How to hack your brain to improve focus and creativity

1. Eliminate stress through laughter

Laughter is an incredibly powerful action. When we laugh, our stress hormones and blood pressure drop; blood flow and oxygenation to our cells and organs increases, and the levels of endorphins – the “pleasure” chemical – in the body and brain spikes.

We’ve all been in highly stressful situations – it feels as if all the oxygen in the room has completely vanished. Laughter has the magical effect of restoring normalcy to chaos because of the multitude of positive changes that takes place within our brain and body. In effect, this is a hack that alters our chemical state.

However, there are times when the last thing we feel like doing is laughing, right? Well, do it anyway. Here’s why: our body has a difficult time discerning between our actions that are authentic and those that are not. Here’s what one psychology expert said after conducting a study on artificial laughter:

“Once the brain signals to the body to laugh, the body doesn’t care why. It’s going to release endorphins; it’s going to relieve stress as a natural physiological response to the physical act of laughing.”

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5. Learn to Speed Read

Knowledge truly is power, and there is so much information out there, how are you supposed to consume it all? Enter speed reading. The technique to consume information and retain that data at nearly unfathomable speeds is possible. For the average person, learning to speed read could be the ultimate game changer.

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Goal: Reduce anxiety

Method: At Oxford University, researcher Elaine Fox works on cognitive therapy for chronic worriers. “Anxious people focus on the three miserable guests at a party, get anxious and view the whole night as negative,” says Williams. Fox retrains the brain using a system developed at McGill University in Montreal. Subjects must look at a computer screen with 15 angry-looking faces and one happy face and then click on the smiling face. Williams says undergoing the treatment trained her brain to seek out the positive.

Time at it: Ten minutes per day, every day for seven months.

Result: “Now, at my child’s school, I look away from unpleasant people and focus on the pleasant ones,” she says. “I feel better and, also, have fewer irrational fears.”

What we can do: Do your own McGill-style training via the free Happy Faces app for Android phones via Google Play.

Locating a happy face amongst angry-looking ones i
Locating a happy face amongst angry-looking ones is part of the training at McGill.Shutterstock

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Dont Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Summary

Finally, as promised, I’m going to give you a typical “brain-hacking” day in my life so that you know what I personally do when it comes to using these 21 ways that I’ve just provided you with.

6:30am: Wake up. 5 minutes of Heart Rate Variability training while lying in bed.

6:45am: 1 cup of coffee (occasionally substitute delta-E or green tea)

7am: 10-15 minutes of light aerobic exercise (yoga and calisthenics) in the morning sunshine.

8am: 1 glass of TianChi with 8-10g fish oil. Three months of the year, also include creatine (during off-season weight training period).

9am: High fat breakfast, including MCT oil.

10am: Work, while chewing gum and keeping Earthpulse on if more focus needed.

12pm: High fat lunch, usually includes sardines, eggs, herring or mackerel.

4pm: Workout, include learning at least one new exercise or movement.

7pm: High fat dinner.

8pm: Guitar or tennis practice.

9pm: Reading book or Kindle with low blue light glasses.

10pm: Bedtime in darkness. Sleep on Earthpulse.

Hopefully that gives you a good idea of how these strategies can be implemented seamlessly into a typical day, without you feeling like you’re constantly going out of your way to “hack your brain”. You may have noticed that the only piece of “gear” I use is the Earthpulse. That’s not because I don’t believe in the efficacy of electrical devices and other forms of neurobeedback, but just because some degree of simplicity is also important, so I’ve identified the weapons of choice that work for me and tried to avoid having too many brain-hacking toys lying around the house.

If you want more resources, the best two brain-enhancing books I’ve read to date are written by Dr. Eric Braverman – a true brain expert. They are “The Edge Effect“, which discusses how to treat your brain to reverse or prevent Alzheimer’s aging, memory loss, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction, and “Younger Brain, Sharper Mind“, which is a 6-step plan for preserving and improving memory and attention at any age. As mentioned earlier, I’d also highly recommend you grab the free e-book “The Limitless Pill“, by Mark Joyner.

Finally, if you have questions, comments or feedback about nootropics, brain-hacking gear or brain-enhancing activities, leave them below and I promise to reply!

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Step 8: Making the Round Disc

Now I’m going to clue you in to one of the little gotchas of the project that seems to bite later on. Yeah anyone can cut a good circle out of a piece of foam poster-board but just try getting something right into the middle of your disc after you’ve cut it out! Trust me it isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Attach your pulley to the poster-board before you cut your circle out. Use the shaft of your pulley and a simple trammel jig to lay out your circle to cut. If you don’t do it this way you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to center your pulley onto your disc. Don’t ask me how I know this 🙂 I use hot glue to attach my pulley to my disc. You can use whatever glue you think is right. You’re also going to have to center your pattern onto the disc so poke a pinhole clear through the center of the foam then guide your pulley shaft as best as you can dead center to that pin hole. We’ll use the pin hole later on to align our stencil. I know it ruins the perfection a little but we need some kind of a guide. I made the pulley shaft of my disc assembly pointed, it helped. In the second graphic I drew a setup for using a trammel to mark your disc. Study it for ideas of how you can accomplish this task. The tool labeled marker may be a craft knife if you feel capable of cutting your disc out in one step, or a pencil, marker etc. then cut the disc. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Nothing is worse than your pattern not ending right in the middle of the disc! Though the disc spinning off center is a pretty close second.

