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5 Effective Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

By Andrei Shenin

Updated April 15, 2021 Updated April 15, 2021

Once in a gym my coach told me: “Brain is a muscle that you can build too.” But, when I ironically asked him to sell me a super-gainer or high-productive protein for the brain, he just smiled and put a chessboard on some weight plates. This, he said, is the best exerciser of all times.

Over the years I earned a chess master title, but realized that chess can improve just one or two aspects of brain power – memory and strategic vision – while other skills (such as imagination, perception, observation and mental calculation) must be trained by other means. I tried many different ways to improve my brain power, and I want to share results with you in this article.

1. Chess (of course)

Chess

As I mentioned above, this ancient game is able to boost your brain power, with huge benefits for memory and strategic vision. The first of these skills, memory, is trained by exploring hundreds of chess openings (debuts), that can encompass thousands of variations, from 10 to 30 moves in a row. Chess masters must learn them, just as computers calculate all the negative scenarios, since knowledge of how to punish an opponent for a wrong move can be crucial.

As for strategic vision, we should admit that chess players have to analyze a game many moves ahead and properly evaluate the chess composition. Even when exact calculations are impossible, players can predict the advantages or disadvantages of every move by considering approximate criteria: pawn order, open lines, capturing the center of the chessboard, etc.

2. “Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain”

My second favorite tool to boost brain power is this book by Japanese neuroscientist Kawashima Ruta. The book’s challenges include solving simple mathematical calculations such as “14-7” or “7x9”, memorizing words, and counting numbers from 1 to 120 aloud.

Sounds easy, right? But all of these exercises must be done against the clock. This is a key idea of the whole book: do the brain-training exercises as fast as possible. Ruta researches the human brain, and after numerous experiments he arrived at the conclusion that a time deficit runs some high-intensity processes in the brain. Just try to solve 40 simple calculations in 1 min 20 sec, and you will see that it’s not so easy as it seemed!

3. Reading

I don’t know any more effective ways to boost your brain power than bookworming. Try to imagine: smart people have spent years or decades to collect information, interpretate and share it in the pages of books. And now we can get someone’s life work in one click! Any information on any subject is accessible to feed your brain. Use it.

4. Learning foreign languages

I know, this is a very hard task and many people say “Oh, I don’t have a facility for languages.” But the point is that you don’t need unique talents for languages – you need languages to develop these “not-so-unique” talents. Languages are the same as mathematics or chess, when a child starts with simple calculations or moves and then combines them into incredible formulas and beautiful chess games. Start learning languages and you will never stop!

5. Mmmm… hamburger 

What? Sometimes, my brain needs a rest.

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This article was originally published in January 2017 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

Andrei Shenin is a PhD in history and an associate professor at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University. His area of study focuses on the decision-making processes and groups involved in US foreign policy. He holds lectures on a wide range of topics, from Arctic issues to the nuclear program of Iran.

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