Brain Training

Have you ever found yourself wishing you were a little bit quicker upstairs?
A little bit more “mentally sharp”, that is? Regardless of how brilliant you are, or how much you think you know, you can always afford to expand and improve your mind.
Boosting brain power can be fun and easy, not just more and studying. We found some tricks, techniques, and overall good habits to learn, as well as some suggestions for changing lifestyle, diet and behaviors that can get a person maximum output from their grey matter.
Food for Thought
Your brain is the hungriest, greediest organ in your body, with some incredibly specific dietary requirements. So it should hardly be a surprise to find that what you eat will affect how you think.
Of course, feeding your brain isn't as simple as feeding your face. But if eating your way to genius status is even remotely possible, it's worth a try, right?
First, breakfast is a must. Skipping the first meal after a night of sleep is going to seriously reduce your performance at school or work. Fizzy drinks and sugary snacks aren't going to cut it, you've got to go high-protein and high-fiber if you want improved cognition, memory and attention span. Try some beans, nuts, or seeds, with a side of wheat toast, and some fruit juice to get that extra oomph! In your day.
The brain is best fueled by a steady supply of glucose, so don't stop with breakfast.
Pack your lunch with smart, energizing foods like fish, eggs, mixed green salads, and yogurt to improve alertness and memory. Remember to keep your glucose levels up through the mid-day, but avoid those trans-fatty junk foods... your teeth won't be the only place they make holes!
Sleep
NEVER underestimate the power of a decent night's rest. Skimping on the Z's can wreak havoc on your brain. Forget about planning, problem-solving, learning, concentrating, and being alert.
In fact, researchers say that being away for 21 hours straight puts your functionality on the same level as someone who is legally drunk. Two or three late nights with an early morning bell can bring the same results. Ouch.
Luckily, the reverse is also true. If you sleep an extra hour or two when you are facing a challenging day, you're likely to preform much better than normal, due to increased attention span. Attention is the keystone to a healthy mental state, and if you boost that, you will boost everything that's built upon it as well...
Sleep is the brain's time to power up, when it processes everything your waking mind was exposed to, and turns it all into the skills and knowledge you carry with you.
Studies also show that sleep can help produce creative, and problem-solving insights. You're more likely to have that “AH-HAH!” moment when you stop beating your brains and take a nap!
Mnemonics
Feeling like your mind is a sieve? Forget about it! The difference between memory masters and mere puny mortals is more about method than mental capacity.
All you need is a little technique and dedication, and you'll be sprouting off state capitals and setting records for reciting pi to the 50,000 decimal points in no time at all.
“Mnemonics” refers to the procedure of associating facts or items to be remembered with familiar information your brain already stores. It's a memory strategy, and proven to be a much more efficient than straight memorization.
There are several common approaches. Some people will place items to be remembered along a visualized route, and others will assign each item an identity, like a person or object. Actors tend to attach an emotional meaning to the lines they study, and some seem to also link words with movements they are performing.
Strategy is definitely the key to memory, and it'll help in everyday life, too. Putting your keys in the same place every day, and writing things down to get them off your mind will do wonders for your ability to retain information.
Physical Exercise
Did you know that a relaxing 30 minute walk three times a week can improve certain mental abilities such as learning, concentration, and abstract reasoning by a noticeable 15%?
The effects are most profound in older folks, but it's also been proven that 10 year old schoolchildren who exercise 3 or 4 times a week score higher than average exam grades. The benefits are there to be had by anyone of any age!
The most likely reason for this type of boost in mental power is that aerobic exercise gets extra oxygen to your brain. Plus, physical exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells, something once thought to be impossible by any means.
In studies with mice, the constructive effects of exercise are most found in the hippocampus, the area of the brain related to learning and memory. This part of the brain also happens to sustain the most damage from stress hormones. So next time you're feeling foggy and stressed, get out of your chair and do some jumping jacks!