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How Exercise Benefits Your Brain

There are a number of posts on this site related to how exercise benefits your brain, each with a different angle.  This article explains how exercise throughout childhood has been proven to shape the way our brains are wired and helps with learning and memory.

How Exercise Benefits Your Brain

Exercise is a real boon – clearing the mind, pumping in more blood and oxygen to the brain and doing much more, latest research suggests.

David Bucci, associate professor of psychology at Darmouth College, and his collaborators have identified a gene which seems to mediate the degree to which exercise benefits the brain and in mental illness too.

Bucci began his pursuit of the link between exercise and memory with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among the commonest childhood psychological disorders, the journal Neuroscience reports.

“The notion of pumping children full of psycho-stimulants at an early age is troublesome,” Bucci cautions. “We frankly don’t know the long-term effects of administering drugs at an early age – drugs that affect the brain – so looking for alternative therapies is clearly important.”

Based on observations of ADHD children in University of Vermont summer camps, athletes or team sports players were found to respond better to behavioural interventions than more sedentary children, according to a Dartmouth statement.

Accordingly, they investigated a mechanism through which exercise seems to improve learning and memory, known as the “brain derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF), also involved in growth of the developing brain.

The degree of BDNF expression in exercising rats correlated positively with improved memory, and exercising as an ­adolescent had longer lasting effects compared to the same duration of exercise, but done as an adult.

“The implication is that exercising during development, as your brain is growing, is changing the brain in concert with normal developmental changes, resulting in your having more permanent wiring of the brain in support of things like learning and memory,” says Bucci.

Read the original article here

When reading this article on how exercise benefits your brain, I thought it was interesting to hear David Bucci’s opinion on the unknown long-term effects drugs, namely those used to treat ADHD.  Surely anything that chemically alters the brain has got to have some kind of side effect?  Our bodies weren’t designed to be chemically altered, surely? As Sir Ken Robinson argues, perhaps children diagnosed with ADHD, simply perform better in different environments, that require for them to move, in one way or other, in order for them to think? In case you missed this short clip:

 

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7 Ways To Focus On Boosting Brain Power

The topic on how to improve your brain is becoming increasingly popular – and necessary.  Here are 7 ways to focus on boosting brain power, which I have excerpted from cbs42.com and are well worth a few minutes of your time to digest. .

7 Ways To Focus On Boosting Brain Power

7 ways to focus on boosting brain powerFirst, focus on focusing! Play word games or Sudoku.

Learn a new language.

Read books and magazines and discuss them with others.

Schulz adds, ‘It turns out that even focusing on a complicated TV show or a movie then talking about it, is a way of improving your attention span as well.”

But don’t over do it. Prevention.com reports every hour of TV people between 40 and 59 watch increases their risk of dementia by 1.3%.

Schulz says doing things to prevent heart attack and stroke like lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol can also significantly reduce your risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“It makes a huge difference in terms of your risk of having worse cognition as you get older.”

According to the Walnut Study published in the British Journal of Nutrition college students who ate two ounces of walnuts daily, which equals about 28 walnut halves, improved reasoning skills.

Carrots, celery and green peppers are rich in Luteolin which can help protect you from dementia, and new research shows these berries’ antioxidants can keep your memory sharp.

Read the full story here

Of these 7 ways to focus on boosting brain power, I particularly appreciated the advice to focus on focusing – quite fitting! Interesting to hear that an hour a day of TV for those between 40 and 59 increases the risk of dementia by 1.3% – another reason not to watch the news and reality TV shows (I’m not sure which is worse for your mind).  Happy to hear that there are Wulnut Studies in the world.  If you’ve read some articles on this site about brain food, you’ll have seen that nuts are regarded as a high quality brain food.

 

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How Sleep Can Lead To Creativity And Problem Solving

Did you know that Paul McCartney came up with the melody of Yesterday while he was in a dream? We all know how important sleep is for our brains to function properly, and indeed for the rest of our vital organs, but were you aware how sleep can lead to creativity and problem solving? According to this study at UCLA and UC San Diego, when we go into a state or REM, ideas and solutions can enter our minds, when we allow ourselves to drift out of focus, into the subconscious.  This is a fascination article from James Kinn for The Hornet.

