Increasing Brainpower

How often do you think about your brain? Do you ever stop to marvel at its incredible power and supreme cleverness? Or at least check in and give it a little spring clean and a recharge it from time to time?

Astoundingly, we only use around 10% of our brains yet we seldom think to invest in a little training every now and then.

For a long time, scientists believed that we were stuck with the brain we were born with! Luckily for us, that hypothesis has gone out the window!

Neuroplasticity – a new theory that has proven one very incredible fact: Our brains can change.

Neuroplasticity and Boosting Brainpower

Your brain – every brain – is a work in progress. It is ‘plastic.’ From the day we’re born to the day we die, (the brain) continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it.

Michael Merzenich, Ph.D.

This means, if you’re not very intelligent in one area – that’s OK! You have the option to literally ‘change that area of your brain’ through some little trainings.

Your brain is a muscle. You need to exercise it regularly.

The exciting thing is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to increase your brain capacity. All you need to do is invest some time to regularly train your brain.

So how to increase brain power? 

Here are ways to increase your brain power and get smarter!

  • Positive Thinking - Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and also stop new neurons from being created. Research has shown that positive thinking, especially in the future tense, speeds up the creation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety. Try and get a handle on negative thoughts and make an effort to replace them with positive ones. Not sure how to do it? Take a look at this article: How to Turn Off Negative Thoughts in Your Mind
  • Aerobic Exercise - Read books, study hard—and do jumping jacks? There’s a ton of research on the link between exercise and cognitive function. And aerobic exercise seems like an especially great way to make it to MENSA—one study showed adults’ brain-processing speed improved after half an hour of moderate exercise. Do the brain a favor and get moving!

  • Listening to Music While Exercising - Pitbull, Lady Gaga, or old-school Madonna, pumping up the jams while working out can improve cognitive functions. In one study, cardiovascular rehabilitation patients who exercised with music performed better on a test of verbal fluency than those who worked out sans tunes. Or maybe just waltz your way through a workout—other studies suggest listening to classical music can improve spatial processing and linguistic abilities. A way to work the brain and the muscles? Now that’s music to our ears.

  • Strength Training - Bulk up the brain and hit the weight room. Research suggests strength training not only builds strong muscles and bones—it can also increase brain functioning. That’s because lifting weights may increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which controls the growth of nerve cells.

  • Dance - Bust a brain-boosting move on the dance floor this weekend. Research suggests dancing involves mental challenges like coordination and planning, and may protect against cognitive decline. Duh—has anyone ever done the Macarena?

  • Yoga - A math test or spelling bee may be the last thing on anyone’s mind during savasana. But research suggests yoga can improve mood and concentration, enhance cognitive performance, and even prevent cognitive decline in older adults. Namaste, Einstein.

  • Deep Breathing (you can do also by singing…out loud) - Deep breathing strengthens your brain and boosts attention span, says new study. It turns out the yoga masters were right — breathing properly really can improve your attention span and help you focus better. A new study has found a direct neurophysiological link between the breath and the brain.

    “Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long-term meditators,” says Melnychuk. “More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia, and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”


    “Study has shown that as you breathe in, locus coeruleus activity is increasing slightly, and as you breathe out it decreases,” says Michael Melnychuk, PhD candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “Put simply, this means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimize your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronized.”

  • Eat Healthy Foods (avoid processed foods!) - The brain depends on blood flow. Our diets have a HUGE impact on brain function. Our brains consume over 20% of all nutrients & oxygen that we consumed – so remember to feed your brain with the good stuff! (i.e. fresh fruit and vegetables & plenty of OMEGA 3 oils found in oily fish)


    Get the blood flowing with whole grains and fruits. A diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can lower bad cholesterol. This enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to get your brain cells firing. Whole grains, like popcorn and whole wheat, also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. And the fat in avocados is monounsaturated which helps with healthy blood flow.


