Tag Archives | improving memory

Break Your Brain out of its Comfort Zone – Guest Post

Everyone is constantly looking for a high quality of life but it seems harder and harder to come by. For many of us, true happiness continues to elude us because we feel that we are in a constant race with the rest of the world. We seem to equate happiness with our ”performance at life” – in other words, if the Race of Life ended today, what place would we take? In order to stay at the front of the pack while simultaneously striving for internal success, we have to focus on our mental fitness. Here are 3 tips that will aid you as you push your brain to its fullest potential.

Get out of your comfort zone

The brain is like any other muscle in our body: to make it stronger, it must reach just beyond the boundaries of what it is capable. Each time the brain reaches further and further, it creates more neural connections. But how do we “stretch our brains”? There is no way other than attempting mental tasks that are difficult, even if we fail. This is a daunting concept for many, but those who break out of their comfort zones and push their limits will reap the rewards of an increase in mental clarity, focus, and retention.

Learn a new language

Probably the most comprehensive and effective way to improve brain power is by learning a new language. Many different parts of the brain are activated while learning a new language. You rely on memory to recall vocabulary and mental flexibility when combining the first few words into a coherent concept.  The concepts will get more diverse as the structures and vocabulary at your disposal increase. Your brain uses reasoning skills when you discover how to relate concepts and structures in the new language to those of your first language, and sensory sensibility as you hear new sound combinations and attempt to replicate them. Learning a new language also increases the number of people with whom you can communicate, making you more social (incidentally a big element that contributes to brain performance).

Take a break

We find that exercising on a constant basis provides increased physical performance until at some point a plateau is reached. Taking a break and returning to your routine a week or so later yields more advancement. The same holds true professionally - when you become so absorbed by routine that your job performance suffers, it’s time to take a break - a vacation even (maybe a chance to visit the country whose language you are learning). When building your mental performance, remember to treat your brain the same way you treat the rest of your body. Give it a rest when a rest is called for.

Although increasing your mental abilities may seem impossible, you really can “grow” your brain (or at least make more synapses)! The process isn’t simple, and it requires dedication, but if you really want to increase your performance in life, start by focusing on the most complex and important organ in your body.

Dolph Larsson is a writer who focuses all of his efforts on exploring ways to increase the power of the brain. You can read more of his articles such as “Power Your Brain Today” and “How to Increase Mind Power” at his website How to Improve Brain Power, where he discusses brain boosting lifestyle changes and techniques.

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Can You Really Make Yourself Smarter?

Photo courtesy of Hey Paul Studios

As we’re sliding into week three of our Memory Improvement Project, this week’s Mindful Monday is going to address some specific strategies to actually begin training your brain.

We started out by gaining some mental clarity, creating a blank slate of sorts for the work ahead of us. Once we had implemented some very important behavioral changes, we added some memory boosting supplements to our daily regimen.

Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the process a bit. As I previously mentioned, I have trouble getting enough sleep.  However, after doing a lot of reading on the sleep/memory connection, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment during which I realized that without adequate sleep, my brain will never function at full capacity. Getting eight hours a night has become one of my top priorities, and so far I’m noticing a real difference in my ability to focus on tasks.

Now that I have my brain running more optimally, I’m ready to take the next step in the process. We have billions of neurons firing upstairs and, as it turns out, we have a choice about some of the connections those neurons are making! We’re not on a wild goose chase here, people! We can actually change our brains. Here is what I’m going to try this week:

Make neuro-choices – When I say that we have a choice about what connections are being made in our brains, I’m not kidding. It’s been shown that the neurons that fire together, wire together, so to speak. In other words, “practice makes perfect.” The human brain has a great ability to adapt the way it works - called neuroplasticity – and I plan to use it to my advantage.

Walk my way to a better brain – Although getting physical in any way has been shown to boost brain power, walking in particular has a positive effect on the area of the brain that controls memory.

Play mind games -  Brain stimulating games like Brain Trainer by Luminosity increase blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex and are conveniently downloadable for iPhone and iPod Touch. I plan to play at least one level a day, right after I:

Indulge – Intake of limited amounts of caffeine can improve short term memory, so I’ve decided to take six ounces of caffiene each day immediately before beginning my brain training.

Listen to more music – Studies show that people who listen to music are smarter and have more emotional intelligence than those who don’t. Music strengthens the brain’s right-hemisphere.

Read – When we read, our brains have to absorb a lot of information in short order. This challenges our thinking and memory skills. I haven’t made much time for reading lately, and I plan to read 15 minutes of my book each day at lunch time.

We don’t have to sit idly by and watch our brain power fade, and there is medical research to prove it. By exercising our brains just like we exercise our bodies, we can increase our neural connections just like we build our biceps.

