Keeping your brain in tip-top condition can give you that head start towards success, particularly during your studies. However, a little focused brain exercise can greatly improve your memory power, allowing you to do better in your studies as well as in other areas of your life. On average, it’s said that we use just 25 per cent of our brain’s capacity. Yet by flexing our mental muscles regularly, we can create new neural pathways in the brain – and our thoughts become a physical reality.
Thoughts and sensory impressions (such as hearing a lecture) briefly pass through sensory memory before they reach your short-term or “working” memory, which is where you hold things briefly in mind. A good example of this is remembering phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Information in your short-term memory is permanently encoded in your long-term memory, where it becomes part of your general store of knowledge, although your ability to recall that information varies. If you’re looking for ways to boost your brain power, read on to discover simple ways to revitalize and reenergize your mind…
Exercise your working memory
Break down long items into smaller pieces. Try to break a complex piece of information into small portions. Your short-term memory can hold between four and seven separate things at once. An example of this is found in telephone numbers: 5551264867 is difficult to remember at a glance, but by breaking it down into several pieces, such as “555-126-4867,” you will be able to remember it long enough to write it down or store it in permanent memory.
Play games that focus on handling information quickly and correctly. There are learning games like Sudoku and Minesweeper designed specifically to help you train your memory. Utilize several different kinds of games in order to exercise and develop various parts of the brain. Search for brain training games online and there will be various websites that will pop up with an extensive range of games. Sign into any website and start playing. These are a fun way to relieve stress and train your memory at the same time. Most of them are formulated in such a manner to train your cognitive skills – memory, attention, speed, mental flexibility, emotional intelligence etc. These games include matching colours, remembering patterns, testing speed, applying logic, and other simple games which are also a lot of fun and a good way to pass time. But, these games shouldn’t be used to put off your studying.
Provide yourself with different forms of stimulation throughout the day. Read a book, even if just a few pages, stimulate your sense of smell, try different foods and spend some time looking at a natural landscape. Take time for regular social interaction with others. Listen to music; although any kind of music can provide auditory stimulation, some studies suggest classical is best. By reacting to all of these stimulations, your brain will stay flexible, which aids working memory.
Keep a handle on your stress levels. Stress is literally toxic to memory; the chemicals your body produces under stress interfere directly with the process of transferring information from short-term to long-term memory. Protect your brain by learning how to minimize the release of these stress chemicals.
Working out your recall
Practice active listening during class. You should listen attentively and write down summaries of the teacher’s concepts, ideas, and facts that are introduced. By taking notes actively, instead of trying to write down everything that was said verbatim, you engage your memory and mind much more deeply.
When you study your notes, introduce various review techniques like reading it aloud. Consider rewriting them by hand if you usually use a laptop to take notes, or vice versa. Rewriting by hand provides you with both repetition and variety helping you to enhance your ability to recall information.
Study regularly and often—but not always for long periods. Studying frequently will help you build long-term memories you can easily recall, as well as give you a positive and regular habit. What builds learning is regular repetition, more than sheer hours studied. Research indicates you’ll get more out of an hour a day over the course of a week than you would from five hours of intensive study.
Brain Exercises for a Smarter You
Here are some simple brain exercises you can do on a daily basis to keep your brain young –
Get creative. Colouring may sound strange but it has been found to have the same effects on the brain as meditation – and if you search online you’ll find a huge selection of colouring books for adults. Or head to kitchen for cooking if that helps you chill and brings out the creative in you. Or challenge yourself to learn a new sport. Any time spent being creative and trying new things can really make a difference to your brain’s overall functioning.
Try Fun with Words. Name, Place, Animal, Things – this would definitely rank high as one of the all-time favourite games. Not only is it an excellent way to increase your knowledge, but sharpen your memory too. Scrabbles is a great exercise as well. Another popular way to remember words is by Mnemonics, a practise where you try to connect a group of words by phrases to remember them better.
Make meaningful use of flash cards. Prepare flash cards on the subject you want to memorize, with the name (word, picture, concept) on one side and the answer on the other. After shuffling them, go through them and quiz yourself. This is a powerful tool when you need to learn factual information, like vocabulary terms, foreign languages, and historical events and dates.
Solve Puzzles. It’s a good exercise for the brain because it helps in refining your hand-eye coordination, and it is a lot of fun too. If you don’t have the time for buying boxes of puzzles, just go online and solve jigsaw puzzles for free.
The Power of Food
Keep your brain fuelled. The brain weighs just a few pounds, but it uses about a quarter of your body’s energy. So eat regularly, and it is beneficial to focus on protein and vegetables; fish, green leafy vegetables, and kidney beans. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, lentils, and brown rice give you sustained energy, as well. You can help your long-term memory with a little caffeine (especially coffee and green tea) or alcohol (particularly red wine).
Stock up on your vitamins and micronutrients
Specific vitamins and nutrients can boost brain power, zinc and iodine can contribute to normal brain cognition, vitamin B6, B12 and folate can help to prevent fatigue, a major cause of procrastination during studies. Omega-3 and one of its essential fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), can help the brain to function correctly – a vital part of learning – making them important nutrients to include in your daily diet.
You can boost brain power with vitamins and micronutrients by eating the following foods:
- Zinc – meat, fish, legumes, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, garlic, nuts and seeds, cereals and dairy
- Iodine – cod, seaweed, turkey, yoghurt, tuna, eggs, strawberries
- Vitamin B6 – pork, chicken, turkey, fish, bread, eggs, vegetables, peanuts, milk and cereals
- Vitamin B12 – meat, fish, dairy and cereals
- Omega-3 – fish, nuts, seeds and egg yolks
There are plenty of nutritional supplements that can help you achieve this. The benefits of adding these vitamins and micronutrients can take several weeks to show.
Happiness is the Key. You can boost your brain to perform better by staying happy. Release happy hormones by working out, trekking, dancing, meditating or anything that makes you the happiest. Refrain from anger as it can fog your mind bringing in feelings of fear, depression, self-pity, envy, grief, hatred, restlessness, anxiety. With fog overhanging over your mind, you can lose the sharpenss of the mind to the extent of not registering even your immediate environment or experiences.
Fit in some exercise a few times a week. Exercising can also help to develop a healthier brain. You can strengthen the connections between brain cells by running, cycling, swimming, or any form of exercise. Your learning and memory skills can improve and you should be able to absorb more information from your lectures and library books. Placio recommends that you exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
Allow yourself to power nap. Make sure you get enough sleep at night, as well as having a 30-minute power nap during the day, gives your body enough time to repair and rejuvenate for another day of learning and studying.
Break out of your daily routine. Studies have found that frequently changing your daily routine, even in the slightest way, can help energize your brain and improve your efficiency and productivity when you study. Take a different route to and from college, try shopping somewhere new, or even challenge yourself by closing your eyes when unlocking the door.
Try something new. New experiences help your brain continue to grow, as well as taking in and storing information more easily. How about starting a new sport, learning a new language or learning to play a musical instrument? Check out an exhibition at a nearby museum or art gallery, try your hand at some volunteering, or if you have enough time, get away for a day/weekend/week to a brand-new place.