Experimenting on Yourself
If you've perused many of the pages here or if you have been
a long-time subscriber to the The Mind Power report you
know that this website promotes safe self-experimentation as
a way to discover how to better use your brain/mind. That's why
a few years ago we had the brainpower
contest. It was a way see what "tricks" had worked
for site visitors and newsletter subscribers. Many of the suggestions
were about eating foods that had a reputation for helping the
brain. You can't get much safer than using the foods and herbs
and vitamins that we eat already.
Ray Sahelian, M.D. and author of the book "Mind Boosting
Secrets," suggests that there are often effects from nutritional
supplements that are not noted in the studies done on them. For
example, he noticed that when he took melatonin (often used as
a sleep aid) his dreams became more vivid. He also found that
large intake of fish or flaxseed oils (both high in omega-3 fatty
acids) improves vision. We can all watch for these kinds of unexpected
effects and note them if they are beneficial.
Of course, anecdotal evidence is a long way from scientific
proof, but eating fish or eating walnuts and cheese in the morning
(as subscriber's brainpower contest entries suggested) certainly
seem safe enough to try. It is worth remembering that the accumulation
of anecdotal evidence is sometimes the only reason a scientific
study is done in the first place. Rarely do researchers randomly
choose a substance and randomly choose an effect, then watch
to see if the first produces the second. They need a reason to
explore something, and all of us can contribute to this preliminary
part of science.
With that in mind, if you have a "recipe" or "technique"
or "prescription" for better brain function, why not
share it? You can respond to any regular Sunday email newsletter.
Don't just throw ideas out there though though. Stick to things
that have worked more than once for you or someone you know.
In other words, lets try to gather a little evidence before suggesting
how we can better our brains.
Do-It-Yourself Brain Experiments
It is not just nutritional or drug-related practices we are
talking about here either. There are many different mental practices
and techniques that can either immediately improve the quality
of one's thinking or do so over time. There are methods for boosting
creative output, which we cover regularly. For example, here
is a little technique developed from experience.
I long ago noted that my brain started to work better as soon
as I spent a couple minutes explaining something interesting
to someone, as I just did above. I also found that I could "carry
over" that effect into whatever mental work I needed to
do. You can't perform a much safer experiment than talking to
a friend about something you are passionate about or interested
in. Give it a try, and see if your mind feels more "awake"
as a result.
The following suggests another bit of self experimentation
you can try.
Recent studies by Emily Pronin of Princeton University show
that thinking, and possibly moving, faster may increase feelings
of happiness. It was found that even if a person was thinking
negative thoughts, if the process of reviewing those thoughts
was speeded up, the result was a better emotional state. Fast
action too, like reading quickly or talking fast, or quickly
arranging a desk, may increase good feelings.
It will be interesting to see what further research is done
in this area. In the meantime, this is another one of those safe
and easy things you can try yourself. See if reading an article
fast, or mentally reviewing your day like watching a movie on
fast-forward has any effect. Tap everything on your desk quickly
right now, to see if this improves your mood. Say the name of
fifteen people you know quickly in your mind.
Generally speaking, a better emotional state means better
brainpower, so I hope there is some value in these simple techniques.
I imagine that we will find a difference between purposely moving
fast versus "rushing." The latter is more about a stressful
state than about action (we can run and be mentally relaxed,
after all). I'll let you know if I discover more research being
done about this phenomenon.
And of course, as I learn of any methods that have worked
for other self-experimenters, they will be passed along either
on the pages of this site or in the Brainpower Newsletter.