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Upgrading Your Memory: It’s Not Just RAM We’re Talking About

Photo courtesy of digitalART2

This is the second post in our Mindful Mondays series, where we will focus on improving mental clarity, memory and mood.

All week I’ve continued toward improving my mental clarity. I incorporated all of the items I listed out for you last week, hoping to have a somewhat clearer head by today. I have meditated every single day for over an hour. I spent time outdoors and had no alcohol or aspartame. I did better at eating smaller meals but I still have to improve in that area. I was able to continue to live my life drama-free with limited television time.

I failed miserably at getting eight hours of sleep each night though. Some nights I almost managed, but not every night, and that meant I fell asleep during meditation a few times. That is not the desired outcome of meditation, so I must make a concerted effort to ensure that my sleeping is done during the appropriate hours in order for my brain to function at full capacity.

Despite not sleeping as much as I should, I have already noticed a difference in my brain function. I find that I’m not “searching” for words as often as I used to. I have also felt myself taking what I can only describe as mental stops. It’s as if I’m in a movie and everyone else continues to move while I remain still. I just enjoy the action, feeling completely absorbed in the moment. Long after time has sped up again, I still have great retention of what happened during those mental stops.

I’ve been diligently researching the next steps in my Better Memory Mission, and this week, along with continuing the behavioral changes I’ve already implemented, I will be adding supplements to my diet. Here is what I will be taking, and why:

  • Gingko biloba – As a well documented treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, Gingko has also been shown to improve normal age-related memory loss as well as boosting memory in the young.
  • Ginger extract – Along with soothing upset stomachs, ginger has now been shown to improve memory and cognitive function in middle aged women.
  • B-Complex – Low levels of vitamin B6 and B12 have been associated with impaired cognitive function.
  • L-theanine – Shown to have a calming effect on the brain, allowing it to focus, L-theanine is available as a supplement but can also be found in green tea, which is how I will be taking it.

I’ve also ordered some organic oat straw tea, as I’ve been reading a lot about its benefits on attention and focus and I’m going to be ramping up my intake of healthier foods in general, and cutting out as much sugar as possible. Overall, I think I’ve got a fairly solid plan to move forward. I’m pretty psyched that I’ve already made progress!

That pesky little matter of sleeping enough at night is going to be my biggest hurdle, but I am going to make a stupendous effort this week to get back on track. I had an excuse last week – I got an iPhone and I stayed up way too late trying to figure out just how it got so smart.

Much like Apple, we should all work to upgrade our memory and capabilities regularly. After all, if basic phones are null and void, what good is a basic brain?


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Do You Have a Bad Memory? Forget it!

Photo courtesy of Glimpse of Serendipity
I was lying in bed three nights ago when I had the idea for today’s post. In addition to immediately jotting it on my to-do list, I sent myself an email and a text because I knew that within minutes I would have had absolutely no recollection of what I had wanted to write about. Truth be told, it’s kind of a miracle that this post got written at all.

Struggling to remember things is something that my friends and I started noticing in our mid thirties, and if our parents are any indication, things are only going to get worse as we get older. In order to accomplish important daily tasks, I find myself up to my eyeballs in lists and written reminders everywhere I turn. What I realized, though, is that while reminder notes are helpful, they are literally doing nothing for my actual ability to remember things, and in fact, may be acting as a bit of a brain ‘crutch.’

Knowing that the brain is an amazing and fascinating highway of neurotransmitters, I decided to begin some earnest research about how to make the most of all of those unused pathways I’ve supposedly got going on upstairs.  What I was looking for was a virtual GPS for my brain. While what I discovered isn’t quite that simple, it does look promising indeed.

I spent hours in several bookstores over the weekend and in between inhaling the intoxicating scent of new books, I poured through multiple publications – each claiming to be the “Best Memory Manual” on shelves today. Luckily, I forgot their titles, because they didn’t seem to be worth remembering anyway. There was one book that looked worthwhile, and I brought that one home with me: The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School and at Play by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas.

Although I’ve just embarked on this journey, here are some of the first things I’m implementing:

  1. I learned that I need to keep my brain on its ‘toes’. I think I’ll do that by reading one news article a day that I would normally skip.
  2. I’m already working on limiting distractions when I’m performing a task with details that I will need to remember later, and I’ve noticed a slight improvement in my recall.
  3. Memory problems can be worsened by eating a less-than-ideal diet, and although I admit to eating much less brain food than I actually should, I’m making better choices every day.
  4. Making sure I get physical every day is always a priority for me, in that it helps manage my chronic health condition. But it also helps increase blood flow to the brain! Win/win!

I hope you’ll join me on my Better Memory Mission. If you have any memory-improving tips to add to my burgeoning list, please share in the comments or drop me an email. I think this can be a great way for us to work as a DailyPath community, and it has potential to grow into a weekly feature that would include your ideas and stories too!

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