How Video Games Can Improve Your Mind

Researchers at the University of Rochester compared the attentional blink of video gamers against people who rarely play any video games at all. They found that gamers are able to simultaneously spot more of what they wanted to see in a quicker time frame. This research suggests that gamers can skim books quicker, and will be able to find the information they need much faster than non-gamers. [Read the video game research from Mind Hacks]

The Cure for Writers Block -10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Brain

As an English Lit. major in college, I had to write dozens of essays a quarter.

And, unfortunately, I got hit with writers block on a regular basis.

I tried to combat it by spending more time researching in the library, but that just made my problem worse.

You see, even though research is important it didnt help me write my paper. In fact, Ive found that research just helped me procrastinate more.

So how do I cure my bouts with writers block?

Here are 10 ways that have helped me write when Im not in the mood:

1. Relax your mind.
The more you worry about not having ideas, the more youll freeze up your mind. You need to relax and think positively about your writing assignment. Realize that everyone goes through writers block, and the cure is to relax your mind.

2. Take a hot shower.
I dont know what it is about a hot shower, but it really helps me refresh my body and mind. The hot shower helps me relax and focus on my writing assignments. Its also a place where I brainstorm easily. Take a notepad and leave it next to your shower door for when the ideas start flowing.

3. Write freely.
Whenever Im at a loss for words, Ill just start writing. It doesnt matter what you write, just write something. The very act of getting words on a page will help you build confidence, and help your mind to start pumping out your thoughts.

4. Write what you would say to your friend.
Sometimes it helps me to pretend that Im explaining the subject to a friend. By imagining a conversation with a friend, it helps me write what I would say – and this is a great way to trick yourself into writing.

5. Dont worry about punctuation or organization.
When youre struggling with writers block, this is not the time to focus on punctuation or how youre organizing your paper. You want to eliminate everything that stands between you and getting words on a page. So just write and dont worry about anything else.

6. Take deep breaths.
There are many benefits to breathing deeply in meditation, and one of them is to help you refresh your mind. I personally like Dr. Weils deep breathing exercises when Im feeling tired and uninspired:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through tightly pursed lips, creating back pressure, for eight seconds.
  4. Do this eight times, twice a day, everyday.

7. Move around.
Get your body moving and possibly even try writing in a new location. Just by moving around will get your blood pumping faster and will help you feel more energized.

8. Concentrate on a different section of your paper.
If youre stuck writing your introduction, just skip it. Start writing another section. Dont worry if you dont have the best paragraph structure – just write and the words will start to flow. You can always edit later.

9. Listen to music.
Sometimes listening to classical music or jazz can help you start writing. It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive found that it can help me block out any surrounding noises and focus on my writing. Try music when youre out of words.

10. Dont worry about failing.
Look, a lot of people get writers block because they think theyre afraid of failure – or they think they cant write a good paper. You have to get rid of that negativity and start writing. The more you write, the better your paper will be. You can always edit it later – and find a friend to proofread it to give you some suggestions.

So just start writing . . .

4 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

SharpBrains.com published an article on maintaining a healthy brain that will function better. Here are the four keys to improving your brain health:

Physical Exercise

  • Do something you enjoy for even just 15 minutes a day. You can always add more time and activities later.
  • Schedule exercise into your daily routine. It will be become a habit faster if you do.
  • Do something cardiovascular to get your heart beating faster

Mental Exercise

  • Be curious! Get to know your local library and community college, look for local organizations or churches that offer classes or workshops
  • Work puzzles like crosswords and sudoku or play games like chess and bridge
  • Try computerized brain fitness programs
  • Learn something new every day

Good Nutrition

  • Plan your meals around your vegetables (especially leafy greens), and then add fruit, protein, dairy, and/or grains
  • Add some cold-water fish to your diet (tuna, salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring)
  • Try to eat more foods low on the Glycemic Index

Stress Management

  • Get enough sleep each night
  • Practice meditation, yoga, or a calming activity to help you relax
  • Set aside 5 to 10 minutes to just breathe deeply

Check out the other ways to improve your brain health . . .

