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Brain Exercises That Boost Creativity

Meditation triggers high-frequency brain waves associated with attention and perception: it feeds the wellspring of human creativity. Researchers also found that people who meditate 30 minutes a day for eight weeks have improved focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility. Give meditation a try to get your creative juices flowing. Here's how to start.

The spark of creativity is ignited when we are able to get out of our own way by letting go of preconceived notions, inward distractions of day-to-day worries, habitual associations. Creativity, in other words, stems from the state of mind induced by meditation.

Find a meditation technique that works for you. There are many ways to meditate. To start: try sitting mediation. Whether you sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, make sure that your spine is upright with head up, chin straight ahead. Count your breaths, an ancient meditation practice. On your out-breath, silently count one, then two on the in-breath, up to four, then return to one. If your thoughts begin to stray, or you find yourself counting beyond four, return to one.

Keep your eyes open. Closing your eyes can lead you to drift away on certain thoughts. Stare at the flame of a candlelight if that helps, or a picture of a pleasant landscape. Repeating a simple chant (perhaps the ubiquitous, “Om”) also helps keep your mind clear and focused.

Focus on de-stressing.Meditation strengthens cognitive control. The ability to concentrate is enhanced when meditation quiets other brain functions. After one of my 30-minute meditation sessions Iburst of creative and associative energy -- I listen more acutely to my colleagues and am better able to synthesize disparate ideas into an action plan.

Practice meditating daily.If you exercise your brain this way you can make it stronger and more innovative than you were yesterday. Thirty minutes of "mindfulness" at the office as a substitute for outmoded brainstorming sessions can make us all stop and think.

The hows of meditation have been around for millennia. They are simple to learn, and, although they require consistent practice, they will return increasing rewards as you build them into your weekly or even daily routine.

This article was written by Debra Kaye for Huffington Post. We shared this with you to help improve your productivity and help you foster your creativity.

4 Techniques To Power Down A Busy Mind

You know you should sleep more (which could happen), walk more (which should happen), and turn off your phone (that's not happening). Here are a few surprising ways to quiet your brain at different times of day -- without going off the grid.

Do Some Heavy (Mental) Lifting

A counterintuitive way to calm a frazzled, wandering mind is to take on a more demanding task. In a 2007 study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal discovered that the more demanding the task, the less distracted the subjects were.

How to do it: When you feel yourself darting out in a thousand different directions, rather than play Whac-A-Mole with your email, immerse yourself in one of your most challenging projects, one that will require your full attention.

Try it when: Your energy is high (as in, not at bedtime), but you're feeling stressed because you have your hands in a bunch of different half-done tasks.

Don't Spend More Than Six Hours Alone

While there's growing evidence that working from home can reduce stress and increase productivity, there's reason to believe that spending too much time alone is a recipe for anxiety. Face time with another person can have a grounding and calming effect, and you should do it every four to six hours. A study done at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine suggests that a change in brain hormones due to social isolation was responsible for aggression and anxiety in mice.

How to do it: Commit to regular daily doses of human moments. Whether that's coffee with a friend or a hair appointment—interact with a real person in the flesh, not on your phone.

Try it when: You don't remember when you last spoke a word out loud to another person.

Balance on One Leg

A powerful way to calm the mind is to redirect attention to the body. Somatosensory activities, which are simply exercises designed to help you sense your own body, can help sharpen cognitive and physical performance. Use it to help with balance, attention and focus issues for children and adults, and you can use them to quiet the mental chatter.

How to do it: Try standing on one leg with your eyes closed (better yet, try it on a wobble board). Change your clothes or put on your shoes without sitting down or holding onto anything.

Try it when: Your brain is about to explode.

Put Up Stop Signs

You weren't born knowing that a red light means hit the brakes. But you've done a pretty solid job of assimilating that information, as you have other habits, like tying your shoes or driving. And you can do the same for a racing mind—if you turn it into a habit.

How to do it: Get yourself a packet of tiny dot-shaped stickers, and put them in select places where you'll come across them regularly: On the back of your phone, on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the steering wheel. Every time you see one, take three deep, grounding breaths. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found yogic breathing to be a beneficial adjunct treatment for those suffering from anxiety and stress disorders—even those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Don’t have stickers handy? Train yourself to pair breathing with actions you do every day; for instance, every time you walk through a doorway or open the fridge.

Try it when: Your thoughts are racing so fast you can't keep up.


This article was originally written by Terri Trespicio. We shared it with you because we found it very informative and helpful for easing a racing mind and de-stressing your life.

 
The Science & Power Behind Naps


According to a growing body of research, napping is a smart thing to do. It can help refresh the mind, make you more creative, boost your intelligence, and even help you live a longer, healthier life. It's slowly gaining acceptance as part of a healthy lifestyle, even in some corporate offices.

Taking a nap, we've seen time and again, is like rebooting your brain. But napping may be as much of an art as it is a science. Let us offer recommendations for planning your perfect nap, including how long to nap and when.

For a quick boost of alertness. Experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.The sleep experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap gives you the best "bang for your buck," but depending on what you want the nap to do for you, other durations might be ideal. 

For cognitive memory processing. However, a 60-minute nap may do more good, Dr. Mednick said. Including slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.

For a full cycle of sleep. The 90-minute nap aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike. Waking up after REM sleep usually means a minimal amount of sleep inertia, Dr. Mednick said.P

Sit slightly upright during your nap. Because it will help you avoid a deep sleep. And if you find yourself dreaming during your power naps, it may be a sign you're sleep deprived. 

This article was originally posted by Melanie Pinola for LifeHacker. We shared it with you because we want you to get adequate sleep at the right times so it can help protect your mental health, physical health and quality of life.

