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The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains — Time for Brain Fitness Resolutions?

Given many of us are start­ing to pre­pare New Year Res­o­lu­tions, let’s revisit one of Sharp­Brains’ most popular-ever arti­cles that can help us all refine our Brain Fit­ness Res­o­lu­tions

The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains

  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 con­sumes 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. You 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. The brain keeps devel­op­ing, no mat­ter your age, and it reflects 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 start improv­ing on one of these 10 habits today — why wait till next year? Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your atten­tion, click on the link to learn more, and make a deci­sion to try some­thing dif­fer­ent today!

Resource: you can learn about the brain, brain fit­ness, these habits, and much more, read­ing the book  The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009; $19.95).

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2 Responses

  1. 10 great tips to live by! I espe­cially like the sug­ges­tion of not out­sourc­ing your brain. Watch­ing count­less peo­ple par­rot­ing the mind­less big­otries and assump­tions fed to them by self-serving media talk­ing heads, enter­tain­ment fig­ures, and ‘Madi­son Avenue’ is dis­turb­ing. Why be a sheep? Stand up and tell the shep­herd to stuff it. Own your own thoughts, emo­tions, and impulses. Great article!

  2. Waqas says:

    This is a really inter­est­ing arti­cle. I have per­son­ally expe­ri­enced the ben­e­fit of think­ing in a pos­i­tive man­ner in every sit­u­a­tion. Things only get as bad as we allow them to be and it boosts your energy to go after big­ger challenges.

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