Here are a few facts about your brain that you might be interested to know. We only get one brain, and while we think we already know how to use it, you may be surprised. Read on to learn about this most mysterious and amazing organ of the human body.
1. Multi-tasking is a myth. That’s right. When you try to watch a training video, handle an important phone call and compose an email memo to the office staff all at the same time, you’re underperforming on all three tasks. What we’re doing is actually called context switching. This means that we switch back and forth among the various tasks we’re performing. It appears that we’re doing them all at the same time, but we aren’t. Attempting to multi-task can actually be detrimental as error rates go up to 50% and it takes twice as long to get something done. We also force our brain to use only a part of our brain for each task, but our brain never does both simultaneously. Our brain continues to switch back and forth between the tasks and there is brain power lost with that switching.
2. Stress makes our brains smaller. I know, nothing about stress seems to be good news. Stress and our brains seems like more bad news. One study where rats were exposed to chronic stress the hippocampus section of their brains shrank. This is the part of our brain that forms memories. PTSD is thought to potentially shrink the hippocampus. More study in this area is obviously needed.
3. A tired brain is most creative. Creative endeavors get better results when your brain isn’t as alert and active as it needs to be for tackling major problems or demanding analytic work. When we’re tired our brain is more susceptible to distraction, which is another term for “thinking outside the box” and might explain why we get some of our best ideas just as we drop off to sleep or when we take that long hot shower to relax.
4. Naps are not just for little kids. Sleep is vital to good brain function. And even short bursts of sleep are helpful. In one study people memorized cards then broke into groups. One group took a break where they napped. The other group took a break, but stayed awake. The group who napped performed much better. They remembered about 85% of the memorized cards while the group that did not sleep managed to retain only about 60%. Naps help to solidify memories. This explains why it is a good idea to get good rest the night before a big test.
5. Introverts vs. Extroverts. It’s all in the wiring. The brains of introverts light up differently than the brains of extroverts. Stimulation in our brains runs through a shorter pathway for extroverts, passing through the areas where our senses of taste, touch, vision, and hearing take place. For introverts, the stimuli runs through a longer, more complicated pathway in the brain, areas related to memory, planning and solving problems.
6. Meditation is brain medicine. Meditation is not only good for improving focus but it also helps to reduce anxiety. The more we meditate, the less we feel anxiety. We become more creative and improve our memories.
7. Exercise is not only good for the body but for the brain as well. There is a link between mental alertness and exercise. Any time you feel that mid-afternoon slump coming along, instead of getting a cup of coffee or a snack, try five minutes of exercise. You’ll be doing both your body and your brain a favor.