How to Turn Anything Into Brain Training

By on January 13, 2020

The concept of brain training is somewhat maligned. There is nothing wrong with the idea that you can train your brain in theory: science shows us that the brain can be developed like a muscle through use, and that attributes like working memory respond very well to specifically designed exercises.

Maintain flow state

The problem is that there is a lack of evidence for many of the brain training programs commercially available. These apps and games show progress over time as you use them, but all that proves is that you are getting better at those games.

Our brain will naturally improve at a host of tasks meanwhile simply through use. If you really want to get better at speaking, then the best thing you can do is to practice speaking. If you want to improve your memory, then use your memory in the context that you want to improve it.

When you put it like that: what is the benefit of using a brain training app?

All Brain Training, All the Time

The problem is that most of us don’t learn a lot from what we’re doing. That’s because we are no longer pushing or challenging ourselves: too often we fall into a routine and spend most of our time completing the same tasks in the same manner, every single day.

The result is that we aren’t pushing ourselves. Do you push yourself on the drive to work? Does your job constantly throw new problems and challenges at you?

From Limitless

Many of us don’t even vary what we do in the gym: preferring instead to use the same several movements every day. Then we cook dinner, watch TV, put the kids to bed, and follow suit shortly after.

While some of these tasks might have once been difficult or daunting, they quickly become routine. We become accustomed to those challenges, and our mind and body adapts accordingly.

We become accustomed to those challenges, and our mind and body adapts accordingly.

There are two ways we can solve this.

The first, is to simply introduce more variety and uniqueness into our routines. Instead of brushing your teeth, you could brush your teeth with your left hand until you get good at it. You could walk another way home from work, or you could ask your boss to give you some new responsibilities.

This creates a little discomfort, which in turn causes challenge and growth.

That’s all good and well, but there are only so many weird ways you can get home from work, and the range of tasks at work is likewise likely to be limited.

Enterring flow state

So, option two, is to get better at the stuff you already do.

You do this by challenging yourself to simply do your very best job. Either create the very best end product possible, or complete the task as quickly as you can without compromising on quality.

You may think you already do this, but chances are you do not. Most of us will “coast” through the day, simply because we have become so accustomed to the tasks that we forget to consciouslygive our best effort. Thus, our growth stops.

Examples of Conscious Effort

A great example of this comes from heavy bag work. Grant taught me that in order to get faster at punching, one of the simplest things you can do is to simply make a conscious effort to punch faster while hitting the bag. It sounds obvious, and yet that mindfulness makes a world of difference.

Likewise, I have been reading stories to my daughter Emmy most days for the past year. My heart was in it, but I wasn’t giving much thought to my speed, use of dramatic pauses, enunciation… Suddenly it occurred to me, that this was the perfect opportunity to train my speaking voice: my verbal fluency, and my dramatic delivery.

Verbal fluency

These are skills that are immensely useful in nearly every walk of life. As a YouTube presenter, they’re especially relevant for me!

So, I began reading every single story as though I was auditioning for a Kid’s TV show. Since doing that, the number of takes on each video has decreased dramatically,and I’ve received positive comments about my delivery improving.

Entering Flow

This applies to everything you do.

Walking to work? Why not power walk and beat your best time.

Ironing? Why not see if you can’t iron as quickly as possible, while also doing the best job you can?

Writing? Why not use the most beautiful writing you can, performed quickly? This actually requires a lot of fine motor control and is particularly good for the old noodle.

Doing this will make any task more engaging and enjoyable too. In fact, it is highly likely to help you enter a flow state. This is possible because flow states are actually triggered when we take on a task that presents the right amount of challenge: difficult enough to keep us focussed and interested, without being so difficult as to cause our attention to wonder as we get bored.

Flow is very often a response to a requirement for learning. In flow, we pay attention to what we’re doing because it is hard and we need to learn to do it better. Flow feels amazing, which is why we like computer games so much: they are tiny learning loops!

Challenge yourself to do everything to the best of your ability, and you will become better at everything, while also increasing your brain plasticity, spending more time in flow, and training your brain.

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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