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Increasing Brain Power

New Thoughts For Old Brains!

by Robert McEntee on November 20, 2015

“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” Robert G. Allen

After discussing how we can override any tendency to think negatively, now we can look at how we can actively stimulate the mind to increase our levels of success. One way is by doing something you don’t ordinarily do. Changing your ordinary routine can improve memory and overall brain function. This can include reading or watching a different type of book or movie than you normally do.

Much of our time is not spent using our wonderful brain’s potential. Why? Because we’ve learned automated patterns, like driving, shaving, brushing our teeth, which free our minds up for more interesting pursuits. However these near unconscious acts do not stimulate the brain’s potential.

To counter all the standard programs we have running, a little disorder in your life can help build new and better patterns. In I suggested switching hands when you brush your teeth, shave or comb your hair, as a way to improve willpower. Doing so is also useful in bringing the mind back to a more conscious state, thus creating new neural connections, even though it may seem strange at first.

Another simple switch is moving your waste basket to a different location. The moment you catch yourself aiming at the old familiar location, notice it and redirect your actions. Your brain becomes aware of the altered situation and mentally begins to program a new set of instructions for the body’s response. Our brains like sameness because it is effortless and easy, but they learn by responding to changes.

Many people only type on a keyboard these days and could benefit from writing free-hand due to the direct connection it has with the mind. This is why many authors and professional advertising copy writers prefer to draft their pieces free-hand. Some studies apparently show that learning to write with your non-dominant hand, while difficult at fist, has mental benefits, just like the aforementioned activities do.

Writing out things like vocabulary words, while also speaking them out loud, seems to enhance learning foreign languages and the like. Getting more senses involved when learning the information helps improve recalling it later, than if you say just typed it. (If you simply must use a device, apps like Plus or Antipaper Notes enable hand-writing on-screen, with apparently the same benefit.)

Learning a foreign language is not only an excellent mind exercise, but it can also make you more objective about a problem by removing emotion. Thinking or speaking about a problem or decision in another language puts it in a different perspective, which can change your feelings about it.

When you encounter “meaning threat”, that unsettling feeling you get when something doesn’t make sense, your brain starts to work harder, says Travis Proulx, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Test-takers did almost twice as well analyzing data and learning patterns after Proulx and his colleague made them read bizarre, nonsensical stories.

Exposing yourself to unusual experiences that surprises or confuses you (what’s referred to as “meaning threat”), may improve your mental performance. I am often surprised to  hear people suggesting a totally incorrect but nevertheless creative method for a magic effect that fooled them. In this sense, magic becomes an exploration of the unknown, which the mind tries to unravel. This is similar to how your mind might try to solve an Alfred Hitchcock mystery and the like.

Meaning threat, varies with individuals but you can experiment with immersive avant-garde theater or surrealist short stories to see what you find stimulating. Visiting a country where you don’t know the language or customs has the same effect. Other research has found that people are 20 percent more likely to solve difficult problems after mentally reliving culture-shock type experiences they previously experienced when traveling abroad.

Aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, immediately stimulates blood circulation, which jumpstarts the brain, making it one of the most direct ways to change brain states. In addition to the mental benefits, exercise also assists in the healing process and tends to mute discomfort.

Many people find athletic competition more mentally stimulating than working out in a gym for example. Likewise, riding a bike on scenic open roads may trigger more creative thoughts than the unchanging scenery on an exercise bike will. In addition to the mental benefits, aerobic or cardio exercise also assists in the healing process and tends to mute bodily discomfort.

Other techniques to increase creativity and mental capacity include working in a slightly noisy environment, chewing gum (which increases blood flow to the brain), exposing oneself to stimulating ideas from art, literature, movies, and of course having as many real life varied experiences as possible!

Positive self-talk has been demonstrably proven to enhance performance, according to a review of 32 self-talk intervention studies from the University of Thessaly in Greece. According to these studies, self talk helps you to pay attention, steadies you emotionally and cues you to act accordingly. The studies pertained largely to sports although they have implications for other areas.  (Source:

The studies indicate that instructional type self-talk is most effective when learning something new such as a fine motor skill, and appears more beneficial than general motivation in enhancing performance. I mentioned my own experiences with this in

We know that we have a conscious and “other than conscious” mind, which I’ll refer to as the subconscious mind. By focusing your conscious mind on what you want, the subconscious mind is programmed to create this success. This has been an underlying theme of much of what I’ve written here. Some great information on this topic can be found in As A Man Thinketh (James Allen)

To take this concept a bit further, before going to sleep for the night, tell your subconscious mind what you want in the most positive language you can use. You may find that your subconscious mind (which is on the job 24/7) actually assists with your goals! Remember to envision and describe what you want, not what you’re avoiding. By doing this, you are actually programming your brain without conscious resistance, since the conscious mind will be sleeping.

No matter your age, you can keep your brain flexible and efficient with some consistent effort. So continue enhancing your brain, as you are doing simply by reading the ideas here!