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100 Ways You Can Tap Into More of Your Brain

by Staff Writers

We’d all like to be more creative, insightful, sensitive and productive, but with all the chaos and stress in our lives, it’s tough to tune out the noise and meet our full potential. But with the right balance of meditation, exercise, diet and recreation, we can discover easy ways to tap into more of our brains. Keep reading for 100 more hacks.

Environmental

Tune into the world around you by using all of your senses, becoming a better listener and getting outside.

  1. Listen: Becoming a better listener tunes your brain into all the little subtleties that define someone’s personality, a problem, and an experience. You’ll become more aware of your surroundings and natural trends, too.
     
  2. Slow down: To prevent burn out, take a few minutes or a few days to slow down and relax your mind.
     
  3. Guided visualization: This meditative practice can help your mind make connections between seemingly unrelated experiences or senses.
     
  4. Get fresh air: Fresh air can boost brain power, focus and mood.
     
  5. Get online: Internet surfing engages you mentally and physically as you click around pages.
     
  6. Go for a walk: Explore your neighborhood in a new way by taking a walk and noticing new smells, scenes, textures and noises.
     
  7. Identify your brain’s best hour: Studies have shown that older people think most clearly in the morning while younger people are more focused in the afternoon.
     
  8. Smell natural scents: Natural scents like sandalwood increase oxygen flow to the brain.
     
  9. Connect your memories to events, sense and old memories: By making connections between new memories and things your brain already recognizes, you’ll be able to remember them more easily.
     
  10. Listen to classical music: A study involving people who listened to Mozart found that their brains were able to make complex connections faster.
     
  11. Avoid neurotoxins: Pollution, certain food additives and other chemicals slow down your brain.
     
  12. Learn to deal with stress: Stress complicates your brain’s ability to process short-term memory.
     
  13. Observe something new every day: Each day, think of a new thing to observe, like the colors people wear or different smells.
     

Exercises

These brain teasers and tricks will keep your mind young and healthy.

  1. Draw: Drawing taps into the right side of your brain, a side that many of us seldom use.
     
  2. Streamwriting: Leonardo da Vinci’s streamwriting technique can help you tap into your subconscious.
     
  3. Blind readings: This exercise can help you tap into your intuition and requires you to write three solutions to a problem you have on three different index cards. Turn them over and evaluate which one you’re most drawn to.
     
  4. Play this or that: The this or that game requires you to make impulse choices based on your intuition or gut reactions to questions like "city or town" or "mountains or beach."
     
  5. Self-massage: Use this acupressure exercise guide to stimulate your brain and improve concentration and memory.
     
  6. Aerobic activity: Increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain and give your brain a rest by running, swimming or doing cardio.
     
  7. Red-light Green-light: Associate red lights with no/false/stop and green lights with yes/true/go while asking yourself questions. You’ll learn to trust your intuition after you answer.
     
  8. Dance: Dancing is a great form of exercise and challenges your brain to learn new routines.
     
  9. Puzzles: All kinds of puzzles, including word puzzles, work your brain.
     
  10. Get dressed in the dark: Neurobic exercises, like getting dressed in the dark, require you to use different senses for different activities.
     
  11. Prepare a story: Think out a story that you’ll tell friends later in the day, and consider storytelling style, details, jokes and more.
     
  12. Play trivia games: Read trivia blogs and play trivia games to practice learning simple facts.
     
  13. Sudoku: Sudoku is actually one of the most powerful brain exercises out there.
     

Diet

Diet plays a big role in how our brains function, just like the rest of our bodies and organs. Add more of these foods into your diet for better brain power.

  1. Blueberries: Blueberries, the most popular "brain food," support cell growth and have valuable antioxidants.
     
  2. Red cabbage: Red cabbage contains polyphenols that improve brain function and protect against stroke and Alzheimer’s.
     
  3. Kale: Three servings per day of dark green leafy vegetables like kale can slow cognitive decline by 40%.
     
  4. Almonds: Almonds contain phenylalanine, which stimulates the brain’s ability to create dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
     
  5. Walnuts: Another valuable nut is the walnut, which contains protein, omega-3 fatty acids and help relieve bad moods, appetite and insomnia.
     
