Now more than ever, our society is fostering a stronger interest in neuroscience and psychology in hopes of fueling self development. With the rapid pace of modern life, we’re looking to get more accomplished with less effort, and in smaller bursts of time. This desire has given birth to what we commonly call “brain hacks,” or ways of altering our thoughts and behaviors to boost our success rates. While many of these so-called hacks are difficult to achieve, or only have minimal roots in actual scientific research, some can change our lives dramatically. Here, we’ll outline five of the most reputable practices you can adopt to strengthen your brain and ultimately move closer to your goals.
1. Weed out what doesn’t matter.
This tip may not seem like a direct way to strengthen your brain. However, indirectly, it will enable you to complete tasks that matter and stop wasting time on meaningless work. Sit down and begin compiling a list of your long–term goals. In a separate column, list the daily activities that eat up most of your time. Then, consider how many of those daily activities are contributing to your long–term goals. A few? None? Research has shown that we learn faster when a topic is important to us – when it gets us excited. So if the majority of your workload is tiresome and monotonous, your productivity levels are likely to plummet. In this case, you must begin to take back your time little by little, so that more of it is spent on what matters to you.
2. Employ music.
Simply put, music can change our level of alertness and shift our mood. No other medium has the ability to impact our energy levels and boost our positivity quite like music can — and it happens quickly too. Some research indicates that unfamiliar music can actually improve focus better than songs you already know and love. At the very least, we know that music causes a dopamine release in the brain, which equates to a reward sensation. Feeling rewarded lowers our resistance to tedious tasks, often helping us breeze through them with higher levels of productivity.
3. Ditch the willpower struggle.
Unfortunately, many people spend enormous amounts of effort controlling their behavior through what we call “willpower.” But studies have suggested that this may be a shell game, or a surefire path to always losing in the end. So instead of suffering through another rigid diet or a grueling work day without breaks, look to form healthy habits instead. Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project explains how we are actually more likely to stick with a “work hard, play hard” formula than a rigid willpower marathon. So instead of forcing yourself to perform 5 hours of moderately productive work, aim for intense 1-2 hour sessions with total breaks in between – that means no work calls while on break!
4. Meditate before work.
While it may seem too obvious to count as a secret brain hack, meditation is still incredibly under-utilized in the world today. Meditation treats a wide variety of mental and emotional ailments, but a little known fact is that it can also help you get things done. When we’re trying to be productive, whether at work, school, or home, a cluttered mind means slower processing. Science has shown that the human brain is not made for multitasking. Thus when you meditate before getting to work, it’s much easier to direct 100% of your attention to each task in succession. Vipassana meditations are particularly helpful in reducing unhelpful brain activity and grounding the mind to the body. For those in a corporate environment, regular meditation will improve concentration and reduce negative thinking so you can break through productivity barriers.
5. Utilize nootropics strategically.
Nootropics are natural supplements that have been shown to enhance cognition. Scientists claim that nootropics can improve our memory, motivation, and even levels of creativity. Certain nootropics are said to boost memory, like boron and glycine. Others like l-tyrosine and ginseng support attention and focus. It is important to select the right nootropics and supplement at the right times each day. For example, ashwagandha is a nootropic that functions as a sleep aid, thus you wouldn’t want to take it in the morning. While they may not be incredibly powerful on their own, coupling nootropics with some of the practices mentioned above can lead to some fascinating improvements.
Try out a few of these science-backed suggestions and you’ll find that your brain is working smarter toward your goals — not harder.