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How to Add RAM to Your Brain – 8 Memory Hacks

You can instantly retrieve more information faster and easier by memorizing data in organized patterns.

Here are 8 ways to make information cement in your mind:

1. Acronyms
I’ve used acronyms throughout my college and grad school career. They’ve helped me memorize information for class presentations, and helped me memorize details for exams. An acronym is simply a word wherein each letter represents another word. For example: HOMES (The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

2. Acrostics
Acrostics are sentences in which the first letter of each word helps you remember items in a series. For example: Zoe Cooks Chowder In Pink Pots in Miami (The Essential Minerals: Zinc, Calcium, Chromium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium).

3. Act it Out
Use your acting ability to make a connection with the material you’re trying to learn. For example: reenact a dialog between two historic figures – or carry on a debate between two different philosophers, politicians or literary critics.

4. Categories
Organize information into broad categories to help you remember information faster. For example: Types of Joints in the Body (Immovable, Slightly Movable, Freely Movable).

5. Peg Words
Develop a chain of associations between whatever list you need to memorize and a peg word. Peg words are associated with numbers (e.g. zero is hero; one is a bun; two is a shoe; three is a tree; four is a door; five is a hive; six is sticks; seven is heaven; eight is a gate; nine is wine; and ten is a hen). Here’s how peg words work with the atomic numbers in a periodic table: (1) Imagine a hydrogen hotdog on a bun; (2) Imagine a helium shoe balloon; (3) Imagine a lit tree on fire (lithium); (4) a door made of berries (beryllium); (5) a hive with bored bees (boron); and the list can go on. The odd pairing helps you memorize information quickly.

6. Rhymes
Make up a silly rhyme or pun to help you memorize information. For example: Brown vs. Board of Education ended public-school segregation.

7. Recordings
Make a recording of yourself giving a lecture about the subject you’re studying. This is especially helpful for foreign language classes or a vocabulary section on a standardized test.

8. Visualizations
Turn an abstract idea into an image of something that is as specific as possible. For example, visualize a scene from a historic period. Make it as real as possible in your mind. Use all your senses and imagine what it must smell like, feel like, etc. The more specific you are, the more you’ll remember.

What are some strategies you use to memorize information faster?

[Photo by Rofi]

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How to Improve Your Memory Power – 7 Effective Techniques

When I was an undergraduate student, I had to take 5 classes in a foreign language to complete my degree.

I took classes in Spanish, classical Latin, and ancient Greek to fulfill my requirement – and needless to say – Im glad thats over with.

Ive literally spent hundreds of hours memorizing verb conjugations. And Ive probably killed many trees with all the note cards Ive used up.

The more I memorized, the easier it became – not because I was getting smarter – but simply because my brain was used to memorizing a lot of information every single day.

Pretty soon I was able to memorize stacks of vocabulary cards very quickly. It just took practice, and anyone can do it.

Here are some of the strategies I used to help me memorize my vocabulary terms and conjugation rules quickly:

Make Creative Associations
When I was memorizing a new word or grammar rule, I tried to develop a fun way to make it stick. The more outlandish the association, the better it would stick. For example, lets say that I had to remember that word domus is Latin for home. I would simply imagine a huge dome hanging over moose. (The classical Latin pronunciation sounds like Dome-oose.) That association would help me remember the word easily. I know this sound simplistic, but it really works. I would sometimes draw out fun associations on the back of my vocabulary note cards to really make these bizarre associations remembered.

Break-up Your Study Time
Our brains tend to remember less the longer we study. Thats why its often easier for us to remember the beginning and end of a lecture than all the details in between. So I found that by studying in short one hour stints helped me remember more. Everyone is different, so find out what amount of study time is perfect for you. You might find that you can memorize more in three one-hour sessions than one four-hour session.

