7 Unconventional Ways to Improve Cognition and Boost Brain Power (How to Increase Neuroplasticity and Enhance Cognition)

Siim Land

Boosting brain power is fundamental for increasing your performance. It’s one of the most valuable assets you have in life – to improve cognition and intelligence. 

Unconventional Ways to Improve Cognition

You’ve probably heard about the many ways you can improve cognition and get smarter. Read books, meditate, learn a new skill, exercise, and do some crazy brain games that will make you rip out your hair in disarray.

However, the whole idea behind increasing cognition is based on doing something different from what you’re used to and making your neural network more flexible.

Here are 7 unconventional ways to improve cognition that will tax your mental powers and make you more intelligent.

#1
Creative Visualization

Our evaluations of mental imagery are directly connected to our performance in the real world[i] because our subconscious mind can’t tell much difference between what’s inside our head and what’s out there. All it sees are pictures that get projected onto a wall.

You can use this to your advantage by visualizing certain skills you would like to accomplish. This is taught to high-performance people across all domains.

  • Navy SEALs are taught to go through certain drills countless times in their head as well as in practice
  • Entrepreneurs use visualizations to envision their future successes
  • Elite level athletes see themselves winning the gold before they even reach the finish line

In terms of cognition, you will increase your creativity and force your brain to work harder in conjuring up mental images. You can use visualization exercises during meditation. Click here to get your free guided meditation track.

#2
Empathy

Empathy stimulates the dynamic activity of the prefrontal cortex[ii], which is associated with decision-making and working memory. How does this work?

  • Empathy is the ability to see things from the perspective of others.
  • Theory of mind (TOM) is the ability to recognize that one has a mind and that other people have a similar mind with their own beliefs, values, and intentions that are different.

In conjunction with empathy, you’re teaching yourself to read social cues and thus promote emotional intelligence.

Empathy forces you to expand your awareness beyond your own point of view. You have to understand the perspective of others and think more objectively. (Click to Tweet)

#3
Expose Yourself to Novelty

Our brain is constantly changing, which is called neuroplasticity and is the capacity of neurons and neural circuits to change structurally and functionally[iii]. This quality is fundamental for adaptive behavior, learning, memory processes, brain development, and repair.

When you seek out novelty, you have to adapt to new conditions. You’re forced to learn and thus improve cognitive functioning by creating new synaptic connections with the new activity.

Novelty also triggers dopamine, which is the pleasure hormone that puts us into a highly motivated state but also stimulates neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells and neurons.

  • Take a new route while you commute
  • Switch between your dominant hands for a while
  • Change your routine
  • Learn a new language
  • Or practice a musical instrument

#4
Be Distracted

Whenever we want to achieve Jedi-like concentration we naturally enclose ourselves to a quiet environment where no one would disturb us.

Seems legit…

However, it’s been shown that some background noise can actually boost your brain’s productivity[iv].

Small chatter and voices, like the ambient environment of a coffee shop, are perfect for heightened concentration and creativity. Of course, you can’t take this too far and remain focused like a zen-master when it gets too loud. The dose of about 70 decibels seems to be right. You can use websites like https://www.noisli.com/ to play some background noise.

Another thing that I like to do is to deliberately create some chaos in my work environment. It might look like a mess someone else but in my eyes, everything is right there where they’re supposed to be. This probably doesn’t have any real effect on your cognition, but it can force you to exert slightly more mental effort when doing something, which can indirectly lead to greater working memory.

Keep it Clean and Messy - How to Improve Cognition
Keep it Clean and Messy – How to Improve Cognition

But more importantly, this will augment your mindset to be unaffected by distractions. If you expose yourself to only your safe environment where everything is under control then you’re going to fail when you’re somewhere less ideal. Condition yourself to perform under circumstances that aren’t perfect and you’ll turn antifragile. (Click to Tweet)

#5
Practice Multi-Tasking

Doing several things at once is the least productive way of doing things. Don’t do it. You may think that you’re accomplishing many things at once but in reality, what you’re doing is simply alternating between them. Every time you swap between tasks, you get kicked out of your focused state and have to re-establish it, which takes time.

However, multi-tasking can have its benefits in improving your ability to stay focused while being distracted. You create productivity leaks because your brain requires time to re-adjust its focus. By increasing the speed at which you can become concentrated again, you can train your brain to get better at alternating between distractive tasks, which will help you enter flow faster as well.

This should be taken as a mental workout for your brain with the purpose of switching between several tasks while not losing the speed at which you work. Don’t expect it to work on highly creative endeavors or activities that require immense concentration. Use it only on small less demanding pursuits and as a means of flexing your neural muscles.

#6
Power Training

Speaking of flexing your muscles, another great way to increase the speed at which your neurons fire is to do explosive plyometric or HIIT training.

This sounds like total broscience but what’s the reasoning behind this?

The central nervous system is connected with all parts of the body. It’s our inner communication network between our body and mind.

The state of your physiology has a direct effect on your psychology. If you ever need proof to that, then notice how your thinking and creativity suffer after not having slept enough or when you eat something bad.

Making yourself more explosive and powerful will make your nervous system more efficient and faster. Because of that, your entire body-mind will increase the rate of its communication, allowing you to execute motor skills and higher executive tasks more efficiently.

Another reason why you would want to use exercise as a cognitive enhancing drug is that it releases the hormone brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which boosts cognition and mood.

#7
Inversion

Sending more blood flow to the brain will promote the functioning and the health of your cerebellum. Because we are bipedal monkeys who have decided to start walking up straight, we’re by design not putting in any effort to do so.

However, inversion is great for other things as well. It works against the gravitational force we’re exposed to 24/7 and decompresses the joints.

  • Hold a headstand
  • Candle position
  • Handstand
  • Hang upside down from a pull up bar
  • Buy an inversion table which will literally flip you over.

We should all flip things over every day as to not only boost our cognition but to also see things upside down. (Click to Tweet)

Greetings, Einstein!
Learn More, How to Improve Your Cognition

These were some unconventional ways you can improve cognition, but one of the surest and guaranteed way to do it is to subscribe to my YouTube channel because I make videos about becoming empowered, which includes

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Stay Empathic,

Stay Empowered!

Siim

 

References

[i] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616193907.htm

[ii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2717040/

[iii] http://physrev.physiology.org/content/94/1/189

[iv] http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/665048#fndtn-references_tab_contents