Seven Secrets to Turbocharge Your brain

By Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D. The brain is the most powerful, most staggeringly complex electro-biochemical machine ever created. Above and behind our eyes are 100 billion neurons in a small calcium shell, laced with organic pumps, channels and switches. Until recently, this complicated organ was thought to be static and unchangeable. Far from it. The latest cognitive neuroscience research reveals key ways to improve brain health in people of all ages and stages. These discoveries are incredibly timely—now, more than ever. I recently had the honor of presenting some of my latest research at a TEDx event. TED is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to spreading big ideas—from science to business to global issues—that deepen our understanding of the world around us.

Look inward to the “final frontier”

In my talk, I encourage people to turn their focus inward. Truly, some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries today have to do with the world within us: our brains. With all due respect to “Star Trek,” outer space is not the only “final frontier.” Understanding and maximizing the potential of the human brain is also an important, and still largely uncharted, frontier of discovery. I’ve developed seven scientifically-validated secrets anyone can implement to improve brain performance. They’re based on my 30+ year career in brain science and work at the Center for BrainHealth, which I founded at the University of Texas/Dallas. You might be surprised at how much of the “7 Secrets” advice is counter to how people live and work. They are secrets because they challenge conventional wisdom and today’s societal pressures. In truth, the frenetic, distracted way we live in the 21st century is not conducive to good brain health or performance. While the descriptions here are tailored to working-age adults, “7-Secret Thinking” is also highly beneficial to others. Teens growing up in poverty, healthy older adults and those experiencing cognitive decline, and those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury are all benefiting by engaging in 7-Secret Thinking. Here’s one thing I know without a doubt: The majority of people have the chance to achieve better brain health. Put your brain health up front and center focus. Without brain health, we do not have health at all.

Secret 1: Start single-tasking

For those who proudly call themselves multi-taskers, understand that your brain is not built to perform two tasks at the same time—instead, it must switch quickly from task to unrelated task. Multi-tasking tires the brain and activates stress hormones. Giving your full attention to the project at hand will increase accuracy, innovation and speed.

Secret 2: Limit information

Thanks to our technology-driven and super-connected world, the sheer volume of information we are exposed to every day is nearly 200 times more than we were exposed to 20 years ago! Research shows this information overload comes at a price. High-performing minds are more efficient at knowing what to block out and what to keenly pay attention to. Limit what you take in to enhance your brain’s natural ability to block out what does not matter.

Secret 3: Detox distractions

On average, individuals work for three minutes at a time before being interrupted. Complicating matters, technology is actually rewiring our brains to be addicted to interruption, as we anxiously wait for the next ping signaling a new email, text or social media post. By silencing your phone and computer and closing your office door, you can actually accelerate your brain’s ability to complete tasks.

Secret 4: Think big

Designed to shift between details and the big picture, the brain is overwhelmed by too much focus on details and minutiae. Taking the time to think about a problem or idea from the 10,000-foot view will shift your perspective and strengthen brain systems to generate high-level ideas and transformative solutions. Our research has shown that doing so strengthens brain systems at multiple levels of health.

Secret 5: Calibrate mental effort

Mental energy, like physical energy, can be depleted. Prioritize your day by focusing effort on the most important tasks while your brain is at peak operating power, usually at the beginning of the day.

Secret 6: Innovate

Stepping outside your routine is important to brain health and performance. Our brains seek novelty and innovation, so challenge yourself to expand your knowledge and learn new skills.

Secret 7: Motivate

While it is important to learn new skills, the brain is happiest when exploring areas you are passionate about. Focusing on what motivates and matters to you actually increases your rate of learning. This article is intended for educational purposes only.
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