Use Your Mind and Body
Sitting at a desk staring at some grammar rules might work for some people, but I always learned quicker by actively doing something with the information. I would draw association pictures or read my book aloud to help make things more permanent in my mind. I also found that studying note cards while walking around campus was a way to keep myself energized and focused.

Repeat What You Need to Know
One way to help something stick in your mind is to recite it to yourself. Read it aloud to yourself – and then read it again. The key here is to saturate your mind with the content in every way possible. One fun way to do this is to imagine your vocabulary cards or textbook being read by someone you think is funny. Imagine your textbook being read by Jon Stewart. It will at least keep things a bit more interesting.

Reduce the Noise

Some people study well listening to music. It really depends on the subject matter. However, if you find yourself drifting off, or focusing on the words of the song, its probably best to dismiss the music for a while. If you enjoy music, listen to some classical music or some other music that helps you focus. You basically want to situate yourself in a place with the least amount of noise interference.

Stay Positive (if possible)
Youll remember far more information about a subject if you try to find it interesting. If you think the topic is boring and useless, than youre going to make memorization that much harder. Look for some sort of connection on how the subject you need to learn about fits in with your life.

Study When Youre Most Productive
Everyone has their best study time, and often its during the daytime. Theres just something about memorizing and studying when its daytime that can keep you more motivated and more focused. I find that Im most productive during the early morning. I often go to a coffee shop around 6:30 a.m. and just drink coffee while I write and study. Find your best time to study and keep on that schedule. It will do wonders for your memory power.

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Reduce Stress During Finals Week with Self Hypnosis

One way Ive reduced stress during finals week is through self hypnosis.

As you know, hypnosis has helped people manage pain, reduce stress, and even quit smoking.

It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive personally found it as a way to help me get into a relaxed state quickly. It has also helped me sleep very well.

One self hypnosis method that I enjoy is guided imagery.

Guided imagery is based on the concept that your body and mind are connected. Using all of your senses, your body seems to respond as though what you are imagining is real.

You can achieve a relaxed state when you imagine all the details of a safe, comfortable place, such as a beach or a garden. This relaxed state may aid healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes, which may improve your attitudes, health, and sense of well-being.

A lot of companies charge money to purchase guided imagery mp3s, but here are some free ones that you can upload to your iPod . . .

You can learn more about guided imagery on Squidoo.

How to Sleep Amazingly Well – And Wake Up Refreshed

Now that final exams are almost here – and term papers need to get turned in – its time to make sure youre getting enough rest.

You see, proper rest is vital to keeping your brain functioning to its full potential. Quality sleep is also important so that you can stay energized and focused on your various assignments.

Stanford University published a great list of ways to help you sleep better. Heres an excerpt:

Take a hot bath.
People with trouble falling asleep might benefit from taking hot baths about 90 minutes before bedtime, the researchers speculate. When they get out of the bath, body temperature will drop rapidly, and that might help them to fall asleep faster

Drink some warm milk.
If youre stomach is empty, it can interfere with your sleep schedule.However, a heavy meal can also interfere with good sleep. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Try a warm glass of milk before bed.

Dont take naps.
Try not to nap during the day. A nap will often it make it more difficult to go to bed at night.

If you dont fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring.
Staying in bed longer wont help you fall asleep. If youre having trouble sleeping, get out of bed until you feel tired. You need to teach your body that your bed is a place of sleeping – not worrying, brainstorming, or thinking about tomorrow.

Dont expose yourself to bright lights.
Dim your lights prior to bed, and refrain from turning on bright lights if you wake up during the night to use the restroom. Bright lights signal to your brain that its day. Try to only use dim lights at night.

Check out the other ways to sleep better . . .

