15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

brain function

The human brain is the most complex piece of hardware in the known universe.

It’s an immensely powerful tool.

The brain is also the device through which we decode and perceive reality. So to say that it’s important to optimize brain function is a severe understatement. I think we can all unanimously agree that it would be a good thing to improve brain function, right?

Instead of rambling on with more poetic descriptions of the brain, let’s just get straight to the applicable information.

15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

1. Regular Practice – The brain, like everything else, is like a muscle. To strengthen it, it must be exercised regularly. Learn something new every day. Test your memory regularly. The more practice, the stronger it gets.

2. Variety – While regular practice is the foundation, it’s also important to switch things up. Do new things. Engage in unique experiences. This keeps you on your toes, highly adaptive, thinking spontaneously and builds the skill of learning how to learn.

3. Limit Sugar – Reduce your sugar intake (and processed, refined foods in general). Sugar is highly addictive and keeps you in the wired-then-tired trap of what I call “the insulin roller coaster.”

Limiting sugar will help you have healthy gut flora as well, which is intrinsically linked with brain health.

The brain can run on sugar (glucose) or fat (ketones). In both my experience and that of many other people, the brain operates optimally on fats.

4. Eat More Healthy Fats – Some of the best healthy fats are fish/krill oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, olive oil…etc. Coconut oil, for example, appears to be an ideal brain food.

Here’s a challenge: Instead of starting your day with a carb-heavy breakfast, start with a cup of coffee (or tea) with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. I call this combination “steroids for your brain.” Yes, it works. Try it out and feel the effects.

5. Intermittent Fasting – “Human and non-human animal studies have shown that IER (Intermittent Energy Restriction) increases synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory), enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly, leads to the growth of new neurons, promotes recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury, decreases risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and may improve quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with these diseases. IER has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.” (Stanford)

Want to try fasting? The best introduction I’ve come across regarding intermittent fasting is Eat Stop Eat. It does a great job of explaining the benefits of fasting and gives you a stupid simple protocol that gets amazing results. I’m actually doing a variation of Eat Stop Eat right now.

6. Brain Boosting Herbs – Brain boosting herbs include Gotu Kola (which I personally take every day), Brahmi, Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba. There’s a lot more too. Do a little research and see which one is best for you.

7. Learn a New Language – Learning a new language literally opens up a new world to us. When we expand our horizons, neuroplasticity kicks in and we form more neural connections.

8. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recharge for our bodies and our brain is no exception to this. Everyone knows that their brain works better on 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. Prioritize sleep and reap the brain benefits.

9. Focus – Limit distractions and cultivate focus. Being scatterbrained severely inhibits mental capabilities. Focus is the precursor to learning and problem-solving.

Tip: When you need to focus, set a timer for a specific amount of time and only work on the task at hand for that block of time.

10. A Morning Routine – Starting the day off on the right foot greatly helps with how our brains function. Having a peaceful, enjoyable morning routine gets us in a clear headspace, which allows us to operate with focus for the rest of the day.

For more on morning routines, read my article The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

11. ExerciseExercise improves memory and thinking skills. It also boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety.

12. Walking – “Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.” – (Live Science)

Walking also helps with creativity and generating ideas, especially when done outside.

13. Positive Thinking – Stress and anxiety kill brain function. Research has shown that positive thinking, particularly in the future tense, speeds up the creation of brain cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

Also, when you’re in a state of fear, it activates the amygdala and shuts off higher brain function (like logic and reasoning). So positive thinking really does make us smarter.

14. Reading – This one is so obvious. We learn by reading nonfiction and expand our imagination by reading fiction. And sometimes we learn by reading fiction and expand our imagination by reading nonfiction. Reading also improves vocabulary, memory, concentration and helps hone visualization abilities.

15. Meditation – There are so many benefits to meditation, it’s ridiculous. A regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves memory, combats anxiety, improves concentration, helps kick addictions and increases productivity (along with a lot of other things).

Meditation helps cultivate awareness of our thoughts and gives us the choice to indulge in positive thinking instead of energy-sapping, negative thinking.

Meditation also has the absolutely crucial benefit of mindfulness. If you’re unaware of what’s going on in your brain, you’re unconscious and living in reaction-mode. This results in you being a slave to your brain, instead of the master of it. The brain is a powerful tool. It is in your best interest to learn how to use the tool without the tool using you. This is why meditation is so important.

