This article will cover ways to improve your brain’s performance, based on science.
Table of Contents
Method #1: Exercise
Exercise has been shown to have many positive effects on the body, but exercise has often been overlooked as a way of improving or maintaining brain function. For one, exercise increases blood flow to the brain. Some studies have suggested that blood flow can even have a relationship with IQ. Exercise increases things like BDNF, which makes it easier for the brain to write a memory into long term memory. There is also much evidence that exercise lowers the effect of stress on the body, which can help the brain process logical thinking better. See these two articles for more.
So what types of exercise work best? Studies have suggested the more complex exercises might better effect the brain. For example, running on a treadmill versus judo or trail running. Aerobic exercise can also improve cognitive function. Additionally, a small gain in improvement from a more basic exercise is more worth while if it is continued over a long period of time, especially compared to a one time intense exercise that never is repeated. Over all, any exercise that gets the blood flowing over a longer period of time, and is repeatable, is likely to be beneficial. Consider intervals if you are looking for something that is challenging and has multiple benefits.
Method #2: Meditation
It is likely that meditation has positive effects on the structure and performance of the brain. It improves activation in areas that involve self regulation, problem solving, working memory, executive function, focus, processing self relevant information, self awareness, possibly even some types of disease. Meditation can also indirectly effect the brain by helping people increase tolerance to stress and reduce anxiety.
What types of meditation work best? Mindfulness meditation is one of the most practiced types. It requires focusing on something in the the present moment, often breath. Some have speculated that the process of returning from non focused thoughts to the focus on your breath is what improve working memory and focus. Many studies have focused successfully on mindfulness. You can also try pure breathing techniques like box breathing, or the double sniff and long exhale breathing technique, which reduces anxiety quickly.
Method #3: Targeted Preparation And Practice
An extremely underrated way to ‘improve’ intelligence is targeted direct practice. Often people become more skilled at a task by repeatedly performing the task. If you want your ability to improve in one area, practice that task over and over again. Allow yourself to fail so your brain can learn. While this might not directly increase something like IQ, it does cause neural adaptations that make the brain more easily perform that task.
For example, if you want to be more verbally witty or skilled, join a weekly debate group online or join an improvisation comedy group. Eventually the task will become less stressful and resource intensive to the brain. This will give the appearance of increased intelligence.
This result often happens when someone has past experience in a subject that carries over to a new domain. For example, someone familiar with advanced mathematics and formal logic will find learning to program easier than someone who had never learned math beyond basic algebra.
Consider also preparing for an important activity by doing research ahead of time and thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of your likely actions.