    Healthy Foods That Make You Smarter and boost your brain power

    Nuts and Seeds, Fish, Tea, Oatmeal, Berries, Eggs, Water instead of Sodas, Coffee, Apples, Chocolate, Grape Juice, Chicken, Glucose, Milk, Omega-3s (Salmon, Mackerel etc. Walnuts), Spinach/Leafy Green Vegetables

  • Staying Hydrated - Water, water everywhere and… the mind gets sharper. Hydration is essential to keep the brain working properly, and research suggests being thirsty can distract us from the cognitive tasks we’re trying to tackle. One study showed people who drank fruit and vegetable juice (yes, V8 in a Bloody Mary counts) were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t. For those looking to cut calories, eight glasses of water per day may work too.

  • Meditation - Who can think clearly with a mind full of worries? If the ability to sit still and silent for more than 10 seconds isn’t impressive enough, get this: Meditation helps improve memory, decision making, and attention span. Plus the more you practice meditation, the better you get at making decisions. Start off with a few minutes of meditative belly breathing to improve concentration.

  • Read a Book - Reading relieves tension and stress, which is brain-cell killers because it’s a form of escapism. Research has also shown that using your imagination is a great way to train your brain because you force your mind to ‘picture’ what you are imagining. Reading is a great way to trigger your imagination! Reading every day helps your thinking and imagination. You can read eBooks too! eBooks have some advantages over printed books and two of them are: 1.) eBooks are portable and lightweight, making it easy to carry around. Instead of carrying multiple bulky books, one eBook reader can hold thousands of eBooks. It saves a lot of space- in your home and in your bag. A single device is enough to read any number of books you want. Students benefit the most out of it as they do not have to carry a bag full of books every day. 2.) eBooks can be downloaded and stored for later use. One can carry the eBook around and read them whenever they want. Students and employees can go through the learning material while at home and even while travelling. It is convenient for people on the go. Some eReaders come with the option of offline accessibility, allowing people to use it even in the absence of an internet connection.


    Unlike printed books which have to be ordered or purchased from the bookstore, with time lost in waiting for delivery or travelling to the bookstore; readers can easily access any eBook anytime and anywhere.

  • Train Your Memory - How often do you hear people say “I wish I had a better memory!’ Yet no-one does anything about this!

    If you discipline yourself to memorize phone numbers and other important numbers (passport, credit card, insurance, driving license) you will start to see a marked improvement in your memory. Stick it to those elementary school teachers and fill every margin to the brim. Research suggests doodling during a cognitive task helps improve memory because it keeps the brain stimulated. Just don’t draw funny pictures of the boss.

  • Get Enough Sleep - Stay up all night studying or hit the hay? Slipping between the sheets might be the better option: For most people, a solid seven hours of sleep is important to maintain cognitive skills such as learning, concentration, and memory. One study even showed people who slept in on the weekends were sharper during the week. Just don’t nod off during the meeting… Sleep is like a mini detox for the brain. This is when your body regenerates cells and removes all the toxins that have built up during the day. Adequate, restful sleep is critical to numerous brain functions, including nerve communication. Poor sleep links to poor memory, slow response time, and shorter attention span. Get to bed between the hours of 9 pm and midnight to benefit from the most effective hours of sleep!


  • Power Naps - For those who didn’t quite catch enough zzzs last night, a power nap may be just the thing to help stay focused. It’s unclear how long the nap should last—in one study, young adults who napped for 90 minutes showed significant improvements in memory. But other research suggests even naps that last a few minutes can increase alertness. On the other hand, some scientists say naps only improve memory if they involve dreaming.

  • Breaking A Routine - If the barista at the local coffee shop knows what “I’ll have the usual” means, it might be time to change that routine. Adding a twist to the day keeps the brain on its toes — try wearing a watch upside down or brushing your teeth with a nondominant hand.

  • Getting Organized - Leftover pizza crust and a pile of old receipts are more than just unsightly—they may also impede our ability to get stuff done. Clear the desk and the mind at the same time: An organized workspace may help improve memory and cognitive skills.

  • Novelty or Do Something New - A Sudoku puzzle might be challenging, but after the 100th puzzle, the brain craves something new. Trying new activities stimulates the release of dopamine, which increases motivation and the growth of new neurons. So take an unfamiliar route home or read a book about a new topic, and feel the brain grow!

