zenhabits : breathe

11 Ways To Expand Your Mind And Recover From Brain Rot

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Alex Shalman of AlexShalman.com.

The summer after high school, afflicted with a serious case of boredom, I would often spend my time baking away pool side, or watching Jerry Springer or Maury Show at my then girlfriend’s house. In fact, we spent so much time watching these shows, and ones like it, that I began to see patterns in the scripting of human behavior.

You would think I would use this new found skill for good, but no, this is what I discovered. When the guy on the show says he is 100% sure he is not the father, he isn’t, and when he says he is 110% sure he is not the father, he is. Go ahead and give this a try, it’s fool proof.

Now the only reasonable meaning that can be attached to this information is that I spent way too many hours watching shows that lacked both in purity and integrity. In other words, I was letting my brain rot.

Who knows if the damage is permanent, or if I am demented now. The one thing I know for sure is that I cannot get those hours of my life back, and that there is no point wasting more time by dwelling on it.

Recovering from Brain Rot
Just to be clear on the Alex Shalman definition of brain rot: It’s when you forcefully stuff too much of the wrong information into your brain, to the point where both your thinking and behavioral patterns become highly disturbed.

One day it occurred to me that if I don’t start filling my brain with positive, useful, and truly interesting information that my brain would shrivel up to the size of a raisin, and I would end up on the Springer show myself.

One of the simple concepts that got me started on this road of personal development is the idea that we can capture 20 years of a persons experience by taking a few hours to read a book about it. Why reinvent the wheel and make the same mistakes that have already been recorded in history? There are an infinite number of bigger and better things we can make mistakes at!

By continuing to do as we always have, the quality of results will be the same as always. Only when we step out of our comfort zones, and push ourselves to improve, will we gain useful new experiences, knowledge, and ideas.

11 Powerful Ways to Expand Your Mind
It’s interesting to note that expanding your mind doesn’t mean your skull is going to become larger or that your brain is going to grow. What happens is our brain becomes denser with neuronal connections, which facilitates both more memory, and speed of retrieval.

11. Reading. As I mentioned in the introduction, by reading we are able to input countless years of experience, creativity, knowledge, and wisdom into our minds in a matter of hours. One should be careful not to pollute their mind by reading the wrong information. This is why I find it important to read books written by people that have accomplished something I want, or that I admire in some way. (Ex: Zen To Done)

10. Writing. Writing expands our vocabulary, which has been shown to be directly correlated with success. Any career that involves people (that’s all of them isn’t it) is based on solid communication with a firm grasp of vocabulary and knack for self-expression.

9. Puzzles. Puzzles strengthen neuronal connections in such a way that they improve hand-eye coordination in people of all ages. Puzzles come in so many varieties that you can practice mathematics, vocabulary, memory and other bouts of critical thinking while enjoying these challenging games. [My favorite: Sudoku]

8. Mathematics. Mathematics teaches us how to think critically, and gives us access to an analytical train of thought. By thinking this way, we are more prone to having more common sense and possessing the skill of logic.

7. Painting. Painting is another great form of self-expression. No art is really ever finished, because there’s always more to be done, but it certainly can be left at great.

6. Cooking. Cooking, especially the kind where you don’t use recipes, engages all of your senses. From the smell of your ingredients, to the feel of the texture, and the sound of the sizzling, we must put everything together to achieve an amazing result with this art form.

5. Music. Music increases our sensitivity, as well as fosters a sense of emotional intelligence. If you’ve ever listened to opera in language that you don’t understand, you will be pleasantly surprised that you will not only know what’s going on, but be able to feel the emotions of the performance.

4. Poetry. Poetry can foster creativity as you paint a vivid image with your words. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory, by recollecting interesting words, as well as memorizing poems to always have with you.

3. Meditate. Meditation has an excellent way of expanding your mind from the subconscious level. It has it’s ways of digging through your mind, and bringing forth important, and often times emotionally charges memories into your conscious mind.

2. Learn a language. Learning a new langauge can be challenging, engaging and fun. Not only will you have to push the mental capacity to put together your newly learned words and phrases, but you will also have the opportunity to think in a different language.

The Number One Way To Expand Your Mind Is Through Questioning Everything. It’s certainly much easier to accept information that comes to us, instead of questioning it and being succeptable to having to think. Have you ever wondered why a flower is a certain color, why someone said they like us, where someone got a percentage from (73% of all percentages are made up), or why a certain Presidential candidate is REALLY worth our vote?

As is usually the case, asking ourselves questions, leads to more questions, and then some more. Sometimes we do get reasonable answers, but it’s important to note that the mere act of asking expands our minds and allows us to try on an infinite number of paradimgns.

A new question, brings a new outlook, which potentially changes everything we know about the world.

Readers: What do you personally do to expand your mind?

Alex Shalman (via RSS) is a personal development author. He is currently hosting a Happiness Project, with Leo Babauta as his first guest. Make sure you check him out, as well as other exciting people in the series.

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