How was memory born?
Senior brain researcher, Professor Sandra Bond-Chapman, presented in a TEDx talk seven tips that can “ignite” and enhance brain activity. Although these tips sometimes contradict the conventional belief, they are worth paying attention to as they can improve the quality of life.
Seven tips to optimize brain function:
- Single Tasking
Our brains are built to focus on one task at a time. However, in the modern world, we tend to multitask, thinking that it is necessary and beneficial for us. In reality, when we constantly switch between tasks, it requires effort and energy (e.g., remembering exactly what we did in each task and at what stage we stopped). These sharp transitions take away from other high-level cognitive activities. In fact, multitasking diminishes our mental abilities. In summary, if you work on one task at a time, you will experience an immediate increase in efficiency and mental productivity.
- Inhibit Information
In the world we live in, the amount of accessible information at any given moment is enormous. In fact, the amount of available information today is 200 times more than it was 20 years ago! In the past, the assumption was that the more information we remember, the more knowledgeable and wise we become. In our modern world, which includes an overwhelming surplus of information, wisdom is not just about the ability to absorb information. One of the most important abilities is the skill to distinguish between the essential and the trivial, to know how to focus on what is important. In essence, when you face a task, make sure the goal is clear to you and that it dictates your actions. The better we can focus on our task, pay attention only to relevant information, and ignore excess information, the better our performance will be.
- Detox Distractions
Technology can be fantastic, but the problem starts when we allow it to control us instead of managing and utilizing it. Many of us have become addicted to technology, and let’s admit it – most of us cannot sit without being connected to our mobile phones. Studies have found that nowadays we cannot work for more than 3 minutes without being interrupted by something like a notification or a phone call. Building on what was said in the first tip, our brains are built to perform one task at a time. Therefore, the ability to neutralize external distractions is crucial for maintaining a flow of work and concentration. In conclusion, the fewer temptations and distractions around us, the more we can invest and deepen our thinking.
- Big Idea Thinking
When we learn new information, we often want to integrate it with the existing knowledge we already have. Combining knowledge from different domains allows for the creation of new insights that connect different concepts. This process requires “high-level thinking” – generalization, finding commonalities, and drawing conclusions. Information that has gone through “high-level thinking” is processed more deeply and better remembered. In summary, after reading something new, like an article, we should connect what we learned from the text to our existing knowledge on the subject. This action requires deep and conscious thinking, trying to understand how the information we have connects, and engaging in critical thinking. This working method will make a difference and determine whether we will remember what we read or not.
5. Calibrate Mental Effort
It is important to invest the appropriate amount of thought and energy into each task. We tend to waste a lot of thinking on things that can be decided or done quickly, and not invest enough thought into the truly important matters. In essence, it is advisable to engage in “heavy thinking” on complex issues when our brain is at its best, which for most people is within the first two hours of the day.
Our brains are wired to respond wonderfully to novelty, from a young age to very old age (“wired to be inspired”). Our brains dislike boredom. They quickly learn how to adapt and respond to new situations. In conclusion, if we constantly innovate, change our thinking patterns, perform actions differently, or even engage in conversations in a different way than usual, it will reawaken our brain.
Researchers have already recognized that motivation triumphs over talent. When we are motivated, a specific substance (dopamine) is released in our brains in larger quantities, which enhances the speed of learning. When people feel that they are not fulfilling their potential, often the reason is a lack of motivation. Skeptics may argue that motivation is not something we can control: How can we “activate” motivation? Well, it is easier to generate motivation when we work on something we love and believe in, but motivation can also be aroused when we perform tasks that don’t necessarily excite us. In conclusion, if we brainstorm new ways to approach the task, invest our creative thinking, it will increase the motivation to accomplish it. Motivation is what makes the impossible possible.
According to Professor Chapman, each of us has immense responsibility because each person is the driver and technician of their own brain. Her dream is that every individual will prioritize brain cultivation and thereby help themselves reach their maximum potential at every age and stage. According to her, if we adopt these tips, we will help preserve our brain health in our own hands and be able to function optimally.