by: Deep Patel – FORBES
Is there really a recipe for success? According to science, there is — or at any rate, there’s a general roadmap that’s proven to have a positive impact. In fact, according to neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, 30 hours of training based on specific neuroscience techniques can improve memory and cognition, speech patterns and reading comprehension.
And these techniques don’t just work for the young. Adults in their 80s and 90s saw improvements in almost all areas of brain function when they participated in the training.
In the grand scheme of things, 30 hours is not a long time. One hour a day devoted to improving the health of your brain will have you operating on a much higher frequency by the end of a month. For something as valuable as our brains, this is a small time investment for a major payoff.
So, how can you continue to sharpen your brain with a few simple daily hacks? Let’s look at 11 things you can do.
1. Omega-3s And Healthy Fats
Life hackers swear by diets rich in omega-3s and healthy fats. Actually, this is the reason so many startups guzzle bulletproof coffee: the healthy fats combined with coffee result in highly productive mornings and afternoons. Omega-3s are fatty acids that help keep dopamine levels in your brain active and increase cerebral circulation.
2. Practice Positive Thoughts
Positive thinking can influence our lives. The book The Secret (and a powerful co-sign from Oprah) took this age-old concept and brought it into the mainstream. There has been much discussion in the past 2 decades about the impact positive thoughts can have, not only on your future and the things you attract into your life, but also your personal well-being.
However, what people tend to forget is that positive thinking isn’t something that “just happens.” You have to actively practice positive thinking on a daily basis, and find ways to nurture optimism in your life.
3. Exercise On A Regular Basis
An endorphin rush can do wonders for your brain, especially when it comes to solving problems or coming up with new ideas. Some of the world’s greatest mental athletes—like chess legend Bobby Fischer—swear by physical exercise.
Fischer used to play rounds of tennis between chess matches, and he took long walks to reflect on game play. He insisted that exercise made it easier for him to take a step back from the game of chess and keep his thoughts moving in a positive direction.
4. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Arianna Huffington was one of the movers and shakers in the global conversation around sleep and its impact on business. While many entrepreneurs and business owners swear by (and often take pride in) their sleepless schedules, Huffington insists that sleep is imperative for high brain functioning.
The ideal amount is between 6½ and 8 hours of sleep per night, based on what works best for the person. Anything less than 6½ hours and you’re depriving your body of its most needed resource.
5. Avoid Processed Sugar And Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar is the culprit behind those mornings that start out productive but somehow end with a nap. Sugar gives you a burst of energy that quickly fades and leaves you feeling exhausted. Since most people have diets high in sugar, this explains the constant need for more coffee.
However, it’s also been found that artificial sweeteners like aspartame can actually inhibit your brain’s ability to function normally, and can eventually lead to neurodegeneration.
6. Meditation And Other Brain-Calming Practice
Meditation has quickly taken root in the world of business and fast-paced entrepreneurial communities desperate for mental clarity.
It’s been found that meditation practices can do everything from lowering anxiety to increasing productivity. Meditation has also been found to increase feelings of self-esteem and cognitive function, and can improve our brains’ ability to focus.
7. 15 Minutes Per Day
Acquiring a new skill or mastering a current one usually takes many hours. But people vastly underestimate the positive impact 15 minutes per day can have.
In fact, it’s far better to allocate a small amount of time each day to practicing something, rather than spending hours on your craft one day per week. The repetitive daily habit ends up having a greater and deeper impact on your brain than long but infrequent practice.
8. Begin And End Each Day By Reading Your “Chief Aim” Aloud
In his best-selling book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says that in order to attract what you want in life, you have to embed it deeply in your subconscious. He instructs readers to get clear on their “chief aim,” which is where they want to go in life or what it is they want to achieve, and encourages them to write that chief aim down.
Each morning and each night they should read their chief aim aloud, embedding it firmly in their vision. Over time, Hill says, your subconscious will end up attracting opportunities for you to bring that chief aim to life.
9. Remove Yourself From Negative Environments
According to Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinology professor at Stanford University, “stress can not only be stopped, but reversed once the source, psychological or physical, is removed or sufficiently reduced.” Our physical environment plays a vital role in the health of our brains.
An unhealthy, negative physical environment can often leave more of an impact than we’re willing to admit. But the good news is, it can be changed. If you’re struggling and you think your environment has something to do with it, get yourself up and out — and move someplace more positive.
10. Visualization Is The Key
A 2007 Harvard Medical School study found that the simple act of visualizing five-finger piano exercises resulted in the same region of the brain expanding as when the students physically practiced the same exercises with their fingers.
The takeaway is that mental training plays a significant role in the way we practice, and both real and imagined exercises can have a positive impact on our brain’s development. So when someone talks about visualization being a key part of their recipe for success, take them seriously.
11. Spend Time In The Sun
Lying by the pool might actually help you get more done in the long run. Scientists have found that vitamin D plays a vital role in brain health, and that there are vitamin D receptors in the spinal cord and central nervous system.
So, aside from the fact that relaxation is key to maintaining a positive mindset over the long term, your brain can benefit if you spend a few extra hours each week basking in the sun.