The brain is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it needs fuel to run and it atrophies if not used. What I have seen in most of the paleo community is that although we deal with the body through proper diet and exercise, we very rarely deal with mind. Now granted that healing the body through proper nutrition and exercise does untold amount of good to the mind (just see Dr Emily deans amazing blog), I would like to see more emphasis on the mind in the paleo community, to make the paleo lifestyle a truly holistic approach to life better-ment-ing.
Now Robb wolf et al. Have their 30 day paleo diet trial. The idea being that you try eating paleo for 30 days and gauge whether you look feel and perform better. A sort of self experiment. I like this idea so I decided to put one together for the mind.
The ideas I present below are just some ways to challenge your mind. You see challenging your mind and doing things the hard way are just a couple of methods that have been shown to actually increase your fluid intelligence. So for the next 30 days just try these 5 simple life changes and see if there are any changes. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.
1. Turn off the spell check
The power of computers to make our lives easier and more efficient in so many ways is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of the increase in output of a single human, and a curse because often the productivity boost comes with a reduction brain requirement. Take the spellcheck in modern word processors, phones and web browsers. We have reduced the brain power required to write something because we no longer think about accuracy. We assume that the computer will pick up our mistakes and we can fix it later. This is great for outputting large portions of information quickly, but horrible in the sense that it let’s our brain be lazy.
Turn off your spell check! It will take some getting used to, but you will literally feel your brain running. Now you may think your productivity will take a beating by doing this, but I have found that without my spell check I pay attention to what I am writing much more so my editing time and rewriting has shrunk dramatically! Give it a go!
2. Become ambidextrous
There really is no reason why every body on the planet can’t be ambidextrous. In Paleolithic times there may have been an advantage to getting really good at chucking a spear with your dominant hand as you really didn’t have the time to experiment. These days however we don’t have that type of pressure. So why not learn to at least become writing proficient with both hands?
How do we become ambidextrous? Here are a few tips.
- Put your computer mouse on the opposite side.
- Brush your teeth with your opposite hand (be warned this will be the most thorough brushing you will ever have!)
- Actively make an effort to try pick up items with your opposing hands.
- Start writing your small notes or shopping list with your opposing hand.
- Progress to writing more and more until you are proficient.
By the end of the 30 days you should be able to write your shopping list fairly legibly!
3. Where is my GPS?
I always had a pretty good sense of direction. I could estimate roughly where I was, which direction I had to go and how to generally get there. The inclusion of GPS in every dam device that has a battery has again removed our need to think.As with the spell check. A blessing and a curse.
So ditch the GPS. Hone your sense of direction. Make mistakes, correct them. Take out a map, study routes, get lost, find your way, THINK DAMN IT!
Ditch your GPS for the month. Get the old maps out and find your way around the town.
4) Learn something new every day.
Our muscles grow when we stress them. Our brains are no different. Learning new things has been shown to increase plasticity (the number of connections between neurons) as well as trigger dopamine which stimulates neurogenesis. Research has shown that neural plasticity is a factor in individual differences in intelligence.
Learn something new every day. An easy way is to spend 30mins every morning on Wikipedia’s front page and reading the “featured article”. Read the article and really try to understand it. Follow some of the links, but spend a full 30 minutes on it. If you enjoy the subject follow it up the next day, if not read the new featured article. Find a topic that interests you. Google the hell out of it. 30 mins a day.
5) Learn a new language
Learning a new language is hard and that’s what makes it so good for your brain. Learn to speak, read and write in a foreign tongue and eventually even think in a new language exercises loads of different areas of the brain. These days you don’t even need to spend any money on it. An Internet connection is all you really need.
Challenge 5) learn the basics of a new language.
The polyglot extension for Google Chrome is another awesome tool. What it does is replace random words on the websites you are reading with their translated version. It’s very customisable and let’s you select the language as well as the rate it replaces them, letting you increase e difficulty as you progress. Check it out.
Now do this for 30 days. Challenge your brain. The worst that can happen is that you become a better speller, you learn to use both hands, you get a better sense of direction, you learn a couple new things and you pick up a new language. That’s not that bad is it?
Anyone else have any novel ideas for challenging the brain?