Top 5 leisure activities that unlocks your brain power potential
For thousands of years of human development, we still hold very little understanding where the human intelligence comes from, what it really is and how it works. For thousands of years, it seems pretty obvious that intelligence is born, rather than nurtured. As observing kids around us, we can confirm this belief easily as there are some kids clearly showing higher intelligence than others (and some kids clearly showing higher dumbness than others).
However, the good news: scientists nowadays repeatedly confirm that our brain works like our muscles- the more we train it, the better it gets. In 2007, Dr. Carol Dweck set up an experiment to test whether intelligence training really improves students’ intelligence. The result was remarkable, students with practice showing immediate improvement in their brain power. This finding that our brain acst like a muscle was published in the New York magazine, giving us the belief that our intelligence is not fixed.
The boost of intelligence can be explained by looking at how our brain changes after an intelligence-stimulating activity. Inside our brain is a complex network of nerve cells, connecting to each other to help us think. When we do intelligence-stimulating activities, these neurons get stronger and multiply. The result if a more connected and growing neurons network, which allow faster and stronger brain function. (Think of it the Internet cable or the server system, the more connection and the bigger the system is, the faster and stronger it becomes.)
What should we do to boost brain power?
So the question now: what are those intelligence-stimulating activities we can do to boost brain power? For now, let's look at the Top 5 activities that we can do to improve our brain and change our life.
1. Play the guitar, blow a trumpet
Not limited to just guitar or trumpet, playing any kind of musical instruments show boosting our brain. According to Rotman Research Institute (2015), starting musical training from 14 can increase significantly brain power in our later life. Playing musical instrument grows humans' creativity, lateral thinking, language, mathematics and many more undiscovered benefits. In many experiments, researchers find that after an observed period of playing music, our cortex- the outer layer of the brain is thickened, resulting in remarkable improvement in memory, attention, emotion growth, etc.
Perhaps this TED-Ed video has excellently explained it. Let's watch.
2. Master a new language
Learning a new language is more than just memorizing a different way to express our opinions and emotion. Learning a new language is an exposure to a new culture, a new way of thinking and many other completely new aspects. Research all over the world has shown cognitive development is much stronger in those speaking more than 1 language.
According to a study by Fergus et al (2010), learning an extra language does not only increase brain capability, but also extends the working life of our brain. In fact, the study showed that those with bilingualism delay the onset of Alzheimer's Disease by up to 4 years. One interesting take-out is that we don't need to learn a new language from the young age to see its effect. This is scientifically true to the saying that "you are never too old to learn anything". Want to increase the lifespan and power of your brain? You'd better start mastering a new language now!
Learn more at this TED-ED video about the benefits of a bilingual brain.
3. The must activity: READING
We are kept being told that reading helps our life in every way. It is true. John Coleman at Harvard Business Review once wrote that reading is for those who want to lead. He took the example of many business leaders who were avid readers, such as Steve Jobs's interest in Wiliam Blake or Nike founder Phil Knight's deep respect for books. Those who impacted the world have very wide knowledge, strategic vision and a super brain, which are all the results of reading.
In What Reading does for the Mind, Anne E. Cunningham pointed out reading makes us smart and sharp. If book is a gym, then reading is an exercise of our brain. The more we do it, the better the brain become. The more frequently we sustain it, the more stable the result is. The reasons why reading makes us smarter can be explained by:
- Reading is a complicated activity which needs the co-ordination between several distinctive brain regions. As we read, we stimulate the activity of different parts of the brain, building connection neurons inside. We can understand this is similar to building roads for easier transportation between brain regions. The more and denser roads we have, the closer everyone is, the less traffic jam will occur. That is how our brain is strengthened via reading.
Besides intelligence, there are numerous benefits from reading. We can name: analytical thinking, communication skills, vocabulary increase, better memory, and especially the feeling that our mind is "opened" after reading. For what "mind opening" really is, we can refer to the interesting story of one woman named: Lisa Bu. Please refer to the video below.
4. Sweat hard, get smart
A research from Psychological Medicine in 2013 proves that people who frequently exercise show better memory and brain function at age fifty than people who didn't think of sweating their body. In fact, there is a tight relationship between our brain and body. Training our legs or arms can build brain power.
For anyone who has practised any sports, we know we get better at something in terms of skills when practising. That improvement of skills is the result of more connected neurons inside our brain. The harder we try at learning something, the more densed our brain network becomes. In addition, scientists find that exercise induces the release of norepinephrine- a brain chemical that strengthens human's brain.
In 2013, after over 100 studies, a research from University of Illinois concluded that there is a strong correlation between exercise and decision-making and multi-tasking skills. The research found the production of "insulin-like growth factor-1" protein after exercise, whose benefit is to stimulate the development of neurons and boost cognitive performance. The most interesting finding: just THREE DAYS PER WEEK FOR 30 MINS is enough to see an improvement!
5. Meditation- the magical path to unlock brain maximum potential
Never before has there been so many research about the effects of meditation upon brain. The reason is due to the astonishing changes it brings to not only our body, our life, but also the way brain works.
Although meditation is not the solution to all diseases, there is plenty of research and evidence supporting it is the most effective way to boost our brain strength. Meditation has long been practised in the East, is now spread widely in the professional environment of the West. Companies like Google, Apple or Target have schedules for meditation session.
According to Lazar et al (2011), a short-term meditation of around 8 weeks can already show changes in the brain structure. What the researchers found was astonishing: just after that amount of time, the cortical in the hippocampus becomes thickened, the fear, anxiety, stress cells in the amygdala reduces significantly, and the brain areas related to mood and arousals show more calmness. Every of these changes are positive, leading to an overall improvement of not only intelligence, memory, attention, learning skills, but also the human's psychology's well-being: People feel much happier.