Learn more about meditation here: Introduction to Meditation

Time to Apply

Try incorporating some of these into your daily life. If you want to pick just one to start with, I’d strongly recommend meditation. Meditation is the habit that all other habits build off of, the skill which enhances every other skill and the practice that gets you in touch with the essence of existence.

Want to start meditating? As soon as you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and use that time for meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, take some deep breaths into your belly and simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Do this every morning.

With most of this list, it’s common sense that these things improve brain function. But knowing and applying are two different things. Most people don’t apply what they know on a daily basis. Take action and commit to a daily practice.

Your brain is a miraculous tool. Treat it well and use it wisely.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

Which of these do you apply on a daily basis? Did you learn anything new? Which ones do you want to start applying? Leave a comment below.

Language is the Envelope of Your Reality

child bubble universe reality

How are you going to really wrap your head around something that you can’t put into words?

Well, you inherently can’t.

Those mysterious inklings that you subtly feel, but can’t quite express, are vague phantasms floating right outside of your realm of possibility.

The envelope of your reality, the outer bubble of your realm of possibility, is limited by the lexicon and lineaments of language you have in your inner library.

Along with being the raw material for formulating thought, language is also a vehicle for your intentions. With a wider variety of vocabulary and languages at your disposal, there is larger conglomeration of vehicles available to carry your intentions. If you have an extensive vocabulary, multiple languages in your mental rolodex, or use a language which is phonetically and/or alphabetically expansive, you can more readily transmit specifically desired intentions.

Symbols are also language, with the vehicle of communication being the symbols themselves instead of words. Remember, reality is much more malleable than we’ve been taught. In this co-created reality, we’re simultaneously decoding it and projecting into it with our intentions at all times. The words and symbols we use are the mediums through which our intentions are expressed.

Alphabet and Vocabulary

The alphabet is the foundation of vocabulary, as letters make up words. (Although in some languages, the symbols are actually words instead of letters.)

The bigger the alphabet of a language, the greater the potential realm of possibility, as there are more building blocks to work with (though there are other factors, like phonetics, that can determine the actual “reality reach” of the language). The English alphabet consists of 26 letters. To give you an idea of how English compares to other languages: Sanskrit has 46 letters in its alphabet, Arabic has 28 letters in its alphabet, Hebrew has 22 letters in its alphabet, Greek has 26 letters in its alphabet and Russian has 33 letters in its alphabet.

Vocabulary is a crucial aspect of language because words are arrows of intention crafted to match objects, qualities, abstract concepts, emotions, feelings…etc. Words are like sign posts to describe the things you perceive, imagine or experience. The more adept with sign posts you are, the more accurately you can navigate and describe reality.

Here’s a good example of perception-expanding vocabulary. The word “vibe” didn’t exist in the English language before the hippie movement. The word “vibration” existed, but it’s more general and doesn’t specifically describe the phenomenon of feeling people’s energy. People of course would feel the “vibe” of others before, but it was a mysterious phenomenon outside of the realm of Western possibility beforehand. But after there was a word to describe that specific feeling, it was in the collective realm of possibility and could be readily expressed between people. It’s like the use of that word became a gateway, which opened up that new dimension of possibility to people.

Another example, one that English hasn’t found a perfect match for, is the Sanskrit word “maya.” When translated into English, the connotation is something like “a magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem.” It’s often used to describe this physical, three-dimensional reality we’re in. For someone who is fluent in Sanskrit, that one word is all they need to conceptualize the meaning. But for an English speaker, you would need to watch the movie The Matrix and study quantum physics to even glimpse the tip of the iceberg.

Phonetics

Phonetics is defined as “a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign.” (Wikipedia)

Phonetics is another aspect of a languages realm of possibility, just in terms of sounds. Sounds are vibrations or frequency waves. And remember what Nikola Tesla said, “If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

The range of sounds you can make is another parameter influencing your range of possibility.

Different sounds stimulate different parts of the body, which can activate or heal when used with positive intentionality. Chanting demonstrates this. If you’ve ever done a form of chanting, you know that there is an experience or tangible feeling associated with it (and it differs depending on the chant).

Spelling = Casting Spells

The word “spell” is an intriguing hint at the power of language. The word can be used in terms of “spelling words” or in terms of “casting spells.” But essentially, both meanings are one in the same. We literally cast spells with words. Our intentions, through the vehicle of language, are projections into the quantum soup of reality.

It’s no coincidence that the first of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements is to be impeccable with your word.

Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
~ Don Miguel Ruiz

 
Language is the array of tools you have to build the house of your reality. Think of using words like wielding a hammer, are you using it to build something beautiful or hitting yourself over the head with it?

word cloud

The Ultimate Paradox

Beyond all bubbles and boundaries of perceived reality, the totality of existence is stillness. So although expanding your language capacity undoubtedly broadens the horizons of your human experience, the essence of everything is the divine tranquility of all possibility.

It is infinite potential, that which everything comes out of, the omnipotent silence which begets all sound.

These quotes are beautiful hints at this paradoxical truth…

Be still, and know that I am God.
~ Psalm 46:10

 

The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be defined in words is not the name that never changes.
Non-existence is what we call the source of heaven and earth.
Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we observe the beginning of the existence of the many hidden qualities of the universe.
From eternal existence, therefore, we clearly observe the overt qualities of the universe.
These two, the hidden and the overt, are originally the same at source, and become different where they manifest themselves.

~ Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Translated by Chou-Wing Chohan, Abe Bellenteen and Rosemary Brant)

 
How to Expand Your Envelope of Reality

Read more – especially books that come from a different paradigm from which you’re in. For example, if you grew up in the US, read the Tao Te Ching, which provides great wisdom through ancient Eastern philosophy.

Increase your vocabulary – Reading more will naturally increase your vocabulary. While reading, look up words you come across that you’re not familiar with.

Like Uncle Bun once said, “Go read a book you illiterate son of a bitch and step up your vocab.”

Here’s another technique that has helped expand my vocabulary: Whenever you’re writing, use Thesaurus.com to incorporate the most fitting and flowing words in every sentence. In doing this, you can and learn new vocabulary while doing any kind of writing.

Learn more languages – Learning another language will greatly expand your perceptions. It will literally open up a new world of possibility for you. Use something like Rosetta Stone, the Pimsleur learning system or take the plunge and learn by immersing yourself in a new culture and actually speaking another language (which is the best way).

Be mindful of the words you use – Be mindful of the “spells” you’re casting. Is your internal dialogue negative and/or limiting? Is your external dialogue negative and/or limiting? If so, your experienced reality will be a reflection of that. Be aware of the language you’re using. From this place of awareness, use language that serves your highest good (and the highest good of others as well). As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Engage in reality expanding experiences – Partake in travel, meditation, plant medicine (in clinical or sacred settings), listen to lyricless music and get in tune with what you feel…etc. Put yourself in situations that leave you awe-struck and at a loss for words. When you’re in a state of awe or when you have your mind blown, you’re experiencing something that is shattering your previous boundary of reality. This sets the space for you to enter new territory.

Reality is strange, huh?

Cast “spells” that serve the highest good of yourself and others, and have fun expanding your possibilities.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

 

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Why It’s in Your Best Interest to Use This Word

You unknowingly wield a weapon of astounding power, every moment of your life.

You’re even employing this mechanism of mammoth magnitude right now. And so am I…

What is it, you ask?

The words you use.

The words you choose to speak, to both yourself and others, define our experience. Your speech (internal and external) acts as a filter placed upon your picture of reality.

Words carry deep meaning, extending well beyond surface-level appearance. Words are like arrows of intention, aimed at the mysterious field of infinite abstraction.

Positive people consistently use positive words, while negative Nancy’s marinate in negative narratives. And elite athletes steadily speak the language of perseverance and success. There’s no secret, it’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Whatever your consistent dominant thoughts are (and thus what you express through words), the universe conspires to bring just that to fruition.

hs-2014-13-c-web

The macro version of brain cells

The one particular word that sparked the idea for this post is “Scout.”

I heard this term used by Stephen Davis in his thought-provoking ebook “Butterflies Are Free To Fly” (I’m listening to the audio version now). In it, he describes himself as a “scout” (as opposed to a guru, expert, master…etc), simply reporting information and from his unique perspective and experience. This, in my opinion, is a brilliant way to phrase things.

Check out “Butterflies Are Free To Fly” here. (PS- It’s free!)

A very applicable dictionary definition of the word scout is  “A person sent out to obtain information.”

A scout observes, gathers information, and then shares these observations with others. I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

meerkat-164903_640

Why using “Scout” is (… well…) useful:

1. It implies that we all have unique perspectives and we can all learn from one another.

2. It shatters the idea (or illusion) of hierarchy.

Ego is overemphasized in our society, creating a culture of rigid hierarchy, power struggles, scarcity, inferiority/superiority and all of the dysfunction that comes with that a fear-based paradigm.

