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The Ten Habits of a Sharp Brain

As our final article for 2011, let us repurpose one of SharpBrains’ most popular blog posts since 2006. It may give you a few pointers to sharpen those New Years Resolutions. Let’s summarize some lifestyle guidelines we can all follow to enhance and maintain a sharp brain through life...

  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 Read the rest of this entry »

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 Read the rest of this entry »

Health, Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychology and HR blogs

A quick note to announce that these blog carnivals (collections of selected blog posts on specific topics) are available:

Grand Rounds: spectacular edition of the best health and medicine blog carnival, presented in 100% haiku form!

Encephalon: neuroscience and psychology topics

Human Resources: good roundup of posts for HR professionals

– Update 1: The Education one just appeared. Great for teachers and school staff

– Update 2: Tangled Bank is online too, with great science-related posts

Also, you can check my new article at the Huffington Post on 10 Habits of Highly Effective Brains.

The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains

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

  • 1. Learn more about 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, at any age!
  • 4. Practice positive, action-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to creating something beautiful every new day. Too much stress and anxiety–either induced by external events or by your own thoughts–actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones. physical exercise for brain health
  • 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 migrate 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, and often, with novel 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 ALWAYS, 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. 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’ or all those educational apps have 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…”cells that fire together wire together”…so, start improving one of these 10 habits today. Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your attention, and make a decision to try something different today and tomorrow.

SharpBrainsGuide_3D–> To learn more about what you can do, check out The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age.

Stress Management Workshop for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day 2007.

Global consulting company Accenture organized a series of events, and I was fortunate to lead a fun workshop on The Neuroscience of Stress and Stress Management in their San Francisco office, helping over 125 accomplished women (and a few men) learn what stress is, its implications for our brain functioning, performance and health, and of course some tips and techniques to develop our “stress management” muscles. It was an honor to be able to wrap up a great event that included District Attorney Kamala D. Harris, two of the co-authors of This is Not the Life I Ordered, a video by Senator Dianne Feinstein, and some great Accenture women.

We discussed how stress is the emotional and physiological reaction to a threat, whether real or imagined, that results in a series of adaptations by our bodies. And how stress management can bring a variety of benefits: sustained peak performance, cognitive flexibility, memory, decision making, and even longevity.
You can see a very interesting example of the relationship between attention, memory and stress with this experiment: Attention and working memory

Let me share some key take-aways from the workshop, together with some exercises we used to illustrate key points:

1) Stress can be a major roadblock for peak performance and health
2) Some tips and techniques to better manage stress:
a) Pick your battles Read the rest of this entry »

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