“Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside, is what will manifest on the outside.”— John Assaraf
My grandfather ran a massive jewelry exchange in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest open marketplace, dating back to 1455. It has over 4,000 shops interlaced amidst 61 covered streets. He was a shrewd master at sales and persuasion, spoke 5 languages, and was my hero growing up.
But as he aged, his brain started to lose its edge. That eventually turned into forgetfulness. And towards the end of his life, his memory severely waned. That led to a loss in cognition and overall motor function. This turned into full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease and eventually, my grandfather couldn’t even remember who we were.
If you know someone you love who’s going through this, you understand how painful it is. But it’s more common than most think. In fact, it is well known that the brain’s ability to form and grow new connections declines rapidly over time. Especially when you stop training your brain and challenging it.
This leads to things like memory loss, loss in cognition, and an overall impairment that could lead to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The question is, how do we avoid this? And is there a way that we can train our brains to help stop this decline over time?
How The Brain Works
As children, our brains grow rapidly. Neurons in our brains form and grow new connections, expanding incredibly fast. That process is called neurogenesis. But the decline of this over time is what’s scary. Especially when you fail to train your brain by challenging it. This happens by breaking out of complacent patterns and routines.
Years ago, Roland Frasier introduced me to, John Assaraf. He’s a three-time NY Times best-selling author and incredibly successful businessman who built and sold 5 multi-million dollar companies. But most people know him from the Law of Attraction book and movie called, The Secret. While interviewing him for an article, I discovered his passion for understanding and unlocking the secrets to success.
Like me, he is obsessed with habits and rituals, and truly understanding why we do the things we do so that we can understand how to unlock the true potential of our minds. That’s when I learned about his Brain-a-Thon, an annual event devoted to uncovering the principles of training the brain for true success in every area of life.
You see, over time, when we get complacent, our brain function declines. But just like physical exercising, you can exercise the mind. And just like reps to grow muscles in the physical body, our brain-mind strength can grow when we commit to exercising it day in and day out. I only wish I had known about this earlier, and maybe there’s some way that I could have helped my grandfather.
Training Your Brain For Success
So the question becomes, how do you really train your brain for success? If there’s a way that we can avoid cognitive decline over time, we should do it, right? Not only is there a way to avoid it, but there are several ways you can keep your mind fresh by helping to exercise it. This is not just about financial success. This is about helping avoid things like memory loss and the decline in cognitive function.
Now, each person is different. Our environments are unique. How we treat our bodies clearly has some impact on the brain-mind connection. But all things considered, it’s important to exercise your brain just as you would exercise your body. This is to help keep you in optimal shape so that you can be mentally present for as long as humanly possible.
Your habits play a critical role in this. It’s also important to stay disciplined with brain-strengthening activities over time. Overall, there are 5 of these activities that you should be constantly doing and immerse yourself in. Do not get complacent and allow bad habits to help you overlook the things that you should be doing today.
1. Consistent Learning
The brain thrives when we feed it new information. But over time, we stop exposing ourselves to new knowledge. When my grandfather moved to America, he continued in the jewelry business. This time in Downtown Los Angeles. But he eventually stopped running it, allowing my mom to take over.
You see, part of his mental decline was likely caused by this decision. The truth is that business is challenging and requires mental strength. You need to learn how to do things, to operate your business in a way that forces you to keep learning new skills and solving problems on a daily basis.
When you stop learning, and stop exposing yourself to situations that require consistent learning, it’s easy to see why there’s a sharp mental decline. Instead, when you learn daily, solve problems and challenge yourself, you stimulate the neural pathways, keeping them active and sharp.
Set aside a dedicated time each day to read, learn and grow. Whether that’s by picking up a book, reading a blog (like this one), a journal, or anything else, do it each day. Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes to spare.
2. Challenge Your Brain
Do not remain complacent. Challenge your brain. Force it to confront problems that it can solve. Do not simply allow others to do everything for you. This requires discipline and an ability to not shy away from things that are difficult and fearful. When you challenge your brain, you force it to stay sharp.
You can solve crossword puzzles, play strategy games, learn a new language, play a musical instrument, or take up hobbies that require intricate detail like model-building or knitting. The key is to keep increasing the difficulty level as you improve over time and not to remain at the same level.
If you have bad habits holding you back, eliminate them so that you can focus on learning and growing. Is it easy? No. It’s certainly not. But if you care about your ability to stay sharp, especially if there is a history of dementia and Alzheimer’s in your family, this is important to do.
There’s no reason not to do this. And there are plenty of ways you can challenge your brain. Whether you want to create financial success, relationship success, business success, or anything else, it starts by first challenging the brain to grow over time.
3. Stay Active Physically
Do not become a couch potato. It sounds cliche. I know. But it’s true. When you don’t move your body, it also impacts the mind. That’s because exercise boosts blood flow to the brain. And that blood flow helps to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the brain. F
This doesn’t mean you need to become a warrior athlete. No, not whatsoever. It just means you have to be careful of staying complacent, and sitting around most of the day. Even if this only means you get in 10,000 steps a day, you have to move your body in some way, every single day.
Figure out what you like to do. If it’s yoga, do that. If it’s hitting the gym, do that. Whatever it is, make sure you do it daily. Exercise also benefits you in other ways by helping to eliminate the stress hormones like adrenalin (epinephrine) and cortisol. It also boosts powerful neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that also benefit the brain immensely.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Most people discount the importance of sleep. But it’s vital for the health of your brain and body. There are many things that will disrupt your sleep. Things like alcohol, drugs, caffeine, a poor diet and so on. When you consume lots of sugar or coffee close to bedtime, it’s hard to fall asleep, right?
Alcohol also severely disrupts your sleep. Sleep is the time when your brain processes the day’s information, recovers, and strengthens memories. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a calm bedtime routine.
It’s not easy to do. Especially when you’re struggling with stress and constant worry. But it’s vital to help keep your mind sharp over time. According to the CDC, you should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep every single night if you’re 18 to 60 years old. If you’re 61 to 64, you should get 7 to 8 hours. And if you’re 65 and over it should be 7 to 9 hours.
5. Interact With Others Socially
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a complete introvert. Growing up I was an incredibly shy kid. Yes, I’ve grown out of that a little bit, but I don’t think you can ever go from being an introvert to an extrovert. So I’ve always found it more challenging to interact with others socially.
But this is important to do. Especially for the success of your brain. Why? Because regular social interaction keeps your cognitive and emotional skills sharp. It helps the brain to form and build new neural connections. As much as you might not want to do it, force yourself to do so.
This helps you to grow in numerous ways. Put yourself into unfamiliar surroundings. Approach and talk to strangers. Engage in deep conversations, participate in group activities, or simply spend quality time with loved ones. It might feel difficult at first, but it gets easier to do over time.