How Sleep Can Lead To Creativity And Problem Solving

How Sleep Can Lead To Creativity

How Sleep Can Lead To Creativity

In a study conducted by investigators at UCLA and UC San Diego volunteers were asked to solve a puzzle known as the remote-association test (RAT). In a typical RAT question subjects were given three words and were asked to produce a fourth word that links to the three words that were previously given. The volunteers had to take the test twice between a forty-minute interval in which they were told to take a nap. The volunteers that hit REM while they slept improved by 40%, while the others who didn’t sleep watched as their scores dropped.

Deirdre Barrett a psychologist for Harvard University stated that, “In the sleep state, the brain thinks much more visually and intuitively.” The famous Beatle, Paul McCartney announced that he came up with the melody for “Yesterday” in a dream, and Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, is said to have invented the hole in the needle while she dreamt.

While we sleep the prefrontal cortex in our brain, which allows our brain to focus on one particular task, dials itself down as you fall asleep. This allows your thoughts to mix up at random. For example, when we are awake information travels from the left to the right side of our brain allowing the left brain to control and regulate what goes through the right. However, during REM there is no preferred direction, thus the creative right can overcome the literal left.

Click here to view the original source of the article

So before you go to bed, remember how sleep can lead to creativity and problem-solving.  Take a note pad to bed and think about those ideas for which you need inspiration and problems you need solving so you can make note of them as soon as you wake. Or similar to the case of Paul McCartney, possibly a guitar or piano?  I think tonight I shall sleep on my piano.

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Focusing Tips For Adult ADHD Sufferers

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD or you simply struggle to focus, these focusing tips for adult ADHD sufferers are a gainful read.  I have excerpted part of an interview, conducted by Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D for The Huffington Post who is interviewing psychologist, Dr Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA. He specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of children, teens, and adults with ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Focusing Tips For Adult ADHD Sufferers

In your book More Attention, Less Deficit, your chapter on nonmedical treatment includes the phrase “pills don’t teach skills.” Could you explain what that means?

Medication is often an effective treatment for ADHD, but suddenly being better able to focus your attention doesn’t mean that you know how to prioritize your to-do list or organize your desk. The medication can set a good foundation wherein the person can do a better job of learning and applying these good habits. It’s similar to how wearing glasses doesn’t give you better driving skills, but it does enable you to use those skills more effectively.

I really liked the title of one of the subsections in Chapter 8: “I’m Only Getting Treatment to Shut You People Up”. Could you give some suggestions as to how a family member could address the possibility of ADHD with someone they love?

Speak from the perspective of what you see and how you feel that it is making the person’s life harder. Focus on the things that are important to this person (such as, “you lost your brand new cell phone”) rather than what is important to you and that you feel should be important to them (such as, getting better grades in college). It may also help to let your actions speak louder than your words, by not covering up for the person’s ADHD moments. Let them feel the pain more because that is what will give them the incentive to work on it.

What are three tips that an adult with ADHD could implement today?

  1. Get rid of some stuff that you don’t need (which is a lot more than we think). The less stuff you have, the easier it is to find what you need when you need it.
  2. Start setting alarms to remind you of important times or appointments.
  3. Get more sleep. Being tired will only make your ADHD worse.

I think anyone can make use of these focusing tips for adult ADHD sufferers. It’s interesting how medication is not necessarily regarded as the best solution for ADHD.   Medication may provide a temporary solution but never addresses the route cause.  And who wants to take medication for the rest of their lives? Surely that can’t be good for anyone.

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Declutter Your Home To Declutter Your Mind

I thought this article was spot on and decided to rename it to declutter your home to declutter your mind.  I felt the point needed to be accentuated.  It’s written by Evan Zislis for PostIndependent.com and I’ve excerpted my favourite points as usual.

Declutter Your Home To Declutter Your Mind

Brain Focus

Declutter Your Mind And Focus

What we forget is that it is as natural as breathing. The simple act of breathing can alter our mood, our physiology and our ability to regulate cognitive function. We breathe fresh air into our lungs, which provides oxygen rich blood to our brain, which reminds our body to work.

We exhale, and let go of carbon dioxide toxins building up in our lungs. Fresh air goes in, toxic gas goes out. In. Out. We get what we need, and then we let go. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. It feels wonderful, especially when we do it with thoughtful intention.

The same way that holding our breath can become poisonous to our bodies, holding on to the things we no longer need can strangle our ability to regulate healthy lifestyles.

Read the full article here

That last paragraph is rather poignant wouldn’t you agree? It’s imperative in my opinion that you declutter your home to declutter your mind if you haven’t already done so.  Once you have decluttered your mind, you’ll be able to establish focus with far greater ease, make decisions more easily, plan, organise and generally live a much less stressful life.

