Over the past two decades, research has clearly established that the brain—the most complex entity in the known universe—has a lifelong ability to change, adapt, get stronger, and perform more efficiently. Our daily practices need to lean into this mental advantage.
At the Center for BrainHealth, we have made great strides in clinical trials investigating how far healthy individuals can increase and extend their brainpower by changing the way they deploy their brains to accomplish daily tasks. We are now translating these findings beyond the lab, into applications that people can learn to adopt. In short, we train people to take charge of their brainpower and become their brain’s CEO—the conductor overseeing all the moving parts.
The following are five science-based techniques to strengthen your brain health.
1. Put Your Brain in The Game By identifying two “expansive thinking” priorities to address each day when you are at your freshest. Give yourself no more than 45 minutes to complete a discrete aspect of your deep-thinking tasks. Eliminate the potential for distractions so you can focus on problem-solving and making decisions.
2. Take “Brain Breaks.” Don’t just race from one hot project or meeting to the next; give your brain a break by taking a couple of minutes to intentionally disconnect from effort and inputs. The trick is to disengage your reasoning brain just long enough to recharge it.
3. Practice Your Innovative Thinking. Make it a habit to consider multiple options, appreciate other perspectives, and challenge status-quo thinking to discover new approaches and solutions. This flexibility of thinking can improve your neural efficiency.
4. Stop Multitasking. When presented with competing tasks that require thought, the brain rapidly switches between them; it does not simultaneously execute them. This toxic habit leads to shallow and less-focused thinking, depleted creativity, and increased risk of errors.
5. Reboot Your Reasoning Brain By overriding your stress response. Learn to identify the markers: tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, shallow breaths. A quick and effective way to combat this response is to take five deep, slow “belly” breaths and simply let yourself be in the moment.
By Sandra Bond Chapman, who is the founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, a research and translational science institute of The University of Texas at Dallas.