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The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains

Brain5Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can fol­low to main­tain, and improve, our vibrant brains.



  1. 1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beauty as a liv­ing and constantly-developing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synapses.
  2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but con­sumesgood brain food over 20% of the oxy­gen and nutri­ents we intake? As a gen­eral rule, you don’t need expen­sive ultra-sophisticated nutri­tional sup­ple­ments, just make sure you don’t stuff your­self with the “bad stuff”.
  3. Remem­ber that the brain is part of the body. Things that exer­cise your body can also help sharpen your brain: phys­i­cal exer­cise enhances neurogenesis.
  4. Prac­tice pos­i­tive, future-oriented thoughts until they become your default mind­set and you look for­ward to every new day in a con­struc­tive way. Stress and anx­i­ety, no mat­ter whether induced by exter­nal events or by your own thoughts, actu­ally kills neu­rons and pre­vent the cre­ation of new ones. physical exercise for brain healthYou can think of chronic stress as the oppo­site of exer­cise: it pre­vents the cre­ation of new neurons.
  5. Thrive on Learn­ing and Men­tal Chal­lenges. The point of hav­ing a brain is pre­cisely to learn and to adapt to chal­leng­ing new envi­ron­ments. Once new neu­rons appear in your brain, where they stay in your brain and how long they sur­vive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do cross­word puz­zle num­ber 1,234,567″. It means, “chal­lenge your brain often with fun­da­men­tally new activities”.
  6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-directed organ­isms in this planet. Aim high. Once you grad­u­ate from col­lege, keep learn­ing. Once you become too com­fort­able in one job, find a new one. The brain keeps devel­op­ing, reflect­ing what you do with it.
  7. Explore, travel. Adapt­ing to new loca­tions forces you to pay more atten­tion to your envi­ron­ment. Make new deci­sions, use your brain.
  8. Don’t Out­source Your Brain. Not to media per­son­al­i­ties, not to politi­cians, not to your smart neigh­bour… Make your own deci­sions, and mis­takes. And learn from them. That way, you are train­ing your brain, not your neighbour’s.
  9. Develop and main­tain stim­u­lat­ing friend­ships. We are “social ani­mals”, and need social inter­ac­tion. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Ein­stein’ has been shown not to be the panacea for chil­dren development.
  10. Laugh. Often. Espe­cially to cog­ni­tively com­plex humor, full of twists and sur­prises. Bet­ter, try to become the next Jon Stewart

Now, remem­ber that what counts is not read­ing this article-or any other-, but prac­tic­ing a bit every day until small steps snow­ball into unstop­pable, inter­nal­ized habits…so, pick your next bat­tle and try to start improv­ing at least one of these 10 habits today. Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your atten­tion, and make a deci­sion to try some­thing dif­fer­ent today!

SharpBrainsGuide_3DTo learn more about what you can do, check out The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness.

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  1. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Revolution. […]

  2. […] Coin­ci­dently, Alvaro of Sharp Brain sub­mit­ted a post about lifestyle options to help us keep our brains in shape. […]

  3. […] The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains: our most suc­cess­ful post so far, on how to main­tain fit brains, with over 70,000 read­ers in a few days! […]

  4. […] The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains by Alvaro Fernandez. […]

  5. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “Some tips to keep our brains sharp.” […]

  6. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “Some tips to keep our brains sharp.” […]

  7. miriam says:

    hey it’s nice hon­estly it’s great bt just try to make it a lit­tle shorter to look more inter­est­ing to read

  8. Alvaro says:

    Short­est: don’t out­source your brain!

  9. I find drink­ing a lot of water and nap­ping dur­ing the day helps keeps my brain sharp, well as sharp as it’s going to get. Thanks for some great tips.

  10. Excel­lent infor­ma­tion. All very good advice on how to keep that brain sharp­ened. Sleep is also vital for improv­ing mem­ory and concentration.

  11. Alvaro says:

    Hello Steven and Philip, thanks for your addi­tions. Yes, sleep is very impor­tant, and well as keep­ing well hydrated.

