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Training your brain for maximum growth

Training your brain for maximum growth
Aleksandar Marinković Intellectual Wanderer with a Legal Background

One of the best ways to enhance our cognitive processes is to train our brains to visualize things. Living a better, more fulfilling life will enable us to reframe new concepts and expand our horizons to seemingly unlimited possibilities. As we live in a world that feels more and more complex, knowing how to tackle those complexities will make a huge difference in our lives. In this article, you will see 6 ways to tackle complex problems, all with the aim of training your brain for maximum growth.

1. Mastering our emotions

This may come as a surprise to you, but the studies showed that emotions and thoughts influence each other profoundly. Thoughts can both create a feeling (for example, anxiety from worrying about a job interview) as well as evaluate it (“This isn’t a realistic fear”).

Furthermore, our emotional states are influenced by the way we evaluate and manage our lives. For instance, a dog lover is probably going to be too aware of the dog across the street and see its approach as threatening, which might cause emotional distress. The identical event will cause a significantly different emotional response from someone who views the dog’s approach as friendly.

Emotions are “part of us,” we tend to think, and they are unchangeable. However, studies have shown that feelings are flexible. They can be modified through:

a) Altering an external situation (changing job)
b) Shifting our attention (choosing to focus on the good sides of the situation, and not only on the bad)
c) Re-appraising a situation (upcoming events are not an assessment of my skills, but an opportunity to learn and grow)

In other words, by mastering our emotions, we start to think differently. Fear can paralyze us and block our thinking. But if we learn to recognize that emotion and learn how not to allow it to affect us, then our thinking is clearer. By applying this from one situation to another, we are creating an environment for growth.

“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice.” — Epictetus

2. Trusting our gut or our intuition

Have you ever heard about the “second brain” or “brain in your gut”? Even if you haven’t, surely in some situations you simply “went with your gut” to decide or you “felt butterflies in your stomach” when being nervous. Believe it or not, this “brain in your gut,” which is concealed within the walls of the digestive system, is transforming medical knowledge of the connections between mood, health, digestion, and even thought processes.

Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS).

Now, ENS cannot help you write a poem or do business analysis. However, researchers found evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.

In other words, researchers concluded that our two brains communicate. Furthermore, they believe that digestive system activity may affect cognition (thinking skills and memory), too.

From that point of view, if our two brains communicate, and our digestive system affects our mood, then the feeling we have when we think about something is influenced by our digestive system, and vice versa. Our brain is sending signals to the gut, and that gut sends signals to the brain, and we have this sensation in our stomach and have that “AHA” moment.

3. Listening to our body

Mens sana in corpore sano: a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Emotions affect our thinking. What we eat affects our thinking. What about the physical shape of our body? It is scientifically proven that physical activity boosts brain health. It helps you think, learn, solve problems and complex tasks, and have more energy. Frequent exercise can also lower your chance of developing dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

Research indicates that even a few hours of moderate exercise per week can have a positive impact on our mood and self-esteem, as well as enhance our cognitive function and learning capacity. When combined with a balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients, it will ensure that you maintain a healthy, happy sense of physical and mental well-being.

This is the reason why you need to listen to your body, listen to the signals that it sends you, and address any health issues that you have. Because they will affect your learning, decision-making, and thinking processes.

4. Making good decisions (good thinking)

Making good decisions is very challenging. What is more challenging is to make them consistent. There are several things you need to take into consideration to make good decisions.

1) Values

Knowing our values, our priorities, and our souls (if you wish) is the first thing to take into consideration when deciding. What is good for me is not necessarily good for others, and vice versa. The same is true in business. One decision or business move in one environment or situation is not necessarily applicable or good in another.

2) Blind spots

Knowing our blind spots or biases is immensely important in the decision-making process. If you are not aware of your blind spots, they may be the cause of your not-so-good decisions. Therefore, spend some time reevaluating your beliefs, asking others to look for “holes” in your decision, and trying to find a blind spot.

Don’t let the Dunning-Kruger effect ruin your life!

3) Do the research

Gather as much data as possible, process it, reevaluate it, and consider many different viewpoints. Nothing is black or white. There are other options. There is other data. Just go and search for them. The more facts you have, the better the decision will be. Always look for three credible sources to confirm the facts.

4) Write everything down

Write, draw, doodle, whatever. Just record, in some way, your thought process. That way, if you ever need to come back to the reason why you made a certain decision, you will have it on paper. You will know your reason, and, perhaps, you will be able to find an error in your reasoning. This will improve your future decisions, and you will constantly improve your decision-making process.

5) Four Pillars or Four Lions of Thinking

1. Critical thinking
2. Strategic thinking
3. Original thinking
4. Creative thinking

These four ways of thinking can contribute to the decision-making process like nothing else.

5. Stay motivated and resilient to reach our goals

Let’s start from here. Studies showed that:

  • A positive mindset can increase one’s lifespan by up to 7 years.
  • 85% of people who have a positive mindset on life experience significantly less depression and anxiety,
  • 87% of people with positive mindsets are more likely to live healthier lifestyles and make better choices for their health.

Optimism and positivity lead to better health, both mental and physical, help you cope with stress and adversity, and increase life satisfaction and resilience.

6. Using creativity to design the real-world outcomes that you wish to have

Start with a solution and work backward to the problem.
Start with the problem and go towards the solution.
Ignore the problem and think, “What if this was not the case?”.
Simply put, try new things, and new approaches, take a different angle or perspective, use things in different ways, play with your thoughts, wonder, think, etc.

All of this will contribute to training your brain for maximum growth.

Source: University of Minnesota, Johns Hopkins Medicine, University of Galway, Harvard Business Review, AsstOffice