Have you ever wondered how to make sure you stay sharp? There are some things you can do to ensure it!
Time can be a bitter foe. When you try and be all you can for your friends, family and colleagues there seems to be little left in the day. This is without mentioning trying to do something for yourself. I really struggle to find the time to pick up my guitar, exercise, or even blog and it irks me.
Funnily though, I’m learning when you prioritise things in the right order, you can create a self-perpetuating wave of momentum that allows you to take back more of your day.
It all starts with getting mentally fit. While the brain is not a muscle, science tells us you can train it in a similar way to perform better. It’s something I can attest to personally. As with muscles, the brain when tested actually builds on its ability. Exercise for a muscle does a similar thing to a brain being exposed to new things. It is forced to stretch. The more it’s stretched, the more flexible it becomes so it can do things you wouldn’t have previously thought it could. It’s not a matter of becoming smarter. It’s about being more effective and is known as brain plasticity. It refers to the fact that the brain is adaptive — it self-organises and if exercised appropriately it can change for the better.
For me there are a few things you need to sort out to ready yourself for brain training. First – remove fear. It causes unnecessary roadblocks. To tap into your potential, you need to get rid of it.
Second, let go of the mistaken belief you are supposed to have all the answers. Getting mentally fit means exposing yourself to situations you don’t know the answers to. It’s about leaving your comfort zone.
Finally embrace risk. Failure should be defined as the process by which you find the best path. If you don’t believe me, perhaps the words of the famous inventor Thomas Edison will resonate. He said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Now you’re ready for brain training, it comes down to four key things:
Exercise: An adult’s brain uses 20 per cent of the body’s oxygen to function effectively and around the same proportion again of the body’s blood to keep up with the metabolic demands of its neurons. With this in mind 30 minutes exercise a day works to benefit much more than your waist line!
Music: There is some conjecture about this, but from my own experience I’m a believer in research that suggests playing or even listening to music helps your cognitive capability. Harvard neurologist Gottfried Schlaug found musician’s brains have more gray matter than those who have no musical training. In other academic papers there is evidence to suggest an increase in white matter due to the array of brain regions and cognitive functions that have to work together at the same time when playing music. Further still listening to music can also improve response time and memory – but it does depend on your personality type. Not all kinds of music benefit all people, so it’s worth exploring what genre best unlocks your mind. To read more about it, click here.
Food: We all know of superfoods. They seem like fads to some of us, but it stands to reason what you eat affects how you think. There is an interesting realisation too, based on different countries eating habits around the world, that better brain performance and even healing is very much connected to diet. Take India as an example which has a reduced prevalence of neurological disorders. Here there is an intriguing association with diet and its impact on Alzheimer’s disease. I think that is amazing! If you do too, check The Whole Life out. It has a number of fascinating articles that support this. I’m also proud to say, it’s written by my very talented girlfriend.
Experiences: The last but possibly most important thing to keep mentally fit is to be social. More than that you should have a dynamic social life with a spectrum of different people. An environment like this is known to unleash the brain’s potential because you embrace new experiences. It’s a simple, but powerful insight.
The brain is indeed an engine. If you want it to run right, be curious. And… get your priorities in order. Sometimes picking up “your guitar” is the best thing you can do for your friends, family and colleagues. It’s time to give yourself permission to think big!
– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter