6 Neuroscientifically Proven Habits to Enhance your Mental Powers

By Shweta Handa-Gupta

Now, more than ever, we need mental super powers as our brain struggles to be agile, to innovate, connect, focus, remember, learn, strategize, be present… Here is a list of the six most powerful habits that will help you supercharge your mental powers.

I. Reflect – In our execution driven busy lives, we often neglect to pause and reflect. Taking out time to reflect, to simply sit and think, helps us in multiple ways.
o Reflecting on our experiences allows us to draw lessons from them.
o Reflection on our learning helps create mental connections and moves them into our long-term memory where they are available as retrievable wisdom and generate powerful insights.
o Self-reflection or introspection leads to higher meta-cognitive accuracy or, in simple words, higher self-awareness. Higher meta-cognitive accuracy has been shown to increase grey matter in the anterior pre-frontal cortex (involved in problem-solving, exploring alternatives, planning, attentional resource allocation etc.).
Start by keeping aside 10 minutes a day to reflect on your experiences, key lessons and, most importantly, introspect. Writing down or journaling can further enhance the results.

II. Read – Reading is powerful brain exercise since it is a complex task that requires several regions of the brain to work together. In a study at Stanford University MRI mapping showed a noticeable rise in overall blood flow to the brain the moment participants began to read. To maximize the brain benefits of your reading try to get out of your comfort zone and expand your reading list to include unfamiliar topics.

III. Question – Curiosity is the cornerstone of genius ability for it keeps the mind in an active mode. Curiosity when expressed as constructive questioning makes your mind more observant and magnifies your learning from every experience. It also helps you be more flexible by diminishing the brain’s natural resistance to new and unknown ideas.
Staying curious is not easy since we naturally seek certainty. Doubt is an uncomfortable state and ‘knowing’ is always more comfortable. Next time you catch yourself slipping into the comfort zone, remember, recognizing that you don’t know is the first step to ‘knowing’.
Use questions not only to explore and understand the world around you but also question yourself. Question your long-held beliefs, behaviours and feelings to understand their origins and influence. You might be surprised.

IV. Stretch Your Mind – Play complex games and solve puzzles to keep exercising your mind. Remember, your mind, like the muscles in your body, will only develop when it is stretched to its limit. Continuously increase the difficulty levels of the game or puzzle to keep challenging your brain.
Also, reduce your use of simplifying devices such as the calculator, GPS etc. to only when it’s absolutely necessary.

V. Exercise – Scientists have linked physical exercise to brain health for long. Exercise releases a host of chemicals and hormones that help reduce stress, improve cognition and promote brain regeneration. Aerobic exercise stimulates the production of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) that has been associated with preserving brain cells, improved memory function and neurogenesis (growth and adaption of new brain cells).
Simply, physical exercise helps generate both grey matter and white matter (white matter connects grey matter areas & carries nerve impulses between neurons). If you prefer weight or resistance training, remember to add a bit (10 minutes) of aerobic exercise to your routine to jumpstart your heart and sweat glands.

VI. Fantasize – Imagination exercises use a neural network that engages all four hemispheres of our mind.* Using your imagination, spinning stories and weaving fantasies strengthens neural connections, improves brain function and significantly enhances your capacity for original thought.
Interestingly, research has found that thinking about an activity triggers the same part of the brain used when we actually perform the activity. This means that you can use the power of imagination at any time to further enhance your brain development. (This does not mean that you substitute imagination for real practice!)
These habits will serve to super-power your Brain and none of them needs to occupy too much time in your schedule. Reflection, questioning and using your imagination can be integrated into your daily activities and performed at any moment during your day. Start small with reading, exercise and solving complex puzzles and build up as best you can.
Even as you practice all of these, do not compromise on your sleep. Sleep is consolidation and regeneration time for your brain and helps improve learning and memory. Sleep is also essential to creativity since it helps you form novel connections to seemingly unrelated ideas.

Wish you a contemplative, imaginative, curious, active and challenging day.

 *The logical left and creative right brain is a Myth! To know more about how most activities we perform in life need intricate integration of both hemispheres visit the QuadraBrain® Whole Brain Thinking tab here (www.quadrabrain.com/about-us/).

©2015 Shweta HandaGupta. All rights reserved

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