7 Daily Tricks to Improve Your Memory

Here are some simple steps you can take to strengthen your memory every day.

Learn something new. Learning something new–be it a new language or taking a cooking class–is generally good for your brain. But learning formal couples dancing, it turns out, is especially good. “Not only is it physical, it’s learned dance moves,” says Dawn Buse, PhD, a health psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “You have to think as you go, change and be flexible. If you stretch the body at the same time, it’s a bonus.”

Switch hands. Many stroke survivors who suffer paralysis have to learn how to use the previously non-dominant side of their body for everyday tasks like writing. This helps create new neural networks. But even non-stroke survivors can benefit from the practice. “Brush your teeth with your left hand, buckle your belt with your left hand, eat cereal,” says Buse. “These novel activities are stimulating novel parts of the brain.”

Take breaks. There’s a way to never cram again and still remember what you learned. Researchers have determined that people who break their study time into chunks actually learn better than those who study for hours at a time. “Spacing out your learning and allowing time for forgetting to occur in between study sessions can promote your ability to remember information and promote your ability to learn concepts,” says researcher Haley Vlach, PhD, assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Write by hand. Foregoing the keyboard for pen and paper may actually be better for the brain, according to a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. People are better at remembering the orientation of a new character if they write the characters by hand rather than type them on a computer keyboard, the study found. And research in children has shown that writing with pen and paper activates more regions of the brain than simply tapping a keyboard.

Play a computer game. Don’t write off computer keyboards entirely. In one study, adolescent girls who regularly played the computer game Tetris had changes in parts of the brain involved in critical thinking, reasoning, language, and processing, among others. The game requires players to manipulate shapes as they fall so as to create an ordered row of tiles. And while Tetris may be 25 years old, it’s still available on all types of gadgets, including the iPhone and iPod Touch. And anagrams themselves–forming new words with the letters of an existing word–are good for stimulating the brain. You can find ways to tease your brain at GamesForYourBrain.com.

Meditate mindfully. Emerging evidence shows that people who routinely meditate can produce physical changes in the brain. This increases not only attentiveness but also self-awareness and empathy. Bonus: It costs nothing and can be done anywhere, at any time.

Read out loud. Reading a book or the newspaper out loud stimulates different parts of the brain than reading silently to yourself.

This article was originally written by Amanda Gardner of Health Magazine. We shared this with you for its helpful tips on improving our memory and keeping the brain active and healthy. 

7 Health Benefits of Strawberries

Strawberries are called ‘the queen of fruits” in Asian countries, because they are packed with health benefits. Yummy, juicy and mouth-watering, we love to enjoy strawberries in the form of ice creams, shakes, smoothies and other desserts.

Compared to fruits like apples, oranges or bananas, strawberries have the highest amount of nutrients. Strawberries are rich in vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These juicy heart-shaped delights have much more to offer beyond sweetness and flavor.

7 Health Benefits of Strawberries

Helps burn stored fat. The red coloring contains anthocyanins, which stimulate the burning of stored fat. When a group of animals was fed a high-fat diet along with anthocyanins, they gained 24 percent less weight than the animals eating the high-fat diet without added anthocyanins. The compound nitrate found promotes blood flow and oxygen in our body, which is great for weight loss.

Boost short term memory. The anthocyanins boost short term memory by 100 percent in eight weeks. 

Ease Inflammation. Strawberries lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a signal of inflammation in the body. In a study, women who ate 16 or more strawberries per week were 14 percent less likely to have elevated levels of CRP. 

Lower cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids — which are responsible for the colour and flavour of strawberries — lower the risk for heart disease.

Promote bone health. Strawberries contain potassium, vitamin K and magnesium which are important for bone health.

Anti-aging properties. Strawberries are filled with biotin, which helps build strong hair and nails. They also contain the antioxidant ellagic acid, which protects the elastic fibers in our skin to prevent sagging.

Promote eye health. Eating three or more servings of fruit like strawberries may lower the risk of macular degeneration, a condition resulting in vision loss.


So your brain wants to be better, faster, and smarter?

 

We can help.

There is no health without brain health. It’s quite the no brainer, ironically enough.  Although our brain controls all aspects of our daily lives, it still has it's mysteries. What we do know is our environment can alter the functions of genes. Researchers are more optimistic that we can overcome or modify genetic vulnerability and environmental factors to brain disorders. We also now know that neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, occurs continuously throughout our lives. So, here are 3 simple brain booster tips to follow:

 1. Move it

As we age, our brain cells, called neurons, lose the tree-branch-like connections between them. These connections, or synapses, are essential to thought. Quite literally, over time, our brains lose these connections. Perhaps the most striking brain research today is the strong evidence we now have that exercise may forestall some kinds of mental decline. It may even restore memory. Myriad animal studies have shown that, among other brain benefits, aerobic exercise increases capillary development in the brain, meaning more blood supply, more nutrients and — a big requirement for brain health — more oxygen.


2. Feed it

Another path to a better brain is through your stomach. Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles do. The foods particularly important to keep our grey matter happy would include the many colorful fruits and vegetables packed with antioxidants, as are whole grains, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and spices to name a few.  


3. Laugh a Little

The famous Irish proverbs is as followed — "A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book". Humor stimulates the parts of our brain that use the “feel good” chemical messenger, dopamine. That puts laughter in the category of activities you want to do over and over again, such as eating chocolate or sex. Laughter is pleasurable, perhaps even “addictive,” to the brain.


Sources
  • "7 Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Brain Young." Reader's Digest. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
  • "10 Foods to Boost Your Brainpower." BBC Good Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
  • "No Health without Brain Health: 7 Ways to Keep Mentally Fit." The Globe and Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.