To increase mental power, or not to increase mental power, that is the question, to paraphrase the Bard.
Not sure exactly what people are needing when they search for increasing mental power, but I am willing to guess that they need some measurable change in external performance to hang their hat on, something like quicker, faster responses to quickly appearing stimulus in the workplace, or better test scores for school, or work, or if my searchers are Senior Citizens, or Boomers, they need to remember words, or where their glasses are, or why they came into this room.
All of those particular external changes manifest to one degree or another when we take care of our brain and its fitness.
Not too long ago, less than a year ago, I read a book by Norman Doidge,MD called The Brain That Changes Itself, which quite enthusiastically described advances in treatment for conditions that had previously been intractable which were growing out of research into the human brain which was revealing information the brain had kept hidden.
Those hidden brain capacities involved the brains ability to grow new brain cells, called neurogenesis, and the brain's ability to rewire itself within minutes, called neuroplasticity, when we change what we are paying attention to.
We can increase mental power when we pay attention to supplying the brain what it needs to increase neurogenesis or neuroplasticity.
Please check out The Aesthetic Muscle Plan, and book, More Love, Less Fat, by Angie and Scott Tousignant.
In the book that I mentioned above, The Brain That Changes Itself, the author interviews Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. extensively about his research into neuroplasticity. Dr. Merzenich's ideas resonated with me, so I bought his program, the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program when I was 61 and wanting to make sure that I have increasing brain power to deal with the shenanigans of my irrepressible children who are half a century younger than I am.
I like the way I can recall words that I need when I need them after using the Posit Science program.
Most commentators in this field report that there are at least four of five major areas that we need to attend to, and they call those areas the Pillars of Brain Fitness.
The pillars are physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning challenge.
When those requirements are attended to, all the activities that our brain is involved in are enhanced, and we run like a finely tuned engine, to use a mechanical metaphor, which does not mean that we have become omniscient or omnipotent, just that we are clicking along at a good pace in terms of sensory processing.
So to increase mental power, you need to increase your level of physical activity, according to Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. co-authors of Brainfit for Life, an easily readable e-book about brain fitness.
Evans and Burghardt have culled the research looking for the tidbits of useful information hidden away in the research and made them available to us in this easy to read book, which you can purchase for the low price of $17.00 or $3.00 per chapter.
Evans and Burkhardt talk about increasing physical activity as opposed to physical exercise as a way to meet the brains need for increased blood flow.
So it is possible for us to increase mental power without getting all sweaty, buying expensive gym memberships, and hiring a personal trainer? Yes, but you do have to do it daily, and eventually you do want to move into more strenuous physical exercise.
However, that exercise can be done at home, and it might involve the calisthenics you did in grade school, but done in a pattern called HIIT or high intensity interval training, which simply means you do 30 seconds of jumping jacks, 30 seconds of running in place, 30 seconds of burpees, or skipping rope, ect. at your pace, for 10 minutes a couple of times per day.
Angie and Scott Tousignant have put together a program for couples which will definitely meet all the neurogenesis requirements of your brain using only your motivation and perhaps an exercise ball or some dumbbells.
The nutritional component of increasing mental power will mean some sacrifice perhaps, if you have gotten used to eating lots of processed food, because the appetite stimulants and high fructose corn syrup contained in them do not support increased mental power.
Your brain uses 20% of the energy you use daily, and needs good clean fuel to be at its neuroplastic and neurogenetic best, which means it needs vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acid, phytochemical, glyconutrients, ect. from vine ripened, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Yes, fresh food, not packaged.
And it needs that flow of nutrients constantly, even in your sleep, your brain is performing hormonal tasks and evaluating whether or not to keep or cull the days neuroplastic efforts, so you must eat well and sleep long enough for the brain to do its maintenance work.
One of the most important nutrients for your brain is omega 3 fatty acid, which is best supplied by including ocean going fish in your diet. If you do not like fish, or are worried about mercury in the fish, then a supplement can help you meet your need for omega 3 fatty acid, just make sure the supplement has been refined to remove the mercury also.
I always trust XTend Life for my supplements.
The novel learning experiences that increase mental power are usually categorized as like those involving learning a new language, or a new musical instrument, or perhaps a new career.
If you are not in a place where you can undertake those kinds of tasks, then you might want to look at any of a number of computer based brain fitness programs.
The research on their use or involved in their development is very intriguing.
The first of those programs is the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which is based on practicing the dual n back task, and has been shown to increase IQ. In fact, the research says that the more you practice, the more your IQ increases, and a high IQ, when coupled with a high EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, can be an excellent platform for career success.
I recommend this program for increased focus. Great for an ADD kind of attentional style.
The last pillar of brain fitness to cover is the stress management pillar, and the best stress management tool there is is deep breathing like your baby breathes when he or she is laying on its back.
We are born knowing how to use our bodies stress management capabilities, then we get trained into keeping the stress physiology going all the time to increase our income or production.
In the short term, a constant adrenalin and cortisol drip into the blood may make us more productive, but it also short circuits neurogenesis, or the growth of new neurons. Your brain needs those new neurons to increase its brain power.
For my money, then regular relaxation is very important to my overall health, and the healthier I am, then the more my brain power will increase.
If you are looking for a technological aid based on another emerging scientific field, then look hard at the HeartMath link below.
I use the emWave and the FreezeFrame tool with domestic violence clients and Anger Management clients so they get a quick picture of how their thinking impacts there physiology in a stress or relaxation way and how fast that happens.
Your heart has a very complex nervous system and sends a lot of emotional data up, more than the brain sends down, and if I learn to keep my heart rate coherent I actually open up the higher perceptual centers in my brain, for increased brain power.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share your favorite gratitude story by clicking here? Your story may be just what another person needs to renew themselves.
Your story becomes part of this website (which shows the site's most recent pages) and a permanent part of Ask Mike the Counselor2 for others to read!
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