  6. Salmon: Salmon contains healthy fats from omega-3s that are incredibly beneficial to brain health.
     
  7. Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt contains tyrosine which improves focus and mental alertness.
     
  8. Green tea: Another popular brain food is green tea, which boosts alertness, dopamine production and helps the brain make connections.
     
  9. Asparagus: One cup of asparagus contains 70% of your daily requirement for folic acid, which helps memory.
     
  10. Strawberries: Strawberries are rich in powerful antioxidants that promote cells’ abilities to help the brain send messages.
     
  11. Eggs: Eat eggs for protein and choline, which improves memory.
     
  12. Thyme: A study using rats found that thyme helped the older rats’ brains operate more like younger rats.
     
  13. Tomatoes: Tomatoes give your brain valuable carotenoids to help it stay young.
     
  14. Eat low-carb: High-carb foods can make you feel sleepy and sluggish, especially if you eat carbs made of white sugars.
     
  15. Eat: Studies show that anorexics’ brains are more preoccupied with perfection and practical details rather than creativity or impulse.
     
  16. Caffeine: Caffeine helps you stay alert temporarily and helps prevent cognitive decline.
     

Sleep

Sleep is important if you want more energy, better focus and a higher brian performance.

  1. Get up earlier: Wake up earlier to get a fresh start and give yourself more time to get ready without rushing.
     
  2. Take a catnap: A catnap as short as 6 minutes may sharpen memory.
     
  3. Sleep deeply: Allow enough time for your sleep to reach the REM cycle so that your brain can dream and make connections.
     
  4. Stay on a schedule: A regular sleeping schedule will help you fall asleep faster and wake up easier.
     
  5. Go to bed earlier: The first part of your sleep may help your brain the most, so allow for extra sleeping time at night, not the next morning.
     

Social Hacks

Did you know that hanging out with friends is actually good for your mood and your mind? Here’s how being social impacts your brain health.

  1. Volunteer: Volunteering reduces stress and provides you with a social outlet for making new friends and learning something new.
     
  2. Plan a party: Your brain will have to focus on new types of details, and you’ll also get a lot of beneficial social interaction.
     
  3. Share stories: Help your brain make connections by retelling stories to friends.
     
  4. Hang out with friends: Social relationships and activities, even just talking on the phone, improves brain cognition, keeps you sharp, and lowers stress.
     
  5. Hold group discussions: Group discussions fulfill your need to be social and help you think of things in a new perspective.
     
  6. Take a class with a friend: Learning something new with a friend can help you review facts later and supplement the experience.
     
  7. Interact with everyone: Don’t be friendly with friends only: to get as much brain benefit as you can out of social interaction, say hello to neighbors and strangers, too.
     

Learning

Brains that are constantly learning something new are less likely to go into a decline as you age.

  1. Take a class: Explore a new subject to exercise your brain while practicing skills like critical thinking.
     
  2. Memorize a poem: Memorize a new poem each day and then recite it back to someone in the evening.
     
  3. Read: Reading engages your mind, teaches you new things, and can help you become more intuitive.
     
  4. Learn song lyrics: Look up lyrics to a song and then test yourself when it comes on the radio.
     
  5. Brainstorm: Let your brain make its own connections before starting on a project in a more clinical way.
     
  6. Strike a balance: Over analyzing a subject can actually hinder creativity, so give yourself a break.
     
  7. Watch less TV: While there are educational programs on TV, you’ll learn more by engaging yourself in actual activities.
     
  8. Write: Even if you don’t think you’re a writer, take a few moments each day to practice being creative.
     
  9. Practice: Practice new skills to get your brain accustomed to new strategies.
     
  10. Switch up what you read: Read a science or travel magazine instead of a mystery novel to challenge your brain.
     
  11. Try everything: Even if you think it’s a dumb idea, trying all solutions to a problem helps you stay creative.
     
  12. Take notes: Take notes even if you’re not going to be quizzed later, as this practice helps you remember facts as well as your feelings about a subject.
     
