Ever feel stuck? You need inspiration for a new creative project, or a way to solve a management problem, or a strategy for increasing sales, but you keep coming up short? You may be able to get things flowing again with a few daily activities proven to increase brain function.
That advice comes from Robert Susa, CEO of InventHelp, which helps inventors prototype, patent, and market their inventions. Given his audience, he spends a lot of time thinking about how to optimize the human brain. “Whether you are thinking about how to make your prototype more visually appealing, what to do next on your business plan, or how to market your product to your target audience, it involves a massive amount of brainpower and creativity,” he explains.
You can up that power and creativity significantly with a few simple changes to your daily routine:
1. Go for a walk.
“Regular exercise helps improve thinking and memory retention,” Susa says. “Taking a walk, a cardio class, or a long-distance run gives your brain a rest from work-related thoughts. It has a chance to be creative, which could help you fix the little problem you've been having with your invention idea.”
Various types of exercise can offer this benefit, but walking at least two miles, biking, or running may be especially effective. “Steadily walking puts your brain in a neuroplastic state, which means it can build connections between cells more easily,” Susa says. “When walking to new places, you need to visually and mentally explore where to go next. Each place you see can bring different ideas to your brain, connecting different meanings.”
2. Indulge in a hobby.
“A brain needs novelty and taxing exercises to maintain its youthful function,” Susa says. This could mean learning a new language, learning to dance, or picking up a musical instrument. “Let your artistic abilities take over your mind for a few hours each week.”
Learning something new requires complex thinking and that engages the nucleus basalis, the part of your brain responsible for paying attention and consolidating connections, Susa explains. An hour a day may be enough to strengthen your brain if you focus on learning through that whole hour.
3. Eat brain food.
“Like your body, your brain needs healthy and nutrient-rich foods to increase productivity,” Susa says. The specific nutrients it needs are omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids. “Omega-3 fatty acids improve mental concentration and fight memory loss,” he notes.
So where do you find them? Omega-3 fatty acids are in walnuts, eggs, pecans, leafy greens, oily cold-water fish such as herring, salmon, and trout, and oils such as flaxseed oil and chia oil. As for flavonoids, you can find them in coffee, berries, leafy greens--and dark chocolate. “These foods can help you optimize your brain and assist with creating your product or service and bringing it to market,” Susa says. They’ll help you remember the conversations and connections you have with other people, as well as those random middle-of-the-night thoughts that could prove useful later on. “And who doesn’t like to add a little more chocolate to their diet?”
4. Find time to clear your mind.
Using relaxation techniques throughout the day helps your brain by giving it a rest, Susa says. Meditation, even for just a few minutes, is especially beneficial. “By meditating, your mind can focus on relaxing and letting all worries and problems escape," he says. "Your mind is coming up with ideas, thoughts, and concerns every day, and sometimes you need to clear your head of all anxieties."
So if you’re having trouble concentrating or you’re stuck on a problem, take a little time to meditate, he suggests. Or do yoga, which can clear your mind and provide stress release, and benefits your body as well.
Add any of these activities--or all four--to your daily routine, and it may help ignite a creative spark, Susa says: “Allowing your brain to change from its workaholic state and into a free-minded flow might be what you need to figure out your great idea.”