Improving my mind has always been one of my interests. That’s because I believe that the quality of the mind has significant influence on success. But of course, improving the mind can’t be separated from knowing how the brain works. You need to know how the brain works in order to use your mind effectively.
That’s why the book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina is interesting to me. It aims to introduce you to the latest discoveries in brain science while giving you practical ways to apply them. In the author’s words:
Most of us have no idea how our brain works… Unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you’re out of the loop.
This book is meant to get you into the loop.
Let’s look inside the book.
Inside Brain Rules
Brain Rules covers 12 principles of how the brain works that are called the “brain rules”. Accordingly, the book is divided into twelve chapters.
Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
Exercise can improve your cognitive performance. The exact amount of exercise you need is different from person to person, but a good rule of thumb is doing aerobic exercise two or three times a week for 30 minutes each time. If possible, integrate exercise into your workday. Take regular breaks and fill them with exercise.
Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
Human brain evolved through the ages. There are three parts of the brain: “lizard brain” that keeps you breathing, “mammalian brain” that helps you survive (by allowing you to feel fear, for instance), and “human brain” (the cortex) that gives you abilities like vision, memory, and speech.
Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
Your brain is unique and because of that you should ensure that you are doing what your brain is wired to do. In education, it’s good to have smaller class size because the teacher can then track everybody in the class. In business, there should be “mass customization” to treat every employee as an individual.
Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
Better attention means better learning. So it’s important to grab the attention of your audience early and keep it along the way. It’s also important to keep your attention undivided when you are learning. Using emotions (like fear or laughter) is good to grab attention.
5. Short-term Memory
Rule #5: Repeat to remember
Memories have different life spans. To increase the life span of a memory, focus on the meaning of the information rather than just the details. You can do this by finding real-world examples that are relevant.
6. Long-term Memory
Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
To have good retrieval of a memory, you should repeat the information in timed intervals. It’s also helpful to think or talk about the information soon after you receive it.
Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
Healthy sleep can improve learning while lack of sleep can hurt learning. One good sleeping habit is napping. A NASA study showed that 26-minute nap improved pilot’s performance by more than 34 percent.
Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
Stress adversely affects your brain and health. That’s why it’s essential to create healthy environment at home and work. The worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem.
9. Sensory Integration
Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses
You can enhance learning by creating multisensory environment. Multisensory environment allows people to learn in a more elaborate fashion and therefore retain more. The two most popular senses are vision and hearing, but smell is becoming increasingly popular.
Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
Vision is the most dominant sense that takes half of the brain’s resources. For that reason, make the information visual.
Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
Men tend to remember the gist of an emotional experience while women tend to remember the details. Having both of them work together as a team will give the team complete perspective of a stressful situation.
Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.
Babies naturally explore new things and test everything in their environment. You should keep this curiosity alive. Curiosity is the fuel that keeps your intellectual engine run.
Brain Rules is a useful book that gives you solid understanding of how the brain works. Rather than giving you unproven myths, the book gives you scientific truth on the subject. It dispels popular myths such as “left brain is for analytical thinking” and “right brain is for creative thinking” and gives you explanation of what actually happens. In each chapter, there are ideas on how to apply the rule in business and education.
I enjoy the stories inside the book that shows the power of the brain. For example, there was a person who could read both pages of a book simultaneously (using left eye for the left page and right eye for the right page) and memorize them perfectly.
I also like the fact that many scientific explanations inside the book are explained using metaphors that make them easy to understand.