It’s a commonly cited statistic that we only use 10% of our brains. Why is that? Is it true? How can we build brain capacity? We could certainly use this capacity to develop our knowledge, understanding and emotional intelligence to create great mindsets …. enabling us to become more resilient people.
First of all, it is NOT true. Researchers and scientists from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to Mayo Clinic have now stated that nearly 100% of the brain is in use at some time during the day, and this can be proven through studying brain imaging scans. The idea could possibly have originated with William James, American psychologist and author, who is said to have written that we do not use nearly all of our physical or mental resources. But there are other reasons these resources go untapped.
- Recent studies have shown that we cannot really multitask. What really happens is that we are shifting from one task to the other so rapidly that we lose a little time each time we have to shift our focus. This may amount to hundreds of focus shifts every hour. Every time you shift, you have to take time to refocus on the new task.
- Too much information. The overwhelming amount of information that flows into our brains grows every year. How can we file away, much less use, all of it? Again, this process creates stress which hampers brain efficiency. Email and social media are a huge source of this information. In no other century in history could you observe baby animals of species that didn’t live in your country, share recipes instantly and electronically, conduct business without ever leaving your home office, or send hundreds of letters a day without ever running out of stamps or paper. We can check our bank balances, delivery status of orders, the stock market, even our webcam feeds. We can shop for anything imaginable on a computer, even things our grandparents never needed.
- Screen time. According to Psychology Today, too much screen usage to the point of screen addiction appears to result in shrinkage of the grey matter, restrictions on the white matter’s communication function, more cravings, and general poorer cognitive performance. This is truly frightening.
What can we do about it? I found loads of articles that not only maintained the 10% myth, but told of things you could do about it.
- Brain training. Games like Lumosity are popular now. It used to be crossword puzzles. And Dr. Daniel Amen, brain expert, says learning something NEW is most important. Brain training leads to neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells and connections.
- Mental activity such as conversation, and even being read to as a child, stimulate thinking, which is good for your brain. Try to understand alternate points of view, or ones that you disagree with. Do things that make you think, such as follow directions to put together a new piece of furniture or program an electronic device.
- Eat a balanced and natural diet. Processed foods may reduce a child’s IQ, whereas components of many foods such as fresh produce and grains, and fish, help to boost the IQ.
- Sleep is restorative and dreaming helps us to make sense of experiences that we encounter each day. Getting enough sleep is very good for your brain and if you skimp you may miss out on the lessons to be learned in your dreams. Writing down your dreams and reading them over later may reveal thoughts, fears, and sometimes even provide solutions to vexing problems.
- Activate your neocortex–the “new brain”–by doing things that make you feel safe. When you feel safe you may be more creative and think more imaginatively. Things that make you feel safe may include not indulging in risky behaviour–drugs, alcohol, or putting yourself in unsafe relationships. Taking care of yourself in all ways can also help. Feeling unsafe causes stress and stimulates cortisol production, which comes from the so-called reptilian brain which is responsible for “fight or flight.” How creative and relaxed can you be when running away from something?
Do you recognise yourself in any of the points on the first list? Try some of the ideas on the second list to maximise your brain power. Increasing capacity and exercising your brain can boost your intellect, stave off mental ageing, and maybe even help you live a longer life.
Increasing our personal resilience can help us integrate hard experiences into their lives, becoming stronger, healthier, happier and more adaptable people. Have a read of our FREE ebook “Resilience Unravelled” to enable you to make some real positive changes.