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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.

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