Everyone’s looking for ways to get smart quickly. It seems impossible, probably because achieving any goal is often a matter of a large number of baby steps.
But you can boost your brainpower by adding simple habits to your daily routine. When you exercise your mental activity, your brain produces new neurons, sharpening your mind and strengthening your memory. Below are a few habits you can introduce into your daily life in order to boost your brainpower.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
This probably goes without saying, but making sure you’re getting enough sleep is crucial to keeping your mind in top shape. Though the relationship between memory, sleep, and learning isn’t fully researched, most scientists agree that a full night’s rest is one of the best things to do before learning or memorizing things. During the memory process, the brain goes through several functions: acquisition, or when the brain obtains new information; consolidation, or the stabilizing of a memory, and recall, which involves accessing the information after storing it. Research has shown that consolidation often takes place during sleep, when our brains make neural connections that form memories.
Not getting enough sleep is going to leave you sluggish and forgetful, and it will make all these other brainpower habits seem really difficult or impossible. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, lack of proper sleep “affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events.” So be sure to get those seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
Journaling by Hand
Taking the time to disconnect from your digital distractions can help focus your mind, though it may take a while at first. Remember what it felt like to sit and read for three hours without distraction, and feel that deep and satisfying feeling of being entirely absorbed by a book? It’s important to practice this scenario on a daily basis in order to preserve your concentration abilities. One good way to do that is to sit down and journal daily. Not only will it help you focus, but writing has been shown to help clear the mind, almost in a self-therapy sort of way.
In addition, hand-writing itself has been shown to help sharpen our minds. Since hand-writing involves making strokes to create letters, rather than just touching an identical key, it activates certain regions of our brains that are involved in memory and language.
Take Some Cat Naps
If you got your full night’s rest, that’s great; but every so often a cat nap is in order. Taking these “power” naps can help us feel rejuvenated in a short period of time, and boost our energy just enough to carry us through the rest of the evening. One study showed that young people who napped for 90 minutes actually showed improvements in memory, and other research has shown that extremely short naps — ones that last only a few minutes — can also have a positive effect on concentration and learning.
But be careful about the timing of your nap. “The longer you nap, the more likely you are to wake up from deep sleep, leading you to feel confused and groggy,” Dr. Alon Avidan, associate director of the sleep disorders program at UCLA, said. “If you sleep [too late in the day], the tendency would be to get into the first deep sleep of the night from which you would wake groggy and grouchy.”
Drinking Lots of Water
Chug a glass of water, right now. You’ll probably feel instantly more alert. Staying hydrated can help boost our energy, keep our minds alert, and can also curb hunger. One study published in 2006 found that people who consumed more fruit and vegetable juices actually had a decreased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Practicing an Instrument
Music stimulates the brain, and learning how to play a new instrument is one of the most complicated and glorious ways to exercise our mind-body connection and learning, memory, and coordination skills. Studies have of course shown that young children who learn music end up having stronger connections in the motor regions of the brain. Playing music also produces dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter.
Breaking Your Routine
Surprisingly, one of the best things to add to your routine is the habit of breaking it every once in a while. Getting too stuck in a routine can sometimes be limiting and become stagnant, and everyone needs a little variety every so often. It’ll keep you brain on its toes. “In doing so, you’ll stimulate new parts of your brain, encouraging it to make new connections,” Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Magnificent Mind at Any Age, told Men's Health.