In the first of a series of articles, André Vermeulen offers some exercises to improve brain agility and learning.
Just as athletes need to be supple, fit and warmed up for peak performance, so learners have to activate, or switch on, their neurological system to be agile and process information with ease, speed and neurological flexibility. The following activities will help.
The body’s electrical system depends on an efficient conductor – water plus either sodium chloride or potassium chloride salt to conduct electrical messages in the body. Learners should drink eight glasses of water per day to enable this to happen.
Take a deep breath in, hold, then slowly release your breath out at least four times, throughout the day. Also, release the tension in your muscles by doing a progressive muscle relaxation exercise by tensing one muscle and then slowly releasing this tension to activate alpha rhythms which create a more integrated state ideal for whole brain learning.
Humanise the environment
Humanise the learning environment by aligning it with natural pastel colours, natural lighting, tranquil images of nature, nature’s sounds, natural textures and floral/fruit odours. This increases neurotransmitter production essential for optimal electrical transmission of impulses in the brain.
Do activities like bilateral drawings of squares, triangles and circles.
Read humorous stories and comics ortell jokes to reduce stress and to allow activation for alpha state. Laughter while learning enhances respiration, increases immune cell production, decreases cortisol and increases endorphins and serotonin – an essential balance of chemicals to boost brain performance.
Do a relaxing visualisation exercise; recall a positive experience; practice complete silence for a few minutes or listen to Baroque music – these hook up the electrical circuits in the body, activating sensory and motor cortices in the parietal and frontal lobes on both hemispheres of the cerebrum and activate alpha rhythms.
Music is a mood inducer. String instrument music combined with sounds of nature triggers the areas of the brain responsible for relaxation and alpha rhythms, which makes the brain more receptive to absorb larger volumes of information.
Do activities like bilateral drawings of squares, triangles and circles. Use large expressive arm movements in all directions. Write your name while doodling with both hands, mirror imaging each other as this will activate both brain hemispheres to process information simultaneously.
Do stretching exercises for the neck, shoulders, arms, back and legs to enhance blood flow, suppleness and relaxation of muscles, concentration and focus.
To increase whole brain performance, do cross–lateral movements in which your arms or legs cross over from one side of your body to the other, with at least 50 repetitions before each learning session.
Eye tracking exercises
To increase the ability to process visual information through the eyes, do activities like blinking while tracking with the eyes all around the edge of an object. Also try visualising pictures, patterns and colours.
And do ‘lazy 8s’ (the number eight on its side, like the infinity symbol) for the eyes – keep the head still, have one thumb draw the lazy 8 horizontally in the air while you follow it slowly with your eyes. Then follow up with the other thumb.
Finally, put both hands together and follow as they make the lazy 8. Repeat these activities five times with each hand. Be sure to go up the centre of the body and out to each side and you’ll soon see the difference in your learning ability.
About the author
Dr André Vermeulen is an expert in the neuroscience of learning and a consultant to Full Potential Group.