How Can You Hack Your Brain?

There is so much going on and so many practices and tools available right now that it is very easy to get lost in it all if you embark on the journey all by yourself.

To make it effective for you to successfully hack your brain, you must follow the experts in the field. The first and foremost expert is Jim Kwik, author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest.

According to Jim Kwik, one of the major pitfalls of the traditional education system is that it only tells us what to learn and it never tells us how to learn. And exactly that’s where lies the trick — to learn how to learn so that learning becomes lasting and effective.

And from there starts the journey of mind hacking or brain hacking.

You learn how your brain works and then improve on it. You learn new techniques to enhance your brain’s power and gradually turn it into a “superbrain.”

Let’s focus on an intriguing example at hand for now.

5 Listen To Classical Music To Improve Learning

Music affects all of us in different ways that we can’t quite put into words. Essentially, though, it’s an escape from the sounds of the real world and can get us through some difficult times. It’s also related to productivity, as anyone who has ever breezed through a deadline with their earphones plugged in can tell you. However, because everyone’s brain is different, and music appeals in a different way to everyone, we don’t have a unified theory on how it relates to productivity.

While it will be some time before we can perfectly figure that out, thanks to one study, we know of one type of music that increases creativity and learning for everyone, regardless of their preference: classical music.

In the study, 249 students were observed during a lecture, albeit in two groups. One had classical music playing in the background during the lecture; the other did not. When they tested them in a multiple-choice exam immediately afterward, they were surprised to find out that the students who learned with classical music performed much better.[6]

Step 2: OK Im In!

If you’ve come this far I assume you’re on board. Making one of these really isn’t too hard. I experimented with a few different styles of spirals, and color schemes myself. I’ll share my findings but there are other patterns you could try too. I’ve found my favorites. You can buy hypnodiscs on the net but they’re usually not cheap, and from what I gathered experimenting with my own I question the effectiveness of the ones I’ve seen for sale. I hand painted the first disc I ever made onto a piece of cardboard. For unknown reasons I hit upon the most effective pattern I’ve yet used too. I’ve since learned that there is a term for the pattern. Back then I had no idea, it isn’t even important to know this, but I’ll say what it is anyways. My preferred design is called a logarithmic spiral. This all has to do with the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Ratio and what not. All cool stuff! Yeah well it is even cooler when you paint it bright colors and spin it around. My favorite color scheme is Red and Yellow, I’ve tried black and white too, and it works, but Red and Yellow are the devastators! Those are the pair of colors that does it for me.

8 Use The Sun To Hallucinate

While we’d like to reiterate our stance against abusing drugs for recreation, we have to admit that hallucinations are awesome. There are a few things as fun as making the brain see things that aren’t there, but because illicit drugs seem to be the only way to do it, many people never get to experience it. If you’re one of them and would like to know how it feels without being on the wrong side of the law, there’s some good news. As one physiologist from the 19th century found out, all you need to hallucinate without drugs is the Sun.

Just close your eyes and point them toward the sun. Then wave your hand back and forth across the face while keeping one eye covered. Pretty soon, you’ll start seeing shapes, and while the exact figures vary according to person, you can expect hallucinations like spirals, hexagons, or squares.[3]

Another way you can legally hallucinate is by exploiting something called the Ganzfeld effect, wherein the brain fills in visual information of its own after long periods of sensory deprivation. Just put a piece of white paper over your eyes, lie down under bright white light, and use noise-canceling headphones to block out any sound for 20 minutes. When you get up, you’d be treated to some good old visuals (as they presumably call them in the world of illegal drugs).

Goal: Improve sense of direction

Williams wears the feelSpace belt while on an excu
Williams wears the feelSpace belt while on an excursion with her dog.Courtesy of Caroline Williams

Method: Researchers at Osnabrück University, in Germany, have created the feelSpace belt. It computes the direction of north and south and gently buzzes the part of the torso that corresponds to the north. “You get constant feedback and are supposed to eventually build up a mental map in your brain,” says Williams. “Things lined up for me but I sometimes found myself arguing with the belt” — about where north was, based on where she wanted to go. And she avoided using technology to settle things: “While out, I would not use my iPhone for directions.”

Time at it: For six weeks, at least two hours per day.

Result: Her sense of direction improved with the belt on, but without it she was lost. “I am not wired for navigation,” admits Williams. “Sometimes you give yourself a break and realize you can’t do certain things.”

What we can do: Fire up your Xbox or Playstation. “People who play video games — such as ‘Super Mario’ or ‘Minecraft,’ where you have to navigate a foreign land — develop spacial awareness,” she says. “By being aware of where you are in terms of the game, your ability to make mental maps gets enhanced.”

5. Single task for better focus

According to neuroscientists, multitasking is a drain on our cognitive resources. Although it may feel “productive,” it’s actually much less effective than focusing on one task at a time. Physiologically, the brain is not capable of efficiently processing two different stimuli at once, with the only exception being for rote tasks that require little effort.

Dr. Josh Davis – renowned neuroscientist and Director of Research for the NeuroLeadership Institute – explains:

“It (multitasking) is a bad practice. Having said that, here’s when multitasking can be okay: when you don’t care about the quality of the work…let’s say you’re doing something fairly routine and uninteresting. You put on the TV in the background just to make it so you’re at least enjoying the time (while doing the routine task)…you’re more likely to make errors, but it might not matter for the task.”

In short, single-task when the work is important for the best results!

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