How to trick your brain to become smarter?
What makes your class valedictorian smarter? What do you think the reason why you struggle with remembering your lessons during the exam? Do you think that some people are smarter than you?
The same questions puzzled Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of Brain Health at the University of Texas -Dallas. She wanted to know whether or not higher cognitive functioning can be improved and how to do it. Her study found that through proper training (Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training, SMART) mental focus, memory and other cognitive functioning can be improved.
But what impairs your brain functioning? It turns out that there are three things that can make you inefficient: multitasking, information overload, and interruptions. “It’s paradoxical that some of the things we think are good for our brain, the brain science is showing is almost like tobacco for the brain,” Chapman added.
So how can you improve your brain’s functioning? You can do that by tricking your brain to become efficient. How? Fortunately, Chapman assured that there are free ways to improve your brain function.
1. Trick your brain to stop multitasking
In everyday life chores, we tend to shift our attention from task to another. While working, you often simultaneously do things like answering the phone while writing important instructions from your boss. Students tend to read books while listening to music or watching their favorite TV shows.
But multitasking does not produce an effective learning and good outcome, Chapman says. You can only productive when you stop doing several things at one time. Thus, instead of multitasking, focus on one task at a time.
2. Trick your brain to “distill and summarize”
To learn and remember fast, you need to pay attention to information differently. The most effective way is to listen like reporters do while covering important incidents, Chapman suggests. If you want to understand and remember information deeply, the most important thing you need to get is the theme of the message. “If we can move it through taking information, abstracting very quickly, and applying it, we get brain change very dramatically,” Chapman added.
3. Trick your brain to take a break
Information overload diminishes your brain function. “The more information we download or take in, the shallower our thinking is, and the more fragmented our brain systems are.”
So how can we avoid information overloading? Simple, just take a 5-minute break. Put down your pen, a book that you are reading, or your gadget(s). That’s all you need according to Chapman. Even going to a bathroom can be helpful in refreshing your brain. “The brain breaks is one of the ways to keep your brain’s mental energy on high charge,” she added.
4. Trick your brain to slow down
Trying to learn so many things in a short period of time is a waste of time. Why? Because our brain can’t process rapid information. This is the reason why cramming in studying a night before the exam is not effective. Instead of studying all your notes simultaneously, try to focus on one piece, one chapter at a time. Just choose a concept and focus on it, and you’ll be a better learner, Chapman suggests.
“… it’s counterintuitive because we think that if I could just take in 20 things and quickly absorb them, I would be smarter, and the science has shown that the smarter leaders are those who know from the get-go to literally block out some information,” she added.
We are long believers of multitasking – that it is a wise strategy to save time and produce more. But the brain science speaks the opposite. In fact, multitasking and skimming are both contributing factors to ineffectiveness. Instead, according to Chapman, the key to becoming productive is a deeper, not faster level of brain functioning. We achieve that by focusing our attention on one thing at a time – avoiding multitasking.
As Chapman notes, “We keep loading ourselves down so we’re mentally exhausted all the time. Our battery is too worn down to really engage in deeper-level thinking and be more efficient.” We can improve our brain function and become smarter by slowing down and not letting the technology and other factors interrupt us.
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I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.