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Blog: How to grow your brain in 30 days

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26th Mar 2012
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A lot can happen in thirty days. Buildings can be constructed, Governments can fall, love can blossom and without doubt new habits can be formed. 

My previous two blogs on this subject (here and here) have outlined fascinating evidence that scientists have uncovered over the last 10 years - yes our brains continue to grow through adult life generating new neurons in a process they've called Neurogenesis.  These new cells can take over the function of damaged cells and provide protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s. Very importantly they help you learn faster and retain more of what you learn. So let's think about ways in which you can boost this process by taking a 30 day challenge.    Starting today you can make a series of small changes that will encourage your brains growth and help you make a real investment in your future. Here are a list of brain boosting actions:    1. Exercise Ok, so no surprises here then. The benefits of exercise are so well published it almost puts me off doing it! The reality is that aerobic exercise is the single best thing you can do to grow your brain. Now if your the athletic type you may have this one ticked and you can move on down the list, but if your not then think about taking the 30 day challenge. You don't need to rush off and join a gym, in fact my experience says 'you'll never keep it up'. Instead introduce something simple for the next 30 days. It can be as basic as adding a walk. Get off the tube a stop early or something similar.  I have two dogs to help me with this one, but for the next 30 days they are going to have to cope with me upping the pace from a gentle walk to a heart pumping stomp.   2. Eat blueberries So this one may be more of a surprise. All kinds of dark berries contain anthocyanin. The ingredient that seems to trigger neurogenesis. Blackberries, black currants, bilberries, and black raspberries. It takes about a cup full per day to trigger the neurogenic effect.  I've no idea what it will do to your poo, but the 30 day challenge will give your brain a fantastic kickstart! This practically seems like a logistical nightmare, making sure we've got sufficient supplies of fresh berries for the month. I'm very interested however in how it will make me feel.   3. Remove Caffeine
 Now for me, this is a real 30 day challenge! I love my coffee first thing in the morning, during the morning, with lunch and throughout the afternoon etc. Even so, I'm going decaf for 30 days. It can't be that hard can it? For the record, my own research into this has concluded that Cafe Nero needs to be avoided as their decaf tastes like chicken.  4. Learn lots and lots Our ability to learn improves as a result of neurogenesis, but scientists now believe that learning itself stimulates neurogenesis. Is this a brain equivalent of the chicken and egg puzzle? The previous articles touch on this, but scientists think that learning a variety of new things that are unrelated to what you normally do is the thing that really makes a difference. Variety of learning is the key. So for your 30 day challenge you need to find one idea to learn everyday. To help you with this we have produced well over a months worth of Little Online Learning videos (LOL_v). All you need to do is listen to a LOL_v a day, and then work at committing it to memory before the next day - then repeat at will.  Most if not all of them are under 20 seconds long so this is not time taxing. Some are trivia random facts, others are ideas and tips, all are very slightly tongue in cheek, avoiding taking ourselves too seriously. Please enjoy freely. You can of course plan your own 30 day learning programme, just keep it short and manageable, fresh and varied and stick at it.     So there it is, a challenge to grow your brain in 30 days by transferring the 4 things above to your action list. I'm looking forward to seeing what it does to my own brain power. I will of course report back. Do let me know if you are willing to join me.  Finally for the record I remain convinced the chicken came first ;-)  Bob Bannister is a consultant at organisational training provider, iManage Performance. 

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