With using the word “scout,” there is no giving power away. There is no placing one person on a pedestal, while looking down on another. It embraces the fact that everyone has something useful to contribute, and there is always something useful to learn.

There is no better or worse; those are merely labels we place on everything.

No one is more advanced, and no position in life is more important; just different perspectives. Is a person who’s on a mountaintop “better” than someone on a beach? Of course not, they’re merely experiencing nature from different vantage points.

Everyone has a beautifully unique point of view. We’re all the universe experiencing itself from a vast number of unique perspectives.

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” ― Carl Sagan

The term scout implies that we all have unique perspectives and unique experiences to share with others. And in sharing, we help others see more clearly. (Sharing is caring)

There’s a reason why sports games are filmed from multiple camera angles. There’s a reason why we have more than one eye (imagine how good our depth perception would be with like 6 eyes haha). Having multiple sources of information is far more effective than just one.

Lookout-Oregon-1951

What’s the point in using different words?

Like I stated above, our words hold immense power. Our words define our experience.

Sales people, for example, know this very well, and carefully craft words to create a desired outcome. They wouldn’t choose their words so carefully if it didn’t have such a profound effect.

And this isn’t exclusive to the words we verbalize;  our self-talk is just as important (if not more). We all have internal dialogue, and this self-talk determines how we perceive reality. Most of the time, these perceptions are not blatant, but instead based on the subtleties of the subconscious intentions behind words.

If you’re attaching identity to terms like guru, expert, master…etc. you’re tapping into a hierarchical/rigid/egotistical paradigm, and restricting the effortless flow of life.

For example, if you’re learning from someone who calls themself an “expert,” you will inherently believe that they are “better” or more advanced. You’re more likely to blindly follow this person, giving up at least some of your intrinsic power. But think of this person as a scout, and you’ll learn all you can from their perspective while viewing them as an equal (not putting them on a pedestal).

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” -Bruce Lee
^Probably favorite quote of all-time

Now let’s flip the script. If you label yourself as an “expert” you’re more likely to be rigid in your beliefs. Thinking you know best, and cutting yourself off from a lot of useful information out there. Think of yourself as a “scout” and you’ll be more open to all possibility, and even learn from the very people who you were teaching.

That’s why many people I admire will often say things like “Don’t take this as absolute truth, it’s merely my perspective.” And they tend to be much closer to truth than the people who claim that their way is the only way and everything else is wrong.

It’s all a matter of perception…

Life isn’t black and white. Subjectivity paints the gray area of reality with vibrant colors.

grand-prismatic-spring-65072_640

When everyone is a “scout,” everyone gains more perspective on everything. This inevitably disintegrates things like intellectual dependency, rigid labels and inflexible assumptions; allowing us to readily form our own unique conclusions and continuously evolve.

How to incorporate this today:

Simply be aware of the words you use (both with self-talk and external dialogue).

Are you subtly sabotaging yourself? Or are you programming yourself for success and happiness? If you find yourself choosing disempowering words (or phrases), be aware of this, and replace them with something more beneficial. (Meditation is a great way to hone this awareness.) Do this consistently, and the words you choose will change, manifesting a whole new reality.

And that’s my “scouting report”  😉

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

-Stevie P!

Words Are Signposts

Words are signposts.

Signpost

They point towards what we are attempting to describe, without actually being it.

Words are labels for the real thing, but not the real thing itself. Like a sticker label on the actual item.

Words are the labels, without being the object itself. The real thing just… well… is.

Kinda obvious, right? But this brings about two interesting opportunities.

The first being the opportunity to simply witness, without labeling or classifying. To be rendered speechless by a bird in flight, or an epic landscape. To appreciate the awe-inspiring wonder of all that is.

And the second is the inherent beauty of language. The beauty is in its limitation. Words can never be the real thing. Yet a master of language can describe the actual thing so effectively that it creates a personalized visual. A mental hologram, brought to fruition within one’s own imagination.

The writer visualizes, and needs to transfer that visual into the mind of the reader. But here’s the catch, there’s no instantaneous transfer process (we all don’t telepathically communicate, ya know?). The visual must be transferred using language. There would be no room for creativity if ideas were instantly transferred between us.

Words allow one to describe something so accurately, while still leaving an infinite amount of details open to interpretation. Language exemplifies our unique individual perceptions. We could read the same passage, yet form a slightly different picture in our minds. Just as we see (decode) the same reality, yet have slightly different perceptions of it.

Limitations breed innovation. Celebrate uniqueness.

…word