Accomplish More With Less Time And Energy
In today’s busy and ever advancing society, higher brain power is one thing that probably most of us desire. We all want to think clearer, understand easier, process and recall information faster, make valuable connections and insights often, and access our creative, innovative capabilities without coming up against the infamous “writer’s block”. I think it’s safe to assume that we all want to be more efficient so that we can create more space in our schedules to explore our interests and cultivate our various passions.
Learning to “study less, study smart” or “work less, work smart” is the key to helping you maximize your progress and growth in whatever endeavor you so chose. Here are some tips for allowing your brain to become a sponge for learning.
State of Mind
The first essential and often overlooked step to prepare for accelerated learning is to get into the right state of mind. Often we just sit down to do our work or studies without considering our state of mind. But as most of us probably intuitively realize, stress, anxiety or worry is not going to help us. In fact, stress actually LOWERS our IQ by impairing brain cell communication and resulting in a breakdown of the hippocampus, the brain’s primary learning and memory center.
So what state of mind is the “right state of mind” and how to get in it?
The best frame of mind to be in to maximize learning is a relaxed but alert alpha state. Achieving this state removes the noise and clutter that interferes with our productivity. In such a state our perception, focus and concentration, memory and learning, and powers of insight increase dramatically.
Here are some ways to get into that work flow:
- Be mindful of your posture – Proper alignment will keep all the energy meridians open and flowing. It will facilitate deep breathing and activate your mental faculties.
- Practice deep breathing – Deep breathing removes toxins, delivers oxygen, and slows down brain waves to a relaxed but alert state optimal for cognitive performance.
- Take note of your facial expressions – You’d be surprised how these can subconsciously and automatically affect your state of mind (try a soft smile). I personally have utilized this simple technique before every speech I gave in my college speech class and it was amazing how quickly it put me in a positive mindset of “I can do this.”
- Visualization techniques & guided meditations – These are great ways to declutter, center and focus your mind and get you in “the zone”.
- Set an intention – Set the intention for what you would like to accomplish (something realistic and reasonable). Energy flows where attention and intention goes. This will help give you a clearer direction so you don’t waste energy and resources that lead to frustration.
- Move– Physical activity has been found to be an effective cognitive strategy as it enhances learning, memory and retrieval while improving learner’s motivation and morale. Physical activity not only boosts oxygen and blood flow to the brain, but greatly amplifies neurogenesis (new neuron growth) and brain plasticity. Additionally, all the “feel-good” chemicals and hormones released during physical activity promote emotional stability and well-being which only further supports a productive and enjoyable work flow. Studies show that certain endorphins such as dopamine actually improve long-term memory.
- Feed your brain – Research is showing that abundance of specific nutrients can affect cognitive processes and emotions and there is exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function. According to neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, the brain thrives on a fat-rich, low carbohydrate diet. Processed foods, excess grains, sugars and bad fats are detrimental to brain health (as well as the rest of the body) but what people also fail to realize is that caloric intake is just as important as nutrition intake. In other words, excess calories can actually reduce synaptic plasticity, increase oxidative free radical generation leading to cellular damage and a shortened lifespan. Moderate caloric restriction actually protects the brain and increases longevity by upregulating certain protective genes.
- Hydrate – This is an easy and important step you can take to increase brain power. Dehydration leads to a shrinkage of brain tissue, negatively impacting planning and visuo-spatial processing, while requiring much more neuronal activity exertion in order to achieve the same level of performance. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect your mood, energy level, cognition, focus and concentration, learning and memory.
- Take power naps – When you’re feeling tired and foggy, instead of relying on caffeinated stimulants, try a power nap. Just a 15-20 minute snooze sesh can reset your system and greatly improve motor skills, cognition, memory, focus, energy levels and creativity. All this without putting further strain on your adrenals or raising your cortisol levels (as caffeine does). In fact, this healthy alternative will help build and replenish your body and mind rather than breaking it down and forcing it to “run on empty fuel.”