As the host of National Geographic Channel’s interactive series Brain Games, Jason Silva knows quite a bit about all things cerebral, as fans of his lectures, Shots of Awe YouTube videos and Twitter feed can attest. As the show returns for its sixth season February 14th (9/8c), we asked him for practical tips that you can use to maximize your own gray matter and be smarter at work, at play and in life. Read, learn, dominate!
“One of the best tools for anxiety is 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, whether it’s competitive sports or hiking. Getting your heart rate moving is going to be beneficial for your brain, for your creativity and feeling good.”
1. Go with the flow
“The best thing you can do for being productive is getting into the flow state in which you feel your best and perform your best, like an athlete that’s in the zone or a jazz musician who’s in the pocket. These flow states are associated with decreased activity in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex responsible for self-editing so your inner critic goes quiet. When you get in flow you silence it. Your aperture focuses and you lose yourself in the zone. If you can get into the zone your productivity will go up.”
2. Break your routine
“Our brain likes to fall into these routines, these patterns, so we expend less energy. But the problem with that is it makes things go stale. When you rely on routine you’re not learning or expanding. One of the things that keeps everything fresh is novelty—new experiences. It can be anything: Change your commute route to work, brush your teeth with the opposite hand, learn a new language or hobby.”
3. Get moving
“Any aerobic activity is going to help your brain. One of the best tools for anxiety is 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, whether it’s competitive sports or hiking. Getting your heart rate moving is going to be beneficial for your brain, for your creativity and feeling good.”
4. You are what you eat
“Gut health and brain health are very related so what you eat is very important. Keep an active lifestyle with lots of exercise and eat well, and make sure you’re not gluten-intolerant.”
5. Change your love scene
“If you change the backdrop you change the way you relate to one another. Taking a trip together shakes up the routine.”
“It’s amazing how your state of consciousness can be mediated by your physiology. When you’re anxious your breathing gets shallow. You can stop a full-blown panic attack by taking 10 deep breaths. In stressful fight or flight situations, you’re not thinking rationally but if you exercise control by breathing you’ll be able to make a much better assessment of the situation.”
7. Use information and technology more wisely
“There’s an infinite amount of signals competing for our attention. With so much bombardment, it’s important to decide what to expose yourself to and what to not. We should be discerning and responsible curators of our own experience. It’s up to you to decide how to use these tools to expand your creativity and adjust to find out what works best for you.”
Photo courtesy of National Geographic Channels.