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Multitasking Is Neither Productive, Nor Conducive To Focus

Substantial evidence shows that multitasking is neither productive, nor conducive to focus.  In fact, you may have read on this site that multitasking can actually be harmful to your brain.  Click here to read a post about its harmful effects.  This excerpt written by Sally Augustin (Phd) for Psychology Today looks into the reasons why people persist to multitask, even though it’s common knowledge that it is only counter productive.

Multitasking is Neither Productive, Nor Conducive To Focus

MultitaskingA slew of studies show that when humans multi-task their performance on the things that they’re doing is not as good as it would be if they did each separately. People use their immense powers of creativity to find ways to use spaces and the stuff in them to do several things at the same time – often with hilarious and sometimes with tragic results. Why do even people who’ve read the multi-tasking research persist in multi-tasking?

Research recently conducted by Prof. Zheng Wang and John Tchernev (both from The Ohio State University), sheds new light on the answer to that question. They learned that multi-tasking feels good. The researchers found “that multitasking often gave . . . an emotional boost, even when it hurt . . . cognitive functions, such as studying. ‘There’s this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive,’ said Zheng Wang . . . ‘But they seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.’” [quotes from a press release from The Ohio State University]

View the original source of the article here

So we know that multitasking is neither productive nor conducive to focus but people continue to indulge as it ‘feels good’.  The emotional satisfaction would appear to be a false sense of satisfaction, or at least misunderstood.  Maybe one way to determine if you’re actually being productive is to take a step back half way through your day, or at the end of the day to see what you’ve actually achieved.   If you’ve just cleared a load of emails from your inbox or dealt with your expenses, then it may be an indicator that your feeling of satisfaction may not be warranted!

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How To Improve Brain Power And Focus

You are probably aware that your brain diminishes through lack of use.  This thought-provoking article on how to improve brain power and focus was written by neuropsychologist, Dr Charlotte Tomaino for AGbeat.com.  She uses the example of how one loses the ability to speak a foreign language when not practiced for some time and how if you persist, and practice, you can actually improve your brain power.

How To Improve Brain Power And Focus

The good news that neuroplasticity brings us is that you can work to improve your brain, and to improve your daily tasks. Most people will not devote time to carving out a routine, but imagine two workers – one who writes four blog articles every day, and one who writes once per week – the first worker will be much faster at finding inspiration, producing content, formatting, and promoting than the person who does so once per week.

Imagine two more workers, one who makes it a point to make five cold calls every day, and the other gets around to five on the last day of every month. The first worker will have a much more polished pitch, be more confident, and have better recognition of buying signs. Again, imagine two professionals, one who does his own filing at the end of every day, and the other who does his filing at the beginning of each quarter. The first will more readily know where each file is and what it contains, while the other will likely struggle to tell you much about the location or contents of each.

Repetition is difficult, it takes devotion to any task, especially the menial, tedious tasks that professionals often see themselves as too important for. But if you can master the simple menial tasks with ease, and forge new pathways in your brain, your fluency in that task will be tenfold someone who is out of practice.

Click here to view the original source of the article

So practice makes perfect! If you’re keen to learn more about how to improve your brain power and focus, I’d recommend subscribing to receive our free weekly newsletter which is sent to your inbox every Thursday morning.  What did you think of this article? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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How Exercise Increases Attention And Focus

Would you like proof of how exercise increases attention and focus? Here, Meg Faris, for Eye Witness News explains all. There are a number of articles about exercise and focusing on this site, but this one is different.  It’s different, because it’s a different study.

Last week we told you about new brain studies showing that exercise actually increases new brain tissue more than thinking or doing brain puzzles and cognitive exercises. Well now exercise is also shown to also increase your attention and help you process information faster. The neuroelectrical brain activity on scans, shows that brain activity after 20 minutes sitting, is low.

The brain scans from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, suggest fewer resources devoted to focus after 20 minutes of rest. But brain scans after 20 minutes of hoofing it, show much more brain activity. Research has found that just 20 minutes of working out can help your mood for the next 12 hours, and it helps your body become less affected by stress.

While you’re exercising, you’re not only helping your brain and mood, but your body as well by burning off fat. Well now a new European study suggests you can burn more fat during the exact same work out. How? Eat something low glycemic for a snack pre-workout. Nuts and apples would fit into that category because they trigger low levels of the hormone insulin. But eat it with a high glycemic or sugary, high fructose food, such as candy, cookies or a soft drink, and you lose the positive fat-burning effect.

