Thursday, December 6, 2007

8 Ways to Think Better

Final exams and term papers are right around the corner and the impending stress of this busy time calls for thinking about how we can improve our brain power. Below are eight tips to help us all keep our brains performing at their best.

  1. Time it right. Figure out your own best “thinking time” and reserve it for your most challenging brain work.
  2. Anchor new memories to established ones. “Think of your existing memory as a scaffold upon which to fit new information,” says University of Michigan cognitive researcher Denise Par, Ph. D. “Don’t isolate new information out in left field. Always relate it to something.”
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Learning and repeatedly practicing new skills appears to change the brain’s internal organization.
  4. Pay attention. Do you sometimes find yourself “forgetting” a person’s name seconds after meeting him/her? The problem isn’t memory; it’s concentration.
  5. End distractions. If you’re bombarded with irrelevant stimuli, it’s hard to focus. When you absolutely must do something (complete a paper, for instance), try leaving your room where you can turn off the phone and concentrate.
  6. Exercise the body to improve the mind. An increasing cadre of researchers now believe aerobic workouts can increase everything from school performance to nerve conduction velocity. Suspected mechanisms: increased oxygen and nutrient supplies to the brain, plus a boost in natural compounds called neurotrophins, which promote brain cell growth.
  7. Take time to dream. Research has shown that your neural net is built during sleeping hours. You will indeed remember more and be better able to “make connections” if you get adequate (8 hours/ night) uninterrupted sleep.
  8. Eat right. There really are good-mood foods and foods that help you construct better neural pathways. Fish, vitamin D (salmon, milk), vitamin B (dried beans, leafy greens, whole grains, and avocados), and chocolate are essential ingredients for maintaining your mood and your mind.
Thank you to Anita M. Long for submitting this piece. (We really appreciate you giving us scientific research to promote eating chocolate). Anita, who works at the Learning Cooperative at UVM is also a CCV Burlington math instructor and former CCV Burlington Academic Advisor.

1 comment:

  1. Some very worthy advice. I watched a special last night on VPT about brain plasticity. The brain is indeed an incredible system.
    Thanks Anita and Adam for sharing this crucial information with the CCV community.
    Richard Maxwell Jr.