One of the great perks in being a professional speaker is that I do get to hear mind –blowing presentations. Last week I had the privilege of listening to Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and leader of the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas. Dr. Chapman shared her knowledge on brain health and shared how we can increase our brain’s health and actually make our brains even smarter than they are right now calling it, “Turbo-Charging” your brain.”
She opened her keynote saying that our IQ is not a fixed number and “yes we can” get smarter by engaging our brain’s frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain is the decision making, planning, and problem solving section of the brain and…the frontal lobe the last part of the brain to fully develop (by age25) and the first to decline (age 40).
That makes sense. I recently read that teens do some crazy things in their lives because their frontal lobes are not fully connected but I had no idea our brains started to decrease so soon- 40 seems too young to be on the decline! The good news according to the Doctor is that we cannot only stop the decline but we can actually reverse it! Halleluiah!!!
Here are her suggestions to help increase blood flow and connectivity in our brains and turbocharging our brain!
- Think single task – focus only at the task at hand – with no distractions. That means that multi-tasking is actually making us dumber. Research now shows that the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking splits the brain and our brain jumps from one task to another diminishing the focus. It creates something researchers have called“spotlights”. When we multitask it’s like we are actually getting dumber and making more mistakes.
- Look at your to-do list and think of the two most important tasks that are most important and spend your prime time doing- and do them. “When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted casing rabbits, rabbits take all our day away”Dr. ChapmanI have heard to only have 5 items on your to do lists…two is so minimal but if it increases my blood flow I am on it.
- Think deep- most transformative – power of deep – is to synthesize constantly- take information from all sources abstract and concrete ideas, talk shows, conversation – get off of automatic pilot, and talk about your ideas with others. It’s in the sharing of ideas that our brains dance. She said that people that stay home and do crosswords alone every day are not helping their brains.
- Brains power of less – our brains need to rest. Constant stimulation makes us dumber and reduces the flow of blood. Dr. Chapman said that airplanes are a great place to rest vs. work. She suggested that we take time to rest our brains rather than constantly be filling them with data, crosswords, or even sudoku.
- Detox distractions. Every time we look at an email or text while working we actually get dumber, and slower and make more mistakes… It takes 15 to 20 minutes to get back into the groove when you are busy working .
- And then take a break every 90 minutes and give your brain a rest. Go and do something mindless… don’t take a break and read… let your mind rest and let the blood flow! The brain need down time, for aha moments
- Finally, she reminded us the importance of good eating, sleeping and exercise – I found this interesting. Dr. Chapman said we need at least 7 hrs of sleep because our brains kick in and unload between the 6th and 8th hour of sleep.
So there you have it. I have to unlearn things I was sure I was doing to make my brain smarter. I am thinking … well, I’m actually unthinking how I do things because I want to be smarter next year!