Have you’ve ever wondered about the inner workings of your brain and how we as humans process information? You are not alone. Understanding how the mind operates and how we can squeeze infinite amounts of data into something slightly smaller than a soccer ball has long been a goal of scientists across many different fields of study.
We do know that the brain is an incredibly complex organ that when fully engaged can retain enough information to take us to dizzying heights, but also can deteriorate to the point of dragging us into incredible lows.
So how do we find the key to understanding just how our mind works to ensure we get the most out of it? Just like the brain itself, there are a few vital parts to understand before it can reach its full potential.
To get your mind engaged and take advantage of the myriad of ways it can work for you, it needs power. And no, that doesn’t mean parking in front of a television or computer screen for hours on end. Just like any complex piece of machinery, your brain needs fuel and power.
Getting healthy, and staying healthy are two of the best things you can do for your brain. Here are five things that you should do to get your mind turned on and operating at its optimal level.
Get Plenty of Sleep
We will start the thing that most of us claim we want, be never seem able to get enough of (or even attempt to). Sleep. You may think that extra hours at the office or staying up late to crunch a few additional numbers or surf the web is engaging your brain, but it's not. In fact, it may be doing it significant harm.
Sleep and getting plenty of it is vitally important for your brain to perform its best. Not only can this increase your capacity for learning and retaining new information, but you’ll also improve reaction time, judgment, and even your speech.
Drink Plenty of Water
How much water do you think you drink on a daily basis? If you’re like most Americans, it's probably not enough. On average, we drink about four plain cups of water a day. When you consider we should be consuming between nine and 13 cups, it’s little wonder our brains are on autopilot.
Dehydration is a big reason for us feeling sluggish, our brains included. The more hydrated we are, the better thinkers and responders we will be. And don’t forget about fruits, a lot of which are excellent sources of water.
You know it was going to be on here, and for a good reason. Aside from the overwhelming benefits that working out can provide every other part of your body, getting and staying fit and trim works wonders for your brain too.
Want to clear your head of stress? Work out. Want to improve memory function? Work out. Do you want to increase your capability to learn? You guessed it, work out.
A study completed in 2013 even shows that a 15-minute workout can improve your ability to think more clearly. So if you really want to take advantage of how your mind works, yep, work out.
Meditation and Yoga
To improve different aspects of your brain function, you don’t necessarily need to get in touch with your spiritual side, but meditation and yoga can undoubtedly help you process thoughts with far more clarity. Meditation, in particular, is an excellent method to keep your impulses in check while extending your attention span.
With yoga, the benefits are similar to exercise, with the potential to improve your memory, but you can also enhance perceptive abilities as well as motor functions. Not a bad trade trade-off for a few twists and bends (okay maybe a lot of twists and bends).
Be A Consumer of Omega-3
By consumer, we mean eater. Foods that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs and specifically omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to play a crucial role in positive brain function.
Fish like salmon or herring are rich with omega-3 as are nuts like walnuts and peanuts. Consumption can gain you better control over your memory and your brains learning functionality
This may seem a bit vague, but in the context of understanding how your brain works, it's vital to engage in numerous activities or test yourself regularly. These actions provide the perfect stimuli to expand your mind’s knowledge base or increase its overall function.
Find a Hobby
At some point in your life, we’re fairly positive that someone close to you, whether it be a parent, spouse, or a friend, suggested you find yourself a hobby. It turns out they were on to something. Focusing some of your time on things aside from school or work, especially new endeavors the involve concentration or focus can open up your capacity to learn.
Taking on new challenges and always keeping your mind open to learning new things will, as it turns out, keep your mind open.
Find the Right Motivation
Understanding why you are learning something goes a long way to help you learn it better. If a topic or task excites us or grabs more of our focus then something uninteresting, we are more likely to engage that topic and immerse ourselves in it. If we are more involved in the subject matter, then our ability to absorb the material is far more significant.
Focus on the Task at Hand
You may think that multitasking is a sought-after ability, but the truth is far different. Trying to accomplish too much at one time not only increases the time we commit to multiple tasks but also ensures none them get our full focus. Your brain works best when it can dial into a single endeavor and get it done quickly and correctly.
Information Processing Model
With that better understanding of how to get your mind fueled up and moving forward let's discuss how to truly take advantage of the way your brain processes data by exploring the Information Processing Model.
The model can be defined as a method to detail how the brain takes in, stores, and then distributes information, much in the same way a computer operates with its data input. The three main steps of the processing model include:
This is where input from external stimuli is initially stored for two to three seconds before we decide to process it further or reject it. If we discard it, it is forgotten. Should we choose to transfer it, it moves to short-term memory.
Here, the information is kept for a longer time frame, anywhere between five and fifteen seconds as we decide what to do with it. The decision comes down to using the info, discarding it to be forgotten, or committing it to long-term memory.
The final step in the journey is to long-term memory. Akin to the hard drive in a computer, long-term memory is where we keep data we don't currently need. The information here can be housed indefinitely to be called upon and used at a later time. It can include anything from a day or two ago to many years, and if not utilized it can be lost in time.
The result of this process is reflected by our physical or verbal responses, with examples including us answering a question, a movement of some kind like a wink or attempted handshake, or through a display of emotion like a facial expression.
Understand How You Understand
The final piece to the puzzle in fully understanding how your mind works is knowing how the information you process and absorb is best received.
We all receive or intercept the stimuli from our environments in vastly different ways. Some are visual learners with others more apt to absorb information through auditory measures. Two other types of learning include a read and write method or a more physical, hands-on approach to understanding and processing data.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each learning style:
Like to see what the presentation of information is or use visualization techniques to understand the relationships between different concepts.
Good listeners, prefer to hear information as opposed to reading or seeing it. Reciting information and verbally asking questions or providing feedback help to understand the presented information.
Reading and Writing
Responds best when viewing text instead of hearing a presentation or looking at images. Often retain data best when they can write the information down.
Physical or Kinesthetic
The most hands-on style wants to be involved in the process and not just shown or told the particulars, but be made part of the experience, such as role-playing or demonstrations.
Now you may be one dominant style or a mix of two or three. The critical aspect is that you figure out what works best to ensure you are capturing what you can and allowing your mind to absorb and process it. Test yourself with the varying methods to see which one you respond most favorably.
A healthy and engaged mind is one that can learn, process, and recall information quickly and accurately and has the capacity for more data and activity. An idle mind is one that is just that, idle. Make sure yours isn’t sitting on the sidelines losing the knowledge it has and doing nothing to gain more.