  12. […] recently posed a link to Sharp­Brains, a men­tal health blog that I just might have to sub­scribe to, with a caveat: they’re a bit silly, verg­ing on new-age phi­los­o­phy about med­i­ta­tion and being in “The Zone”, but it’s coun­tered with a sig­nif­i­cant retail pres­ence that besmirches any spir­i­tual incli­na­tion to the point of absur­dity. Nev­er­the­less, they have some good junk too. The post in ques­tion, The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains, gives food for thought (ha, ha) on the care of what lies within your cra­nium. Two of them in par­tic­u­lar are key, in my opin­ion, but I believe they missed one. […]

  13. Joe M Das says:

    Very smart arti­cle, full of infor­ma­tion on how to keep our master-organ healthy. Thank you.

  14. kim says:

    Have you heard of and tested Super­brain Yoga as a tool to fuel the brain? Great arti­cles have been pub­lished as well as a book that explains the sci­ence behind the exer­cise. Great way to keep the brain-body sys­tem fit!

  15. Alvaro says:

    Thank you Joe! yes, our “master-organ” deserves our attention :-)

    Kim: we haven’t. We have seen sci­en­tific papers on the ben­e­fits of Yoga, but not of one spe­cific “brand” like that. Could you give us the ref­er­e­ces to look into? Thanks

  16. Harry says:

    The stress claim looks to me sus­pi­ciously like an over-interpretation of a sim­ply ani­mal study. The stress in the study is severe stress and was expo­sure of rats to aggres­sive rats. Death of some newly gen­er­ated cells resulted (hmm, cell death is also related to learned –but now I’m over-extending…). Per­haps we can agree that there’s a wide gap here between the ani­mal model and every­day, com­plex human environments?

  17. Alvaro says:

    Hello Harry, true, there is a gap. Now, neu­ro­sci­en­tists like Robert Sapol­sky or Fred Gage are not fea­tur­ing those dis­tinc­tions, but our sim­i­lar­i­ties. Our physiologies/ stress response are more sim­i­lar than one may assume.

    Fred Gage reminds us how “Chronic stress is believed to be the most impor­tant casual fac­tor in depres­sion aside from a genetic pre­dis­po­si­tion to the dis­or­der, and stress is known to restrict the num­ber of newly gen­er­ated neu­rons in the hippocampus.”

    Let me ask you: is depres­sion severe stress? what would you say are depres­sion rates (in humans)?

  18. Jordan says:

    Per­son­ally, a good 60-min run is always the best way to refresh and sharpen my mind.

    How about doing any exer­cise that qui­ets and stills the mind?

    The great­est peril face by mod­ern man is the dis­quiet mind that seems to be rac­ing through­out the day, even into the night (which causes insom­nia). Slow­ing down the mind and even mak­ing
    it still is a great chal­lenge, when most peo­ple need to have some music to fill any brief moment of quiet­ness they have.

  19. Excel­lent tips! Many (not peo­ple here though), for­get that exer­cise is a HUGE com­po­nent and great to see it on your list!
    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson

  20. spencer lord says:

    this is a really superb arti­cle, and the top three are so right: Thoughts/Diet/Exercise. right on.

  21. Manguu says:

    @ jv: when you’re fully charged and future for­ward, you’ll have bet­ter ideas and more energy to tackle those issues and reach out to peo­ple in need

  22. Great arti­cle. We should post it on our com­puter for a daily reminder. I don’t think any one of us wants to “lose it”

    Thanks Alvaro.
    Har­riet Diamond

  23. Har­riet and every­one else: glad you enjoy it!

    My per­sonal favorite, of course, is:
    #8. Don’t Out­source Your Brain.

  24. Binaifer Karanjia says:

    Won­der­ful arti­cle and great for under­stand­ing in a sim­ple way, the core parts of the brain. Would like to add that many of the deeper prac­tises of yoga med­i­ta­tiosn help to destress and regen­er­ate the brain. Spe­cific prac­tises are Yoga Nidra and Aan­tar Mouna. Both pracises work in the deeper recesses f the mind and have shown many pos­i­tive changes in human personalities.

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