remember everything perfectly when you read slowly, so don’t expect to remember everything perfectly when you speed read.
When you use Spreeder, start the application at 250 wpm. That’s a little above the 200 wpm rate that most people read at. As soon as you feel comfortable, add another 50-100 wpm. Keep going up in increments until you hit a ceiling that’s hard to get through–after a couple hours of practice I was able to hit 1,000 wpm.

The important thing is to not only increase your wpm, but also your chunk size. This means reading 2, 3, or 4 words at a time instead of just 1. Trying to read just one word at a time at 1,000 wpm is very difficult, but when there are 3 words it’s not so bad. You’ll learn to absorb blocks of text at a time instead of specific words. When you can get to 4 or 5 word chunks, you’ll be able to read most book pages in 2 or 3 chunks, which means you have to move your eyes significantly less than if you were reading each word individually.

Step Two: Find Reading Materials
To use Spreeder, you need plain text that you can copy in to the application. This is can be kind of tricky. Amazon has heavy digital rights management (DRM) on their books, as does Barnes and Noble, so you can’t simple open the file up in Notepad and copy the text. There are a ton of free books online that are out of copyright (meaning they were published before 1942), and there are also places you can buy books in formats that are easily convertible to text (such as PDFs).

However you get the texts converted to plain text, make sure you are doing so legally. Piracy is illegal, and unfair to the author who spent his time and energy creating the book.

Step Three: Create the Environment
Once you’ve taught yourself to speed read at a decent pace, and have some books you want to work through without Spreeder, you need an ideal reading environment. Speed reading at high paces is mentally taxing and after an hour you’ll likely find yourself tired. In addition, since it requires perfect attention and focus, any distraction (including music) can mess you up. You need as little sensory stimulation in your environment as possible.

Here are some additional tips to creating the perfect speed reading environment:

Set aside at least an hour to read, and only to read. Don’t let other distractions interrupt.
Get noise canceling headphones or go to a quiet place. Playing white noise through headphones can help as well.
Make sure you have the screen at an optimal distance. Tablets are great for this because you can hold them right where you want them.
Have a way to take notes! When you burn through a book in an hour, you’ll naturally forget things. Taking notes along the way is very helpful
If you take the time to practice, and make yourself go slightly faster each time, you’ll quickly become a reading machine. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn new things, and absorb concepts that would have taken days or weeks before. At the same time, sit back and read in your normal fashion from time to time as well! Speed reading is mentally taxing, so if you want to read to relax you shouldn’t feel pressured to speed through it.

Tips to Improve Memory

The human brain is one of the most mysterious and powerful tools in the modern world. This magical organ interprets reality through synapses and neurons, forming subjective thoughts, qualities, and memories, which form our identities. Using up to twenty percent of the energy we consume, our brain is always working and always changing. As we grow, the connections between regions of the brain reinforce each other, fortifying our memory, until a certain age at which, either naturally, through “disuse,” or through memory loss diseases such as Alzheimer’s, we begin to lose control of our memories. But we are not necessarily doomed to forget our brief passage through this life before our brain finally shuts down: here are three ways you can enhance your memory through lifestyle changes.

1. Self-Awareness
Understanding how your brain makes memories is crucial to improving memory function. As you experience the world, the sensory information received is encoded through your short-term memory—visually, acoustically, and semantically—and stored in various regions of your brain with your working memory. Through the long-term process of recollection, your brain reconstructs the memory from storage, meaning that the more times you access a memory, the more likely it is to change (the opposite is true of “commonplace” memories which you rarely revisit, such as this morning’s shower, yesterday’s commute, etc.).

The act of recollecting is a helpful exercise in improving memory itself. What you notice in certain memories upon recalling them also affects their ability to be recalled. Becoming aware of what draws your attention to certain memories and choosing to focus on different points of view can force your brain to make new associations, thus strengthening your neural network and placing the memory in a context. Keeping a journal is possibly the best way to improve self-awareness, but literal self-awareness with mirrors, cameras, microphones, or audiences also improve the accuracy of memory.

Our memories fade with old age because our brain becomes less effective at encoding and retrieval as we discontinue learning. Learning and socialization arouse various parts of the brain—language, perception, problem-solving, motor coordination—all at once, and are undoubtedly the cornerstones of a bright, sharp, longitudinal memory.

2. Stress Reduction
Stress has a significant detrimental effect on memory formation. If any strong emotion is present during an event, the neurons active during this event produce strong connections with each other. When the event is recalled, the neurons will more easily and speedily make the same connections (which can be disastrous for those suffering from PTSD or drug addiction withdrawal). These memories also tend to be warped or focused on extreme details rather than the greater context of the scene—another way self-awareness can promote healthy memories.

Get plenty of sleep! Neuroimaging studies have shown activation patterns in the sleeping brain which mirror those recorded during the learning of tasks from the previous day, suggesting that new memories may be solidified through such rehearsal. Coupled with a nightly recollection of the day prior, or even a dream journal, sleep can be a very powerful tool for managing memories.

Meditation, a form of mental training to focus attention, also seems to increase the control over brain resource distribution, improving both attention and discipline. The changes are potentially long-lasting, as meditation may have the ability to strengthen neuronal circuits as selective attentional processes improve.

Playing music also improves various aspects of memory through abstract connections in the brain between acoustic, semantic, and language-processing regions. Research shows that children who participated in one year of instrumental musical training showed improved verbal memory, whereas no such improvement was shown in children who discontinued musical training.

3. Diet and Exercise
Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive performance on encoding and retrieval of information, and has been found to regulate hippocampal neurogenesis, which promotes the survival of newborn neurons and helps form new memories. Physiological activity also provides the brain increased blood-flow and oxygen levels, which, along with the right diet, keep the brain healthy.

There are many “brain foods,” but only a certain group of fruits and vegetables provide direct benefits to the facilitation and maintenance of memory processes—flavonoids. Flavonoids are photochemicals found in plant-based foods and valued for their antioxidant properties, and are found in onions, leeks, broccoli, parsley, celery, soybeans, citrus fruits, berry fruits, tomatoes, green teas, red wines, and cocoa. Glucose also plays an important role in improving memory, as it can pass from blood to the brain, providing energy and boosting neural metabolism.

Excess intake levels of fat and calories are harmful to memory function. Saturated fats and cholesterol are especially high-risk foods for the onset of Alzheimer’s, not to mention the myriad other health risks associated with these food groups.