10 Top Websites for Brain Training

You have probably seen media reports about the emerging understanding of the benefits that mental exercise brings. Studies have shown that a routine of mental activities can increase your alertness, agility of thought and creativity. Your brain’s health is an important contributor to your quality of life as you age and there appears to be a correlation between your level of mental stimulation and your risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s in later life.

Brain training video games intended to help you keep your brain fit, such as Nintendo’s Brain Age, which offers to train your brain in 10 minutes a day, have sold millions of copies. However you don’t need to splash out for an expensive games console and software. There are plenty of free online and interactive resources to help you get the benefits of training your brain. Below is a round-up of ten of the best:

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Brain Work-outs

In the past, researchers believed that our genes were the main determinants of brain development. Now an increasing number or studies shows that conditions in our surroundings can influence our internal brain plan during early life and in later years. Researchers say the evidence could not only initiate personal behavioral changes, but also could launch new behavioral therapies and medications that repair or expand the brain.

If your physical activity centers on typing, then your leg muscles will never rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Likewise, if your mental exercise is radically low, then your brain will probably be on the scrawny side, according to a new view of brain development.

For years, researchers underestimated the role that worldly experience played in brain formation. In the same way a person is genetically pre-destined to have blue eyes, the brain, they assumed, was internally programmed to bloom into a precise shape that held a specific map of nerve cells or neurons. This mission, they thought, was completed within the first few years after birth.

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Patience

patience

Animals act upon instinct. Humans, however, can think.

Everyone has been in a situation where they just rushed things, and later wished they had taken things slowly. When animals are in a state of panic, they generally tend to act on instinct and don’t think about what they are doing. They just blindly do whatever their instinct tells them. Fortunately for us, through many years of evolution, we have developed something no other animal has. By rationalizing and making sense of a situation, we can “bypass” our first instinct and control what we do. This allows us to think things through and plan our actions, even if we are in a tough situation.

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Outcomes From Reaching Your Goals

reaching your goals

Reprinted from the Huffington Post

In life and work, success begins with a goal. It could be losing weight, asking for a raise, quitting smoking or starting your own business. Big or small, goals give us purpose and, like a compass, keep us headed in the right direction. Of course, it then takes lots of hard work and determination to reach your destination.

Writing over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle described the process this way: “First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

Unfortunately, many of us remain stuck at the goal stage. We start out with good intentions and perhaps a plan, but then we can’t seem to make it happen.

There are countless reasons that this occurs — busyness, impatience, fear and negative social pressures are some of the usual culprits — so how do we respond to these challenges and move in the direction of our goal?

Seeing Is Believing

Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like. To paraphrase the old adage: we must see it before we can believe it.

This is where visualization comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. When we visualize our desired outcome, we begin to “see” the possibility of achieving it. Through visualization, we catch a glimpse of what is, in the words of one writer, our “preferred future.” When this happens, we are motivated and prepared to pursue our goal.

Visualization should not be confused with the “think it and you will be it” advice peddled by popular self-help gurus. It is not a gimmick, nor does it involve dreaming or hoping for a better future. Rather, visualization is a well-developed method of performance improvement supported by substantial scientific evidence and used by successful people across a range of fields.

Take athletes, for example. Studies show that visualization increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. It also aids in relaxation and helps reduce fear and anxiety. In the words of one researcher, “visualization helps the athlete just do it and do it with confidence, poise, and perfection.”

Former NBA great Jerry West is a great example of how this works. Known for hitting shots at the buzzer, he acquired the nickname “Mr. Clutch.” When asked what accounted for his ability to make the big shots, West explained that he had rehearsed making those same shots countless times in his mind. Other sports legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods and pitcher Roy Halladay have also used visualization to improve their performance and achieve their personal best.

Why Visualization Works

According to research using brain imagery, visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.

Putting It All Together

Remember, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from visualization. Whether you’re a student, businessperson, parent or spouse, visualization will keep you tethered to your goal and increase your chances of achieving it. The power of visualization is available to all people.

There are two types of visualization, each of which serves a distinct purpose, but for greatest effect, they should be used together. The first method is outcome visualization and involves envisioning yourself achieving your goal. To do this, create a detailed mental image of the desired outcome using all of your senses.

