How to optimize your BRAIN for everyday success

Success is directly related to how we think, how we act and how we perform. Today we will talk about 6 strategies to enhance your cognitive function.

The 6 research backed strategies are:

1. POD Intake – Protein, Omega & Vitamin D
Facts

  1. All cell activity is supported by enzymes which are made up of proteins.
  2. Brain cells can multiply by increasing protein and healthy saturated fats
  3. Hormones are proteins and therefore hormone balance is dependent upon proper protein balance.
  4. Proteins help reduce: fatigue, blood pressure, triglycerides, the risk of ischemic heart disease, the local deficiency of blood supply produced by vasoconstriction or local obstacles to the arterial flow.
  5. Vitamin D has shown to enhance mood and focus
  6. Omega 3 with hight EPA and DHA content has show improvements in patients diagnosed with ADHD.

How to:

Ideal protein intake will be more if your are an athlete or bodybuilder. But for an average person it can be obtained by dividing your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2. Then multiply that number by 0.8.

2. Reading

The research conducted at Emory University on “ short and long term effects of a novel on connectivity in the brain”

According to the research

MRI scans of the subjects were conducted for 19 days. The first 5 day scans were the baseline, next 9 days were the scans of participants after they had read 1/9th of the novel and last 5 day scans of the brain  were after finishing the novel.

The conclusion of the study was that the effect of reading was significant during the 9 day reading scans, which strengthened the language processing regions but also affected the individual through embodied semantics (Embodied Semantics – are the hubs where the meaning of the word is tied with the sensory motor processing unit associated with the word meaning).

In simple terms, you build more neural pathways that in turn makes your brain more efficient at tasks like critical thinking, verbal fluency and memory.

How to:

Now to put this into a practice, you can either buy a kindle, or borrow a book from a library or subscribe to an online magazine subscription service.

3. Meditate

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), that’s the brain network responsible for mind-wandering Since mind-wandering is associated with being less happy, because it tends to worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Mindfulness involves being aware moment-to-moment.

There is ample evidence for its beneficial effects for a number of cognitive domains, including attention, executive function,conflict monitoring and creativity.

How to:

You can start mediating initially 5 minutes daily. Download Beethoven, Mozart or any other classical music either from Google or Apple music or an Ambient music from Digitally Imported app, brain.fm for free. You can check out the detailed blog on mediation process and equipment required for Mindfulness meditation.

4. Video Games

Research conducted at University of Rochester by Przy bylsky, Rigby and Ryan in 2010 reveals that playing video games provide psychological benefits like autonomy (the belief that one has control over his or her own actions and decisions), competence (the belief that one has the level of skill necessary to achieve goals), and relatedness (the feeling that one is socially connected with other human beings) among the subjects.

In the cognitive domain, video games have become an effective means of fighting off the cognitive decline seen with normal aging and potentially even of reducing the probability of Alzheimer’s.

Also action video game can improve abilities such as information processing and sustained attention. Furthermore, a group of sixty- to eighty-five year-olds improved on measures of multitasking and cognitive control, benefits that persisted for at least six months following training (Anguera et al. 2013).

One study conducted by Torres in 2011 found that in addition to the cognitive improvements following video game training, elderly participants also had a better self-concept and enhanced quality of life.

How to:

Go ahead and start playing action games like gears of war and call of duty. Or fast paced racing ones like need for speed or asphalt series  on your smartphones.

5. Exercising Regularly

According to the ongoing research at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart rate pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

Another study conducted by team in Ireland concluded that individuals who exercised were better at recalling information, than ones who did not. They found in their study that individuals who had exercised showed significantly higher levels of of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF for short, in their bloodstream. BDNF is known to promote the health of nerve cells. The cells in our brain absorb this protein which leads to increased memory and focus.

How to:

Initially start aerobic exercises such as plyometrics, HIIT, or the 7-min scientific workout. Or go running for 20 mins. Anything that gets your heart pumping and you sweating.

6. Learning a New Language

The Penn State team decided to observe the brain activity of native English-speakers as they went through the process of learning Mandarin – vocabulary. They gathered 39 volunteers of varying ages and scanned their brains over a six-week period as half of them took part in language lessons and the other half acted as control subjects. The participants were put through two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, one before the experiment began and then another one after six weeks, and the team observed the physical changes that had occurred.

“Second language experience-induced brain changes, including increased grey matter (GM) density and white matter (WM) integrity, this can be found in children, young adults, and the elderly.This can occur rapidly with short-term language learning or training;

Research shows that learning a language can change the structure of our brain. Its one of the best brain hacks for long term brain health and for everyday quality of life.

How to:

Learning a second language is now simpler than ever and it can be done by simply downloading an app like duolingo on your smartphone. Its available for both ios and android devices.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240026/

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/brain.2013.0166

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#420b645a7023

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/330/6006/932.abstract

http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_PrzybylskiRigbyRyan_ROGP.pdf

http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/7-1-article-video-games.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21722657

http://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-how-learning-a-new-language-changes-your-brain-at-any-age

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