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Ruben Korolev
Ruben Korolev

Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way To A Better L...

The past few years have been marked by a large number of discoveries about the learning brain. Those insights have the potential to support teachers in designing even better classroom environments to help you learn better. While understanding the brain can be helpful for teachers, this knowledge can also be beneficial for you as a student. For instance, it can encourage you to believe in your capacity to improve your own skills. Such beliefs make it more likely for you to make an effort and to make better use of supportive learning strategies [1]. In this article, we briefly present some core principles of the learning brain and suggest learning strategies inspired by neuroscience for you to try at school or at home.

Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better L...


Scientists have also noted that performing tests or exams can help you remember information better than studying alone [4]. For example, if you study your arithmetic tables interspersed with test periods, you will probably perform better on your final test than if you had only studied. Why? The tests require that you retrieve the information from the neurons in which the information is stored, thus activating your connections and contributing to their strengthening. The point is thus to practice retrieval in an engaging way. There are different strategies that you could try at home, for example answering practice questions or using flashcards. These should improve learning more than re-reading or listening to lectures (as long as you do not flip the flashcard over before recalling the answer!). Other strategies include preparing questions to ask to a classmate or a parent as well as redoing tests or exercises. Use your imagination! What you need to remember is that first, for your neurons to strengthen their connections, you need to retrieve the information and avoid just reading or listening to the answer. Second, you should plan a way to get feedback to know whether you got something correct or incorrect. Do not be discouraged if you face challenges, this is a natural step of the learning process taking place in your brain!

Now that you know that neurons need to be activated repeatedly for learning to occur (and that it means retrieving information), you probably wonder how often you should practice. Scientists who study the learning brain observed that breaks and sleep between learning periods enhance learning and minimize forgetting [5]. It therefore seems better to retrieve often within spaced practice sessions, as opposed to a massed practice (practicing a task continuously without rest). For instance, instead of studying or doing homework for 3 h, after which you would probably feel exhausted anyway, you could separate this learning period into three 1-h periods or even into six half-an-hour periods. In short, when spacing your retrieval practice, you allow your brain to make the connections that you strengthened during your practice sessions more efficient. When you take a quick break from practicing, let us say a 20 min recess, you allow for the maintenance or replacement of the receptors on the surface of the neurons. The receptors are like electric outlets that receive the nerve impulse (electrical signals) from other neurons. Taking a break helps them work better: your neurons can thus transmit their nerve impulses more easily to other neurons. Finally, when you get a night of sleep between practice sessions, you actually benefit from a free retrieval practice session because while you sleep, your brain reactivates the connections between the neurons that you activated during the day. You could also get similar benefits from a nap. Next time you find yourself sleepy in class, you could tell your teacher that you are in fact trying to do retrieval practice! In brief, when spacing out learning, and especially retrieval practice, your brain is more activated than when you mass learn in one long session.

Visualization is almost as powerful as the real thing given your brain cannot tell the difference between something real or imagined. Research shows that anytime you are thinking, you are engaging and thus conditioning neural pathways. Consequently, whether you are reminiscing about the past, thinking about the present or anticipating the future you are strengthening the neural networks associated with whatever you are thinking about. The most important part of using visualization to strengthen healthy habits is to engage your emotion. Emotion provides the fuel to enlist more neural power for creating powerful neural networks.

Learning to play an instrument is a good example of how the subconscious mind works. At first, you need to think about translating the sheet music and moving your fingers to play each note, but as you practice, you find you can pick up any song and play it.

The first step you need to take is to gain absolute clarity on what it is you want. Learn how to stop overthinking and focus on your goals. What is your desired outcome? What does unlocking an extraordinary life look like to you? Clarity is power. The more thought you put into this, the more detail you lay out, and the stronger and more powerful your vision will become. This creates a subconscious mind map, giving your brain the tools necessary to turn that vision into reality.

Commit to yourself. Commit to overcoming the negativity. Commit to a better life. When you commit fully, cutting off any other possibility, you will push yourself to the next level and demand more of yourself than anyone else could ever expect. And that is the true power of subconscious mind programming.

When reprogramming your brain for success, you have to limit negative influences in your environment. Your subconscious mind is constantly absorbing information from outside sources and using that information to form beliefs that shape how you think and behave. Negativity from the daily news, toxic people and social media can have a profound effect on your subconscious mind without you even knowing it.

We can't have joy in our lives without practicing gratitude. When practiced daily, gratitude helps to rewire your brain to think about the positives. Each day, write down three different things you're grateful for.

Write about your stress in a journal. You also can journal about a positive experience that happened that day. This daily practice can help increase positive thinking and help to rewire your brain to think more positively.

Let me rephrase that, because worrying and obsessing do change things. They make your life worse. I think pretty much everyone in the world knows this, but how hard do we try to stop doing these things?

The conversations you have with yourself have a direct impact on how you feel and how you behave. If your self-talk is filled with doubt, harsh criticism, and catastrophic predictions, you'll struggle to reach your goals. But you don't have to let a pessimistic outlook or foreboding inner monologue hold you back. You can train your brain to think differently.

But the good news is that you can reply to unhelpful thoughts with more realistic statements. When you think, "No one is ever going to hire me," remind yourself, "If I keep working hard to look for jobs, I'll increase my chances of getting hired."

Or when you are thinking, "This is going to be a disaster," look for evidence that your efforts may be a success. Then, create a more balanced statement, such as "There's a chance this won't work out, but there's also a chance I might succeed. All I can do is my best."

Force yourself to take one more step after you think you're too exhausted to keep going. Or challenge yourself to keep applying for promotions despite your brain's insistence you won't land a new position. Each time you successfully prove your negative predictions wrong, you'll train your brain to see yourself in a different light. Over time, your brain will start to view your limitations, as well as your capabilities, more accurately.

Like any new skill, training your brain to think differently takes time. But the more you practice thinking realistically, the more mental muscle you'll build. In addition, your brain could undergo physical changes that will permanently help you think differently.

"Eventually, your cognitive skills will wane and thinking and memory will be more challenging, so you need to build up your reserve," says Dr. John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. "Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy."

Take swimming, for example. It has obvious cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits, but also involves constant thinking, processing, and learning. You have to be mindful of your breathing rhythm and how to properly execute strokes and kicks. You also can measure your expertise in terms of endurance and speed, which motivates you to practice your skills to be a better swimmer.

Complexity. A complex activity not only strikes a match of excitement, but forces your brain to work on specific thought processes like problem solving and creative thinking. A 2013 study in Psychological Science found that older adults ages 60 to 90 who did new and complex activities, such as digital photography or quilting, for an average of 16 hours per week for three months scored better on working and long-term memory tests than those who did more familiar activities like reading and doing crossword puzzles.

In order to adopt more positive thinking patterns, you must first become aware of your current ways of thinking. By cultivating mindfulness, you can acknowledge and identify the thinking patterns that have become habitual, then decide whether or not to engage them. Mindfulness creates a distance between yourself and your thoughts, allowing you to view yourself as separate from them.

Choose an activity or location that you find enjoyable and you know will leave you feeling better. If you need the company of others, be sure to surround yourself with people who will encourage your positive thinking. (Steer clear of triggers!) 041b061a72

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