  • Letting The Mind Wander At Times- Whether it’s “listening” to a pal talk about her BF or just strolling down the block, there are lots of times when the mind goes off in strange directions. But don’t hold back that brain—it turns out there are lots of cognitive benefits to letting the mind wander, like increased creativity and problem-solving ability.

  • Sharpen Your Attention -  Learning to focus on something is not as easy to do for some people. 


  • Flossing - Fresh breath, fewer cavities, and avoiding embarrassing situations with poppy seeds are all great reasons to floss. Here’s another: The plaque that accumulates between teeth can actually trigger an immune response that prevents arteries from getting nutrients to the brain. Pick up some mental—er, dental—floss on the way home today.

  • Writing by Hand - Sans Serif and Cambria are awfully elegant, but writing words by hand can improve cognitive skills like learning and memory. Adults studying a new language may be more likely to remember words when they write them out instead of typing them. Stay sharp by writing out a to-do list or penning a heartfelt confession of love.

  • Sharpening the Senses - How exactly does that cold water feel traveling down the back of your throat? It’s important to challenge the brain in shape by keeping all the senses sharp. Try involving new senses in routine activities, like eating with the eyes closed and placing more emphasis on taste and smell (probably not the best exercise to try with hot soup).

  • Be Curious - Instead of taking everything at face value, get into the habit of questioning everyday things/products, services that you come into contact with. By being ‘curious’ and questioning everything, you force your brain to innovate and create new ideas.

    Curiosity may have killed that cat but it created super important things like electricity and computers!

  • Navigating Cities - How did the man inside the GPS get so smart? Probably from spending time navigating cities. In one study, London taxi drivers showed structural changes in the part of the brain associated with spatial memory. Copy Columbus and practice creating a mental map of the neighborhood.

  • Ditch The GPS - Gone are the days of map reading! Sat Nav may have made our lives easier, it has also made our brains lazier and less efficient at the same time! Go back to the old school and use a map to navigate every now and then. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for understanding spatial relationships.

  • Ban the Calculator - Remember back at school when we were taught to use our brains to do simple sums like times tables? It’s incredible how we now rely on devices like smart-phones and laptops to calculate really simple equations. Resist the urge to work things out using an external device and use the device you were born with – your brain!

  • Pleasant Conversation - Oh, how do you do? A quick chat may do more than just pass the time—socializing can also improve cognitive functioning. Even simple conversations may improve skills like memory and the brain’s ability to block out distractions. Take a few minutes to talk it out before the next big test or meeting.

  • Laughter - Gosh, isn’t the brain funny?! A hearty laugh may be the key to solving a tough problem, since research suggests laughing encourages people to think more creatively. Panicking about what to say in a big presentation? Just picture everyone in their underwear.

  • Playing an Instrument - Play that funky music, smart guy. The parts of the brain responsible for motor control, hearing, and visuospatial skills may be more developed in musicians than in non-musicians. Practice scales on a keyboard, chords on a guitar, or do what you want and just bang on the drum all day.

  • Lying Down - Perfect posture’s important—but there’s no need to stand up nice and straight. Instead, make like a monkey and hang upside down: It’s possible that memory improves when the head hangs lower than the rest of the body. And one study found people solved anagrams faster when they were lying down than when they were standing. Researchers think certain body postures might make us more insightful. Hwo eknw?

  • Video Games - Guys who hang out in their basements playing Xbox games aren’t just supercool—they may also be smarter than the rest of us. Some researchers suggest playing video games improves a number of cognitive skills, from vision to multitasking to spatial cognition. Tackle a game of Tetris for some mental exercise.

  • Learning a Second Language - Cerebre, cerveau, or just plain brain. Being bilingual may protect the body against Alzheimer’s—even when people learn a new language as adults. Studies show Alzheimer’s symptoms develop more slowly in bilingual speakers than in those who speak just one language. Start learning, pronto.

  • Positive Relationships - I get by—and smart!—with a little help from my friends. A study of elderly Americans suggests positive relationships can help protect against memory loss. Spend some time with friends and fam today to avoid forgetting their names later in life.

  • Speaking Out Loud - Better recite this tip to whomever’s sitting next to you. There’s evidence that we remember ideas better when we speak them out loud. No guarantees it won’t look strange when you talk to yourself on the street.