Hack Your Mind with These Memorization Techniques

California Polytechnic State University provides 10 tips to help students memorize information better.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

Use all your senses. When we are learning, we should try not only to get a strong impression but to obtain as many different kinds of impressions as possible. Some people can remember colors distinctly, but have a poor memory for shapes. But anyone, by putting together and using all of the impressions our sense organs bring us about a thing, can remember it much more clearly than if we rely on sight or sound alone. For example, try reading your lesson aloud. In doing this, your eye takes in the appearance of the printed word, your ear passes the sound of the words to your brain, and even the tension of the muscle of your throat add their bit to the total impression which your mind is expected to store away.

Intend to remember. The mere intention to remember puts the mind in a condition to remember, and if you will make use of this fact in studying you will be able to recall between 20 and 60 percent more of what you read and hear than you would if you were not actively trying to remember.

Logical memory. One of the most important of all aids to the remembering process is the habit of associating a new idea immediately with facts or ideas that are already firmly lodged in the mind. This association revives and strengthens the old memories and prevents the new one form slipping away by anchoring it to the well-established framework of your mental world.

How much study? You should study more than enough to learn your assignment. Experiments have proven that 50% more resulted in 50% better retention. After a week had passed, it was found that extra work had salvaged six times as much of the material as in the case when it was barely learned

Read the other memorization tips . . .

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How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Dartmouth published a paper discussing ways for students to improve their memory as they study. These tips will help any student study smarter, not harder. Here are some of our favorite study tips:

Recite As You Study
Recitation should first take place as you read through each paragraph or section. Quiz or test yourself. This promotes understanding as well as faster learning because it is a more active process than reading or listening. It also tests understanding, revealing mistakes or gaps. Recite in your own words. Auditory learners should spend more time in reciting orally what they are learning than visualizers. Read aloud passages you find difficult.

Take Fuller Notes
Visual learners should take fuller notes during lectures and their readings, as they learn more readily by visualizing than hearing. Auditory learners should take fuller notes perhaps on their readings. Notes should be in your own words, brief, clear but succinct. They should be legible and neat. Writing notes better reinforces memory than mere underlining, which is frequently done mechanically , often to excess and does not check understanding.

Study the Middle
The best time to review is soon after learning has taken place. The beginning and the end of material is best remembered, so pay close attention to the middle which is likely to be forgotten. The peak of difficulty in remembering is just beyond the middle, toward the end. change your method of review.

Sleep On It
Study before going to bed unless you are physically or mentally overtired. Freshly learned material is better remembered after a period of sleep than after an equal period of daytime activity because retroactive interference takes place.

Connect Ideas Whenever Possible
There are two ways to memorize: by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Multiplication tables, telephone numbers, combinations to safes, and the like are better learned by rote. ideas, concepts, theories and significances and the like are learned by understanding. Sometimes they work simultaneously.

The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. Always note similarities in ideas and concepts, and put them in their proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories. A bare literal understanding is often of little valuable. Never be satisfied with a hazy idea of what you are reading. If you are not able to follow the thought, go back to where you lost the trail.

Read ways to help you study smarter. . .

Memorizing Dates and Numbers Quickly

There are a lot of techniques to help you memorize numbers and dates quickly. One of my favorites involves associating numbers with letters.

For example:

0 = Z or S (zero)
1 = T or D (one downstroke)
2 = N (two downstrokes)
3 = M (three down strokes)
4 = R (R looks like 4 backwards)
5 = L (Roman Numeral for 50 is L)
6 = G (six looks like a G)
7 = K
8 = F
9 = P (9 looks like a P backwards)

You can associate any number with any letter, but the key is to memorize one letter for each number. Any letter not associated with a number doesn’t mean anything.

So this is how it works:

Let’s pretend you had to memorize that George Washington was born in 1732. To do this, you simply substitute the numbers for letters.

In this case: 1732 = TKMN

TKMN doesn’t make any sense, so you can add vowels to develop a fun way to associate TKMN with George Washington.

For example:

Take Men George Washington had to take men to war
Took Men George Washington took men to war
Teak Man Imagine George Washington made out of teak

The more creative you can use the letters, the better youll remember the date.