Thinking fast and slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow published in 2011 by a Nobel Prize laureatein economic science Daniel Kahneman tells us that our mind is driven by two modes of thought. The first system is fast, unconscious, robotic. It helps us to decide automatically considering emotions and stereotypes. System 1 usually fails as its conclusions are too rushed.
System 2 is our slow, analytical and conscious mode. It requires much more time and energy but dedicates them to analysis and statistics. When we have to park a car in a narrow space it gets in the game. In Kahneman’s scheme, if we make System 2 swing into action more often, our decisions will become well-planned and reasonable.
Brain solves the problems while we sleep
While asleep, the brain is capable of doing things it can't do when it's awake. According to a study made by Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a night of sleep changes the form of memories so you can perform tasks faster and more accurately. People that took the test improved their analytical and cognitive skills after they had slept at least 6 hours between the training and testing.
So stop sitting up very late, going through all the facts before a test or a presentation. Collect all figures and data you need, read them twice and go to bed. Your brain will sort it all out so you can reconstruct them later on with ease.
Prioritizing is one of the most energy-consuming brain processes. A leadership coach, David Rock, in his book ‘Your Brain at Work’ says that conscious thinking involves billions of neurons in the brain and prioritizing often takes up the most effort. It means that before you start to answer emails please map out your daily activity.
The brain takes roughly 20 percent of our daily calories although it accounts for 2 percent of our body weight. Glucose is a primary source of energy for every cell in the brain. Leigh Gibson of Roehampton University in England says that the brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream (about the amount found in a banana). It means that high blood sugar doesn’t lead you to the top scores. Moreover, coupled with a cognitive task, it is associated with elevated cortisol — a hormone known to impair memory in high doses, Gibson says.
Insulin resistance can also be reduced by exercises that help improve the memory. According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, regular aerobic exercise (when your heart is pumping) appear to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
Perform Brain-Calming Practices
Short but regular daily mental practices influence changes in the brain and reduce stress. This stress is usually caused by automatic negative thinking that comes out of nowhere and constantly drains our energy and happiness. Mental practices like yoga, meditation and stream-of-consciousness writing stifle this noise inside your brain.
Stream-of-consciousness writing or “brain drain” is a mental technique that consists of writing down all thoughts in real-time as they unfold. Without editing, just write down whatever comes to your mind for 10 minutes. Doing this you give yourself an opportunity to engage with your thoughts (and write them down). After such practice you’ll be less likely to engage in automatic negative thinking or over-thinking throughout the day.
Do something new every day
Researchers say that the more we learn, the more connections and neurons our brain forms. They call it the ‘plasticity’ of the brain. Moreover, learning something new usually causes a rush of dopamine (we can also get it via love and addictive behaviors, by the way).
Feed your brain with the best ideas
Find inspirations from other people who are experts in the field you would like to explore. Read their books, look at their paintings, listen to their music, or attend their stand-ups. This will help ‘feed’ your brain with images of fine perfection, superior to those it would receive or create itself.