You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!
Flow is a mental state that was first described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It is characterized by the ability of creative people to block out all distractions and fully immerse themselves in an activity. When someone feels like they are "in the zone" or "in a groove", it is likely that they are experiencing flow.
The unbroken concentration that comes from flow can be refreshing and invigorating. Extreme productivity and highly creative ideas are often the result of a flow experience. People come out of flow feeling happy and fulfilled.
Someone who is experiencing flow may lose their feeling of self-awareness. They will become completely absorbed by the activity and forget about themselves, sometimes ignoring bodily needs, such as eating and sleeping. They may also become unaware of the passage of time and may be surprised when they realize how much time has passed while they were enjoying the activity.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to get into flow on command, but it is possible to shift things in your favor. Reducing disturbances is very important. Each phone call, instant message or other distraction call pull you out of the flow experience. It is also important that the task you are working on posses most of these criteria:
1. The person must have active control over the task.
2. The task must have clear goals and expectations.
3. The task must give immediate feedback, such that mistakes can be quickly corrected.
4. The task must not be so easy that it is boring, but not so difficult that it is frustrating.
5. The activity should be intrinsically rewarding so that participation is its own reward.
To learn more about flow, you can read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow" at Amazon.com.
Caffeine is probably the most commonly used chemical stimulant. More than 90% of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis in their coffee, soda, tea, or chocolate. Pure caffeine is a white bitter-tasting powder that can be extracted from coffee, tea, the guarana berry, or from other sources.
Caffeine is a brain stimulant. It works in the brain by blocking the natural effect of adenosine on the nerve cells, causing increased mental activity. It also causes the body to release adrenaline, which causes the heart to beat faster, blood pressure to rise, muscles to tighten up, and extra sugar to be released into the bloodstream for a burst of energy. This is why it is often used to counteract sleepiness.
Caffeine is an addictive substance. When the effects from caffeine wear off, the feelings of fatigue, depression, and irritability set in. Taking more caffeine can counteract these feelings, but this leads to a dangerous cycle. With prolonged use, it can interfere with the brain's ability to reach deep sleep and become fully rested, which means that the person will feel tired in the morning and be more inclined to take even more caffeine.
People have a natural tendency to pick the first solution that comes to their mind and go with it, without thinking about any of the alternatives. This is dangerous because better ideas can be overlooked simply because you have not properly defined the problem and thought about the solutions. A much better approach would be to select the best solution from a large collection of ideas.
Too often a problem is poorly solved because it is poorly defined in the first place. Care should be taken not to constrain the problem too narrowly because your chances for creativity will be limited. A broader problem statement will often give you more room for unique solutions, but don't go too broad otherwise you risk getting lost or distracted. Our exercise for working on the right level will help you properly constrain your problem.
Once you have a statement that you think properly defines your problem, try out these two exercises to help you clarify it further.
1. Problem Statement Morphing
2. One Word Problem Statements
Stereotyping is an inescapable habit of the human mind. You are constantly making stereotypes without even knowing it. The mind simply cannot store every detail about everything that passes through it, so it tries to simplify things by sorting them into groups that are consistent with information that already resides in your memory.
For example, without looking at it, try to imagine what the face of your watch looks like. Does it have numbers for the hours or is it just implied? Are there any words printed on the front? What color are the hands? Chances are you cannot remember every detail of your watch even though you look at it several times a day. This is because your mind knows how to deal with watches so it stereotypes your watch and forgets about all the inconsequential details.
Topics that are important to you are unlikely to be heavily stereotyped, whereas unfamiliar topics will be heavily stereotyped. If you are uninterested in mountain climbing, it is very likely that you have a bunch of stereotypes about that particular sport. However, an avid mountain climber knows so much about the topic that few stereotypes remain.
Stereotypes can also affect the way you unconsciously feel about something. If you are allergic to bees, it might be difficult for you to think of them as beneficial insects that you might want in your garden.
Just being aware that your mind is full of stereotypes will help you look at things with an open mind. The next time you are trying to solve something, ask yourself if there are any stereotypes that are constraining your thinking.
For each of the following statements, come up with at least two plausible reasons why they are true. Now, come up with at least two plausible reasons why they are false. This exercise will help you to see that issues often have different sides to them.
1. Guns are dangerous.
2. Traveling by airplane is safer than traveling by car.
3. Water causes brain damage.
You can repeat this exercise by using any subjective statement that you can find.