Read the full article here

Not only does this show how exercise increases attention and focus, but it also shows that your brain slows down after twenty minutes of rest.  It actually slows down.  No wonder people go into zones where they are completely unproductive when they’re sat in front of a computer for 8 hours a day.

 

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Ways To Focus And Manage Time More Effectively

This is an excellent article aimed at students, but applicable to anyone.  The author outlines some original ways to focus and manage time more effectively, as well as some that you would have already come across.  I’ve excerpted some of my favourite points, but be sure to read the entire article for full effect.

Ways To Focus And Manage Time More Effectively

Time wasted is existence, time used is life.

Giving structure to your day and following a study technique is a great way to be focussed on the task at hand and be efficient. However, we can still find ourselves struggling with our concentration form time to time. There are some techniques we can follow to directly improve our concentration.

Take breaks: It is prudent to divide your study schedule into small chunks of half an hour each especially when you are struggling to concentrate! Take a break after every half an hour of studying and don’t forget to pat yourself on your back for staying focused for this long. However, don’t leave the place, but sit back in your chair, relax, deep breathe and keep your focus. Take longer breaks every hour when you can get up from your seat and stretch your legs.

Worry time: For those of us who tend to worry about things incessantly, set aside a worry time. Whenever your mind slips into worrying remind yourself that you have a special time devoted to worrying and you can worry then!

The ‘five more’ mantra: This is something I came across and I felt it’s a great way to build sustained attention and build frustration tolerance. If you’re in the middle of a task and tempted to give up- just do FIVE MORE. Read FIVE MORE pages. Finish FIVE MORE math problems. Work FIVE MORE minutes”. By implementing this strategy, you are building mental stamina and exercising your brain muscles and endurance just like athletes built their muscles and stamina.

Mind and Body exercises: Keep aside all tasks, select a thought and keep it in your mind for as long as you can. It can be thought like, how to keep fit. Now stay focused on this idea and develop it for as long as you can. Be aware of times when your mind wavers off and then bring it back to the topic.

Click here to view the original source of the article

Do you set aside ‘worry time’? When researching ways to focus and manage time more effectively, it’s rare that you come across tips like taking ‘worry time’ and the ‘five more’ mantra.  This is why I particularly appreciated this article.  Visualisation was another great, original, tip;

Visualisation is an extremely effective technique to prepare the mind to concentrate. Before starting your studies, close your eyes and imagine yourself in a situation when you experienced deep concentration. It could have been playing a sport, a musical instrument or gazing at a bird sitting in a pond. Try to picture this state of total concentration in your mind’s eye and stay with it for about five minutes. Then open your eyes, take a few deep breaths and start studying.

I’ll be setting aside worry time from now on and using visualisation as a new method of focusing.  And I absolutely loved the closing line;

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you have always got.

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How Exercise Can Help You Focus

If you’re a regular on this site, you’ll know that there are a number of articles about the benefits of exercise in general and how exercise can help you focus.  Regular exercise is absolutely key for your body and its vital organs to function properly but there are added benefits too, three of which I have added below.  They are written by Jennifer Cohen for Forbes.com.

How Exercise Can Help You Focus

Increases Energy

The more you move, the more energized you will feel. Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength and boosts your endurance, giving you the energy you need to think clearer and come up with new ideas. A good 15 minutes of moving around, even just around your living room, makes your body produce more energy on a cellular level.

Sharpens Focus

Dr. John Ratey, author of “Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” says that exercise improves your brain in the short term by raising your focus for two to three hours afterwards.  If you have a presentation or speaking engagement try to work out beforehand; you’ll be at your peak when you have to perform. In the long term, it can even help starve off brain aging and Alzheimer’s. This works on the cellular level through neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to improve itself with blood flow and levels of brain-derived protein. He calls it “miracle-gro” for the brain, and it all comes from regular exercise!

Helps Impulse Control

Exercise helps trigger endorphins, which improve the prioritizing functions of the brain. After exercise, your ability to sort out priorities improves, allowing you to block out distractions and better concentrate on the task at hand.

Read the full article here

Of all the articles I’ve read about how exercise can help you focus this is the first time I have come across exercise as being an aid in impulse control.  This is a little gem of advice as I for one, act on impulse a little too frequently and struggle with decision-making.  From this day forth, I shall make decisions only after a decent workout.  Will you do the same? Share your thoughts below!

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