Information and ideas are the tools we use to craft success in school, at work and in life. The brawn that allows us to wield these tools, however, comes from the brain’s underlying cognitive skills. Even one weak skill can keep the brain from grasping and applying information well no matter how many times lessons are explained! In fact, weak cognitive skills are the cause of 80% of all learning struggles.
The best way to help your child get better grades—and experience greater success in life—is to strengthen the cognitive skills that are absolutely crucial for processing information taught in the classroom and beyond. Cognitive skills can be improved thanks to “neuroplasticity,” which is the brain’s unique ability to physically change and grow at any age. This is great news for students, career adults, busy moms & dads, senior adults, as well as anyone impacted by autism, ADHD or dyslexia or even a traumatic brain injury.
If your child is struggling, stronger cognitive skills will help. For a faster, stronger brain, observe the following techniques to: 1) prevent cognitive loss; 2) maintain mental agility; and 3) create “mental sweat” to strengthen cognitive skills and improve mental performance in every area of life:
Prevent cognitive loss with a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle prevents cognitive loss due to poor health, and can delay age-related cognitive decline, too. Eating colorful vegetables, for example, combats oxidative stress on the brain. Drinking enough water staves off mental fatigue. Regular exercise lowers the risk of dementia as much as 38%. And getting good sleep for the night moves information from short to long-term memory (good news for students who cram the night before exams!)
Maintain agility with regular mental activity
Engaging in challenging mental activities is another way to improve mental agility and put off age-related decline. For an agile brain, encourage your son or daughter to fall in love with learning. (Learning a second language, for example, can delay the onset of dementia as much as five years!) Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games help, too. So do brain-improvement software, websites & video games. And while there’s little research suggesting these particular activities translate into improved performance at work or school, staying mentally active overall continues to be linked with staying sharp at every age.
Build a faster, more efficient brain with mental sweat
Preventing loss and maintaining agility are good, but sometimes what’s really needed are dramatic, measurable improvements in the way the brain functions. I see this need quite often with families of struggling students, with children or adults diagnosed with dyslexia, autism or ADHD, and with stroke and TBI victims.
Very intense, targeted mental exercises (also known as one-on-one brain training) can create this kind of dramatic change by stimulating the brain to reorganize neural pathways to handle information more efficiently. The exercises also reinforce those pathways for hardwired, permanent changes. If Sudoku, crossword puzzles and brain-improvement games are like taking a brisk walk, what I’m talking about is more like hiring Jillian Michaels to take you from “dough boy” to “hard body.” These exercises are intense enough to create what I call “mental sweat,” are done one-on-one with a personal coach, and the results are extreme and life changing. In fact, they are documented to raise IQ, on average, by 15 to 20 points.
Best of all, they translate into real life improvements in how people perform in school, at work, in life— even on the athletic field or behind the wheel of a car. In considering brain training for yourself or your child, look for five key elements that must be present for dramatic, measurable results:
1. Serious brain training for results can’t be taught in a classroom or simulated on a screen. It is a skill that must be physically practiced and drilled, like learning to play tennis or the piano.
2. Serious brain training for results creates intensity. Just as building muscle requires high impact and concentrated repetitions, building neural connections requires the same intensity.
3. Serious brain training for results must be done in a particular sequence. Certain sequences of exercises work better than others at forcing the brain to recruit nearby neurons to handle complex tasks, the key to making the brain fitter, faster and smarter.
4. Serious brain training for results incorporates loading. A form of multitasking, loading stimulates the brain to automate familiar tasks so it can focus on newer tasks, making these skills permanent.
5. Serious brain training for results involves instant feedback. When brain training contains all the above elements, it creates the perfect environment for maximum, permanent changes in your brain, so feedback from a brain training specialist is crucial to keep you on the right track.
Working one-on-one with a brain training specialist is the most effective way of getting this kind of intense mental workout. Trainers also provide the experience and accountability necessary for maximum results in the shortest amount of time. These advantages are the key to turning good intentions and high hopes into life changing improvements. Better grades are just the beginning. This is because a better brain doesn’t just make school easier, it makes life easier.
Ken Gibson, O.D. is the founder of the LearningRx Brain Training Franchise system and the author of two books: Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying the New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child, and The Purpose Directed Business: An Insider’s Look in the Values, Strategies and 15 Profitability Keys of Small Business. LearningRx is the premier one-on-one brain training company in the world, offering serious brain training with life changing results to struggling students, high achieving students, career adults, busy moms and dads, senior adults —plus anyone impacted by autism, ADHD, dyslexia, a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
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