Instant Improver

10 Things You’re Already Doing That Could Make You Incredible (With A Small Tweak)

Your mind is absolutely amazing. Almost.

The average human brain has the capacity for absolute brilliance – and there are all sorts of everyday things you can be doing to make sure your mind is sharp, efficient and working to it’s full potential.

In fact, you’re probably doing most of them already, all you need to is give them a little tweak to turn yourself into a guaranteed brainiac.

  • 10 Things You’re Already Doing That Could Make You Incredible (With A Small Tweak)

    Surf The Web (But Concentrate On One Search At A Time)

    The Big Idea: Google can actually enhance the mind. Not too much of it, mind.

    The Brains Behind It: Leading UCLA neurologist and 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain author Dr Gary Small conducted tests into how searches affect brain activity.

    “Volunteers performed internet searches for one hour each day for a week,” he says. “Scans showed significant boosts in activation in the frontal lobe, in areas controlling decision-making and ‘working’ [short-term] memory.”

    Stay focused on the task in hand, though, multi-screening stresses you out and impairs cognition and mood.

    “Multi-tasking leads to the illusion of efficiency, but the reality is it creates errors.” 

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    Play Video Games (Just Change The Games Regularly)

    The Big Idea:

    Learning to play new games can strengthen the brain. Yes, even those GTA killing sprees.

    The Brains Behind It:

    Back in the 1990s, US neurologist Dr Richard Haier discovered that first-time players of Tetris developed a thickening of the cerebral cortex after learning the game. That’s right, their brains got bigger.

    It proved that our brain can mold to master new challenges.

    Dr Gary Small explains the effects of tech in general: “Our brains respond to any sensory input from moment to moment, and when we spend a lot of time on a particular mental task, the neural circuits controlling that task will strengthen. As technology develops, our brains change and adapt… mental stimulation activates neural circuits and bolsters brain health.”

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    Go To The Pub (And Start A Conversation With A Stranger)

    The Big Idea:

    Socialising has been fundamental to the survival and development of the species. If that’s not a good reason to hit the boozer of a Friday night, what is?

    The Brain Behind It:

    “There are strong theories around why we had to develop these brains,” says Dr Maria Leitner, Supervisory Psychologist, British Mensa. “We’re a relatively weedy species, so we have to collaborate. Survival is intrinsically social, which is why language developed.”

    So a weekend jolly-up could kick-start our next evolutionary step.

    “By moving about your environment and interacting with people, you’re laying down pathways in your cortex. The more problem solving you do in any context, the more chance you have of maximizing natural capacity.”

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    Read Before Bed (But Switch The Screen For An Actual Book)

    The Big Idea:

    Reading’s good for the mind, but those backlit devices are buggers for disrupting your all important sleep pattern.

    The Brains Behind It:

    Reading doesn’t automatically make you a clever-clogs, but there are benefits: “It’s a key way to introduce yourself to novel experiences without actually going somewhere and challenging your brain.” says Dr Leitner.  

    And it’s all about going “old school” with a book (remember those?). It’s no good being glued to a Kindle screen right before trying to shut your brain off for the night. Constant exposure to electronic light disrupts your sleep patterns and the chemical balances in your body.

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    Make A Shopping List (But Memorise It)

    The Big Idea:

    Make your Notes app a thing of the past by improving your memory with mind tricks.

    The Brains Behind It:

    It sounds complicated, but a mnemonic – a mental device employed to recall information – is simple enough to create. “The key is finding a link to whatever you’re trying to remember,” says Ed Cooke, co-founder of the memory and learning specialists Memrise.

    “So, say you were trying to remember the word ‘bonjour’, you might think of someone’s jaw for jour, or visualize someone with an enormous jaw saying ‘hello’. The brain loves visuals, so you attach an image and make a link between the content of the word and the meaning.

    “For a shopping list you can also work the items on the list into a silly story to give them structure in your mind – it’s remarkable how well you’ll end up remembering them.”

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    Get The Cans On For Your Morning Run (But Swap Rocky For TED)

    The Big Idea:

    Bone up on big topics by ditching Eye of the Tiger for something a tad more educational. Plus, you know, exercise.

    The Brains Behind It:

    Much like reading, listening to engaging audio content creates new pathways in the brain. And there’s no shortage of quality podcasts that’ll expand your mind, from TED Talks to Radiolab and even BBC documentaries.

    The important thing is to combine your listening with a workout, which is one the most crucial factors in keeping the mind firing on all cylinders.

    “It’s so important,” says Dr Leitner. “The things that prevent you from becoming fat and ill are also the things that preserve you intellect. Good nutrition, no junk food, and regular exercise.”

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    Brush Your Teeth (Using The “Wrong” Hand)

    The Big Idea:

    Breaking daily habits by making small, simple changes to routines can boost brain ability.

    The Brains Behind It:

    Tests conducted for the 2006 BBC show Get Smarter In A Week found that participants did, erm, get smarter in a week.

    By carrying out activities like brushing their teeth with the other hand, learning new words then slipping them into conversation, and (for some bonkers reason) showering with their eyes closed, participants saw a 40 per cent increase in their assessment scores.

    The activities were designed to enhance memory, decision-making, and spatial awareness. Don’t take it too far though: brushing your teeth with the wrong hand while blindfolded and hopping on one leg will only cause an accident.

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    Go To Work (But Take A Different Route – And Don’t Use Google Maps)

    The Big Idea:

    Stop your mind from running on autopilot by finding new ways of getting places. 

    The Brains Behind It:

    "It’s exercising your brain in the same way you’d exercise your arms or legs,” says Dr Leitner. “If you’re challenging your mind it will help to maintain and enhance your potential, because you’re physically laying down gray matter.”

    So, next time you find yourself blindly following that little blue dot on Google Maps, put the phone away and give yourself a mental workout.

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    Live For The Weekend (And Do Something Different Each One)

    The Big Idea:

    If enhancing the brain’s potential is all about new experiences and challenges, don’t just go to the same pub every Saturday night.

    The Brains Behind It:

    Our brains crave novelty, so why not fill your weekends with an eclectic mix of activities for mental stimulation. Here are a few things you could try:

    Knitting – Solid motor skills and the chance to make new social networks if you join one of these modern manly knitting groups. Yes, they exist.

    Learn an instrument – One of the most commonly cited activities to boost brainpower and memory. Write a song about how clever you are afterwards.

    Orienteering – Nothing like getting lost during a high-pressure ramble to get the physical and mental pistons working. Promise yourself a pint if you make it back alive.

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    Watch TV (By Making Your Way through That Pile Of Box Sets)

    The Big Idea:

    They’ve been calling it the ‘Idiot Box’ for years. The good news is, they’re wrong.

    The Brains Behind It:

    A 2009 study jointly conducted by Surrey and Illinois universities found that television shows – specifically The Simpsons, 24, and Lost – had a positive impact on viewers, helping them better understand and discuss political and ethical issues.

    And though vegging out in front the box is generally considered a surefire way of melting one’s brains, Dr. Tereza Capelos, from the University of Surrey claimed it was the state of “enjoyment and relaxation” that made viewers more receptive to new ideas and information.

    It’s probably safe to assume those Friends repeats for the hundredth time aren’t doing much for you, but you can lay down a few more neural pathways by cracking into all those awesome boxsets you’ve been meaning to catch up on for years. Next stop, Westeros.