For example, if your goal is to run your first marathon, visualize yourself crossing the finish line in the time you desire. Hold that mental image as long as possible. What does it feel like to pass under the finishing banner, looking at your watch, the cool air on your overheated body? Who is there to greet you as you finish? Your family? Friends? Other runners? Imagine the excitement, satisfaction, and thrill you will experience as you walk off the lactic acid and fall exhausted into their arms.

Some people find it useful to write their goal down, and then, in as much detail as possible, translate it into a visual representation. It could be a hand-drawn picture, a photograph or a diagram. The media doesn’t matter, just as long as it helps you create a vivid mental image and stay motivated.

The second type of visualization is process visualization. It involves envisioning each of the actions necessary to achieve the outcome you want. Focus on completing each of the steps you need to achieve your goal, but not on the overall goal itself.

Back to the marathon example: Before the race, visualize yourself running well — legs pumping like pistons, arms relaxed, breathing controlled. In your mind, break the course into sections and visualize how you will run each part, thinking about your pace, gait and split time. Imagine what it will feel like when you hit “the wall,” that point in the race where your body wants to stop, and more importantly, what you must do to break through it.

You may never run a marathon. However, you can use the same principles to achieve any goal — create a vivid mental picture of yourself succeeding, envision what you must do during each step of the process and, like a runner pushing through “the wall,” use positive mental imagery to stay focused and motivated when you experience obstacles or setbacks.

Visualization does not guarantee success. It also does not replace hard work and practice. But when combined with diligent effort (and, I would add, a strong support network), it is a powerful way to achieve positive, behavioral change and create the life you desire.

Follow Frank Niles, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@frankniles

How to Overcome Loneliness

Inconsolable grief

1.  Recognize loneliness for what it is.

What is loneliness?  It is an enemy, a disease that eats away happiness, alienating you from all that is worthwhile in life, and it sours and thickens the spirit.  Calling it your “friend” or accepting it as a cross you must bear is deadly to your peace of mind.  Wallowing in your misery brings out the most acute feelings of loneliness, feeding it by keeping yourself in that state, sometimes leads to a point that it becomes enjoyable.  Watch out when this happens. It is a sign of danger — not only to you but to others around you as well.

2.  Distinguish between loneliness and aloneness.  These are not the same.  Loners are not necessarily lonely.  Some of the most creative and productive people find it necessary to be alone much of their time.  They have learned to use their solitude creatively.  Fact is, we need periods of solitude.  It is where we generate the physical and spiritual reinvigoration from our crowded schedules.  King David, the psalmist of the Bible also writes about this saying, “He leadeth me beside still waters.  He restoreth my soul.”  All of us experience loss in one way or another.  It is our choice if we let grief stay only for a temporary episode of our life or allow it to become a crippling disease to rot our life away.

3.  Make yourself useful.

Instead of wallowing in a pool of misery, find time to make yourself and your life useful to others.  There are dozens of ways in which you could help.  Go out into the community, find a church, offer your services, and your talents.   Join a cause. You will be surprised at how you gain fulfillment in serving others, in making others smile, in being an inspiration to live.  You’ll soon find out that your former state of self pity is just all about being too concerned about yourself, when you see that there is a whole world out there, and humanity is just as needy as you are.  Find in yourself something you could offer to make this world a better place.

Now get up and find your purpose!

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Moving on After Loss

bereavement

It still really hurts, but it does get better…

Growing up in a secure household where there was never a need for any thought to be given to the insecurity that tomorrow may bring, I had the love of my parents and I grew up with the wonderful companionship of my sister and a house with plenty.

As children we were shielded from the adverse things of life, by never having to face them, although we were made to understand how very fortunate we were and not to ever take anything for granted.

Years have rolled on ever since, and my vision is clouded by the unexpected terminal illness to which I lost my Mum nearly ten years back. It seemed unfair not only because she was young, and so was I, but also we were at that stage in our lives together where we were getting closer and closer and the need to share with her had become almost a necessity. I am a great believer in the the words, ‘Time heals everything,’ and although it seemed impossible at the time, I have overcome my deep sorrow to remember the good days with her, the times we laughed together and the bundle of energy that she was!

In times of grief, people often console you, telling you not to cry, that it will al be alright, and I had all that as well- a close knit extended family and wonderful friends. But the need to grieve is essential and only by allowing myself to feel the pain and on some days get up with the thought that I am not going to make it, did I actually manage to live with the sadness.

