Strategies to increase brain power are the strategies that make it possible for the brain to do more of what it already does.
Whether we want a higher IQ, some kind of acclaim in our career, fame and fortune, better investment insights, we need to make it possible for the neurons in our brain to connect more frequently and effectively with neighboring neurons, and for signals or communications between neurons to be passed and read clearly.
That is all neurons do folks, is connect and communicate.
Everything that happens in our lives, each thought, movement, emotion is the result of neurons connecting and talking.
So strategies to increase brain power are going to be the same strategies I use to take care of my brain's fitness, that connecting and communicating power.
If you look around you these days, there is a great deal of information being tossed around about two capacities of the human brain which were unknown not too many years ago, neurogenesis, or your brains ability to generate new neurons daily, and neuroplasticity, your brains ability to rewire itself based on what you are paying attention to. Neuroplasticity can happen in moments, as the brain is incredibly adaptable.
Most of what I can do to increase brain power involves life style choices in several areas, physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, including using computerized brain fitness programs.
As I maximize my efforts in these areas, my brain then responds quicker with greater clarity of thought and insight.
Not omniscience or omnipotence though.
All the research that I read says the most important strategy to increase brain power is physical exercise, which might bring to mind having to hoist heavy barbells off the ground, at the local gym, in the company of muscular men and women who will look askance at my puny efforts.
Please get rid of that image. The physical exercise that is required by the brain can be simply an increase in physical activity, or doing more of what your are already doing, according to Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., co-authors of Brainfit for Life which is a very interesting compilation of current research brain fitness tips.
Evans and Burghardt say do more of what you already do to begin, walk a bit more, for example, and work up to an exercise regime if you want to.
Increased blood flow appears to be what your brain requires to increase neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
In fact, you can engage in exercise at home, in your basement, which can be just excellent for your brains fitness.
One model that I use is the model put together by Angie and Scott Tousignant who teach a model for couples to use which involves HIIT or high intensity interval training, which I hope doesn't scare you, because it is very adoptable to your level of fitness and the level of intensity that you want to use, or can use, and you can build intensity at your rate, all the while increasing your brain power.
Please check out The Aesthetic Muscle Plan, and book, More Love, Less Fat, by Angie and Scott Tousignant.
Your brain weighs in a 2% of your body weight but uses 20% of your bodies fuel, and it requires a flow of high octane fuel, as it cannot store its own.
That fuel requirement must be filled with what your brain needs, and you will not find that in processed foods. To increase brain power through nutrition means to increase antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, glyconutrients, fiber, ect. by eating fruits and vegetables that are vine ripened and locally grown, each and every day.
That may be a shock to your system at first, because it may want to continue its ingestion of high fructose corn syrup and msg which are in so many processed foods, but if you want to increase your brain power, you will give those up.
One of the key ingredients for increased brain power is omega 3 fatty acid, because neurons are composed mostly of omega 3 fatty acid. Without replacement omega 3, neurons get brittle, and do not receive or pass communications as effectively, which garbles communication and brain power.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential which means our body must get them from your diet, as it cannot manufacture them.
The best source is fish, but the risk with fish is mercury poisoning. You may consider a supplement for your omega 3, and make sure that the supplement is processed to remove mercury.
Another pillar of brain power is novel learning experiences. My brain is actually seeking now learning. Most of the experts in this field report that the learning which best challenges the brain is learning a new language, a new musical instrument, or starting a new career.
And there is some very interesting brain power developments resulting from the use of computerized brain fitness programs, like the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, the Lumosity Program, and the folks who created Happy Neurons. Love that name.
The Posit Science program has just been evaluated in a research project called the IMPACT study, published in April of 2009.
I first came across the Posit Science company and mention of Michael Merzenich, Ph.D. in a book called The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge,MD, and was instantly intrigued by Professor Merzenich's ideas.
So I bought the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program and I am very satisfied with its ability to help my 61 year old brain recall words, and I think it is part of what I will continue to do for my brain as I age, along with the workouts, proper nutrition, good sleep, stress management, and computerized brain fitness.
I am not going to learn a new language, or an instrument. I may recareer, but for my time, computerized brain fitness programs will be the way to keeping neuroplasticity and neurogenesis going.
The programs I have listed here offer increasing levels of challenge which is a vital part of the feedback our brains need.
The Mind Sparke program is an excellent tool for increased IQ. It has been measured in research published a really long time ago, in 2008.
And the Lumosity program is very easy to use, available on demand, right at your computer, to use when you need a brain brightening break.
I use it between clients and phone calls as a way to refresh the acetylcholine levels in my brain, like a nap helps me consolidate memories.
According to Evans and Burghardt, the events that happen to us during our sleep are vitally important to brain power.
If we cut short our sleep time, which is unique to each person, we limit our brains ability to cycle through certain hormonal events and memory consolidation efforts.
Making a habit of not allowing the brain to complete those tasks means diminshed rather than increased brain power.
I know quick naps during the day are very refreshing for me also.
So another of they keys to increased brain power is relaxation? Sounds counter intuitive doesn't it, when all around us we are seeing people create and sustain stress chemistry in their body to increase income and production.
However, stress hormones actually stop neurogenesis just as effectively as ethyl alcohol does, so it is very important that we manage the stress chemistry we have and only use it when we are actually under attack, when we need to move effectively in order to save our lives.
If I am surprised by a gas bill that is higher than expected, then I need to begin to relax as quickly as I can, and for guys, it can take 20 minutes to actually clear the stress hormones from my brain and the rest of my body.
Deep breathing is a very effective tool, belly breathing like a baby does before we train them out of it, is a cheap and powerful antidote.
In fact, regular deep breathing and focus on relaxation helps me keep my body filled up the DHEA, the antiaging hormone, which is a good thing for a 61 year old late life parent.
A wonderful tool to aid me in this process, with lots of research to back it up is the emWave from the HeartMath folks. I first read of HeartMath when I was doing EEG biofeedback, and I was very intrigued by the concept of establishing a coherent heart rate and how that might impact my excitable physiology.
I tried it, found it easy to learn, and then re-create on demand, and brought it into my practice where I teach it to domestic violence and anger management clients.
In spite of all the breathing techniques I have learned over the years, I have been more effective with the HeartMath tools in my own body than I have with the breathing. In other words, once I learn the HeartMath skill, the cue thought I incorporate with my practice will change my physiology in a relaxation direction in a heart beat. It is actually works faster for me than the deep breathing, and relaxation is a key piece of opening up higher perceptual centers in my brain, for increased brain power.
I remember reading about research done with the Navy's Top Gun pilots that indicated the most effective pilots going through that training were the pilots who were able to change their brain waves from beta brain waves, or focused external awareness to alpha waves, or relaxed external awareness and back again frequently. In other words they did brief periods of brain work and then relaxed briefly also. HearthMath is a wonderful tool to facilitate that kind of brain activity.
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