  13. Ask more questions: Asking questions keeps you engaged and helps you remember.
     

Habits

Consider these habits for better brain health.

  1. Breathe deeply: Increase oxygen flow to your brain by breathing deeply.
     
  2. Meditate: Clear your head and learn how to really connect yourself to the present moment through meditation.
     
  3. Use your fingers more: Engage your fingers by using chopsticks, writing with a pen instead of the computer, or roll a pen through your fingers to stimulate your brain.
     
  4. Take care of your teeth: Gingivits and poor oral health can contribute to cognitive decline.
     
  5. Make lists: Lists help you make connections, analyze your tasks in a visual way and help memory.
     
  6. Keep things varied: Don’t fall into a routine with your food, schedule, movie choices or hang-out spots.
     
  7. Quit smoking: Nicotine reduces brain function by constricting blood flow to the brain.
     
  8. Drink less alcohol: Alcohol doesn’t just impair your mind temporarily: frequent drinking can lead to cognitive decline in the long term, too.
     
  9. Trust yourself: Tap into your intuition and natural brain power by trusting your instincts.
     
  10. Write things down: The actual process of writing things down helps you remember them.
     
  11. Keep a journal: Help your brain make connections at the end of the day by keeping a journal.
     
  12. Translate: If you speak another language or are at least learning one, try translating past conversations, TV scenes and signs into the other language.
     

Challenges

Keep your brain sharp by testing it as much as you can.

  1. Use your other hand: Make your brain concentrate on an activity it usually does involuntarily.
     
  2. Travel: Traveling opens up your brain to all kinds of new challenges, smells, sights, noises and experiences.
     
  3. Play Scrabble: Tricky games like Scrabble that require you to make connections and find solutions are good challenges for your brain.
     
  4. Try to remember: By recalling facts, specific details and conversations from the last couple of days, you’ll work out your brain.
     
  5. Drive a different route to work: Switch up your regular routine to make your brain work a little harder. Test yourself on the way home.
     
  6. Take on extra responsibility: Instead of delegating a hard task to a subordinate, do it yourself to engage your brain.
     
  7. Memorize phone numbers: Trying to remember a series of numbers gives your brain a good work out.
     
  8. Rearrange your furniture: It’s amazing how accustomed your brain can become to an environment, but if you rearrange it, you’ll be challenged every time you walk into the room.
     
  9. Do your errands on a different day: Break the routine by running your errands on a different day of the week.
     
  10. Interview people: Interview people about their jobs and relationships to keep things fresh and continue learning.
     
  11. Add in the physical aspect: Your brain becomes more engaged when you combine the mental with the physical, so practice a pen trick while you read.
     
  12. Take a test: Take a test on any subject to find out your weaknesses and how you can improve upon them.
     
  13. Use new media to interact: If you only talk to your parents on the phone, try using IM or Facebook chat every once in a while for a different experience.
     
  14. Memorize names: At a party or other social event, try to remember all of the names of the people you just met, in the same order.
     

Vitamins

Add these vitamins to your diet for better brain power.

  1. Vitamin E: Vitamin E can prevent Alzheimer’s.
     
  2. Vitamin B: Vitamin B12 can prevent brain shrinkage in older individuals.
     

Wellness

These healthy living hacks will keep your mind sharp well into old age.

  1. Stay healthy: Eating too much saturated fat and developing Type II diabetes can actually hurt your brain, too.
     
  2. Keep your energy up: Exercise and eat healthy foods to stay energized and focused.
     
  3. Practice good heart health: Heart-healthy foods and activities are also good for your brain.
     
  4. Try natural remedies when you’re sick: To avoid side effects like cloudiness and more serious issues, ask your doctor about natural remedies.
     
  5. Wear a helmet: Each concussion can greatly increase your chances of dementia.