There are still days when I miss her so much that my heart physically aches and I am overwhelmed by the fact that my children will never know her, but yet I know she is watching us. If I can be anything like she was as a mother, to my daughters, I will consider myself a real success. She gives me strength to be a better person and I know that if time allows one to get through a personal tragedy and come out on the other side, there is believe strength and resilience in the human spirit. Let not anyone tell you otherwise.

Four Steps to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts

how to get rid of negative thoughts image

by Rana Sinha, Apr 7, 2008

Negative thoughts are a thousand times more addictive than drugs. A four step proven approach to help get rid of negative thoughts is presented here. Using this technique you can get rid of negative thoughts and make yourself a happier person.

Negative thoughts are a thousand times more addictive than drugs. Over time they become you so that you cannot distinguish a thought as being separate from you.

Many mental health professionals and psychiatrists like Professor Aaron Beck of the University of Pennsylvania, who invented the Beck Hopelessness Scale, believe that depression is due to negative views towards the self, world, and especially the future. In his lifelong experience of working with depressed patients, Professor Beck found that they experienced streams of negative thoughts that habitually pop up spontaneously out of nowhere. Our thoughts, emotions and our behaviour all affect each other. By changing how we view them we can make significant changes to improve our lives. By identifying and evaluating our thoughts we can think more realistically. This makes us feel better and then we do indeed behave more functionally. This improves everyone’s lives.

You can get rid of anything but negative thoughts, they say.

There is hope as this is not true. There is a priceless and proven technique, which has helped lots of people get rid of negative thoughts that plague the mind. When you learn to get rid of negative thoughts you become a more positive person, who is happier. All the advice you get about “Think positive”, just doesn’t work if you can’t get rid of negative thoughts first. Using this method you can get rid of much negativity in your life.

So, here’s the method, step by step.

Become Aware

This is the first step. You have to recognise that you’re having a negative thought. The sure sign of a negative thought is that it lowers your energy level. Then it can also make you feel gloomy and bitter so that you can’t see any good in anything.

Label It

I’m experiencing a negative thought now. Tell yourself like this. If you have come this far, you’ll notice that suddenly you’ll begin to feel your energy level stop sinking and the inner gloom stop getting gloomier. Fantastic progress until now so congratulate yourself and then on to the next stage.

Exaggerate It

Explore the negative thought and play with it. Stretch it and make it absolutely ridiculous. If you have a thought such as “I can’t go and tell my bank that I’d need to lower my monthly mortgage amount. They’d think I’m a loser”. Visualize the people at the bank laughing out aloud so they roll on the floor pointing at you. Some of them manage to rush into the street and stop passers-by or get on the phone and call their friends and say out aloud “Can you imagine, we have a customer here who wants to lower her monthly mortgage!” Then everyone joins in to ridicule you, the traffic stops, TV cameras appear and they make a breaking-news alert, the president cancels his foreign trip. As you go on doing this thought stretching, you realize the absurdity of your negative thoughts. They begin to appear bizarre and lose their glue-like grip on you. Congratulations, you have now reached breakthrough point. The miracle has started taking place. You’ve started freeing your mind.

Be Thankful

Notice that all your exaggerations did not actually take place. Things could have been far worse for you if they had. This is a reason to be thankful. The moment you start being thankful, a new ray of life enters and your inner gloom lights up. Things start happening to you that never happened before. Where there were only walls for you to bang your head, doors and windows appear. An end of the world disaster turns out to be an opportunity, a new beginning that you’d never have imagined. Now just relax and experience how new things come into your life in place of the old negative thoughts. You don’t need to make extra efforts to plant positive thoughts. By removing negative barriers, you allow positive things to start happening to you. This is what is meant by “Thy will be done” in prayer. You recognize that your personal ego is rather tiny in the big picture. If you try to run everything with this tiny ego, you limit all possibilities to only those your tiny ego can imagine. Life contains infinitely more possibilities than you can imagine.

When you’ve been going through these steps for some time, you’ll notice that life does seem better. Your energy level picks up. New purposes emerge in place of cheerless despair and people start appreciating the new you and your self-confidence starts to build up again. A star is born.