How to Make Yourself Smarter

Most people intuitively sense that building more brainpower can help protect our brains from the consequences of serious injuries such as stroke and head trauma. Scientific studies have shown that it is, in fact, true that a well-conditioned brain can better withstand the damage of brain injury and that building up our brainpower even provides inherent protection against stroke in the first place.

While preventative brain camps and brain fitness centers don't actually exist at this time (it would be nice, wouldn’t it?), you have a number of opportunities to create your own brain fitness experience to help protect yourself against the devastating consequences of stroke. 

1. Play Video Games

While video games have been shown to worsen ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) if used excessively, they can be used mindfully to build cognitive skills and attention. The key is to avoid overly repetitive games that build the same skill over and over again, but instead, to continue to challenge yourself by utilizing a broader range of your skills-especially skills that are not automatic or intuitive for you. Also, it is important to limit video game playing time to no more than half an hour per day a few times per week.

2. Read

Read something that is interesting and relevant to you, but that you don't already know much about - like the investments in your retirement plan or the materials that your flooring is composed of.

It is always good to enrich yourself by learning about a wide range of subjects to help build the connections between different parts of your brain. Or consider reading a fiction novel- some novels delve deep into the characters emotions and provide us with insight into our own feelings and behavior and help us understand other people in our lives.

3. Be Quiet

Spend one day per week without music or radio on your commute to work. Or spend 15 minutes without any input- no reading, no media, no music and absolutely nothing to do. See how unusual and refreshing 15 minutes of quiet can be once or twice per week.

4. Reminisce

Recall a pleasant or emotionally neutral episode from the past- your middle school talent show, your athletic practices in high school, a college elective that you took that you didn't stress about. Enjoy the memory of an event that you haven't given a second thought to. Try to remember details. Your memory is better than you think, and most of us have a range of life experiences, yet only remember (or ruminate on) a few. Sometimes, small lessons learned from these remote memories can be useful or just plain pleasant later in life.

5. Spring Clean

Make a pile of items that you don’t use but can’t seem to get rid of. Keep them somewhere out of regular sight so they won't add to your clutter- the basement, garage or attic.

Don't give them away straightaway so you won't regret it. As you clear the clutter, your mind can process why you haven’t been able to let go of these items. By keeping them in storage, you don't have to truly commit to letting go, but you can enjoy a sense of tranquility and orderliness.

6. Deal With a Difficult Task.

Putting off paperwork for refinancing? Putting off applying for a promotion? Putting off mending fences literally or figuratively? Break your challenging task down into many small steps- at least 15 steps. Each step will feel more manageable than the whole job and will help your mind think critically about the tasks in your life that are the most challenging.

7. Get a brain camp buddy or group and help encourage each other.

Consider creating a point system to help keep track of your progress. Just as people help each other with physical fitness, friends or coworkers or neighbors can help each other with brain fitness.

Final Thoughts

Science shows that using your brain helps protect it. A stroke is sudden and can be devastating. Pay attention to keeping your brain healthy so that you can use it to its maximum capacity for years to come.

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