Sandra Bond Chapman Ph.D.

Make Your Brain Smarter

Your Brain, Your Productivity

Your health starts and ends with your brain's health.

Posted Dec 04, 2012

How often do you think about your brain and its health? My guess is probably too seldom. The brain is often the most neglected, but most vital organ in the entire body. Your brain is at the core of everything that you do; it is the intricate engine that allows you to solve complex problems, to innovate when facing unchartered situations, to learn new job skills, to figure out the intent behind a person’s words, to create something new, and to plan for the future.

However, individuals typically focus on the brain only after things begin to go wrong -- such as declines in decision-making at any age, or impaired learning that persist years after an injury, or problems taking care of affairs that previously were routine -- perhaps signaling beginning stages of a disease.

I challenge you to start thinking about your brain health today and take action to strengthen its capacity. The stronger your brain, the more resilient it is to guard against cognitive decline. How can you make strides to insure your brain span more closely matches your extended life expectancy? The most important step to close the gap between life years and brain years is to recognize that you are a driving force in the course your brain health takes.

The complexity of your brain to be strengthened and rewired is a generous gift of nature that keeps on giving. Recent advances in brain imaging technology reveal that the brain is uniquely designed to be one of the most adaptable, modifiable, and regenerative organs in the entire body. Your brain changes both positively and negatively by how you use it each day. Your brain never stays the same. This means your cognitive brain health may decline over time because you let it.

Too many individuals fail to continuously strive for higher brain performance for a variety of reasons: restricted expectations based on artificial limits of IQ tests that were administered decades ago or by a well-meaning parent, friend, teacher or employer who did not encourage or train you to rise to the next level. All too often, though, the greatest culprit is our own personal negative framing about smartness capacity. Scientific evidence has shown (1) IQ and high-stakes tests are outdated, misleading indices of brain potential and (2) age does not have to be a strong predictor of brain slippage. Growing brain research shows that a majority of individuals across the lifespan can make their brain smarter every single day.

Scientific discoveries typically take twenty to forty years or more before they are applied to meaningfully benefit human life. When it comes to matters of the brain that is too long a delay. None of us can afford to let our brains decline – not even for a day, much less three to four decades. You would not accept that for your heart, eyes, kidneys or lungs; so why allow such slippage for your most valued asset – your brain performance? Research reveals that most everyone can increase their intellectual capital, enhance their cognitive performance, and harness the immense capacity of their brain to be strengthened and rewired in health, and even after brain injury or brain disease.

Brain health fitness is not a quick fix. To achieve gains requires concerted and lasting effort since brain performance requires a continual commitment.

I challenge you to think and act differently about your brain -- today.

  • Update your outdated beliefs. A near-perfect memory is not the cornerstone of a robust brain. Multitasking is not the ultimate measure of highly effective brain performance.
  • Sort out and stop habits that downgrade and degrade your brain performance, such as information overload and download.
  • Spend focused time on meaningful real-life activities that demand vital decision-making and complex problem solving.
  • Become an advocate of brain health to all those around you -- whether at work, home, community or play.

You are never too young or too old to adopt healthy brain habits that challenge and enhance your brain’s capacity to think smarter. You should start and end each day focused on brain fitness by setting and achieving high performance goals no matter your age. It is as essential to measure, monitor and maximize your brain fitness, as it is to measure, monitor and maximize your physical fitness.

Remember, more can be done to keep your brain healthy than any other part of your body but actions on your part are required. Failing to attend to your brain’s health will result in unnecessary backward losses of cognitive capacity. What degree of cognitive brain performance are you willing to lose this year? Or will you take the necessary steps to experience brain gain? Make sure your best brain years are ahead of you. It’s a Know Brainer.

Next month, I will share with you why your frontal lobes are the key to unlocking your untapped brain potential, and in the coming months, you will learn action-oriented steps to maximize your brain’s performance to increase your creativity, energy and focus. Without brain health, you do not have health.

About the Author

Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., is the founder and Chief Director of the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas.

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