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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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