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3 Smart Ways To Increase Learnability, Confidence, and Results

Dmitry Shvetsov
April 29th, 2020 · 4 min read

You can master skills faster, be in control of your mind, and boost your brain activity by changing how you use your body. Because our bodies are our greatest assets, we should view it as a tool and use it wisely.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Sleep: The Brain’s Commit Button

“Sleep is the best meditation.”

– Dalai Lama

A study of violinists, led by K. Anders Ericsson, found that it is sleep that separates the good violinists from the best ones. The best performers sleep an average of one hour more than the others. They also rest more and tend to take a nap in the middle of the day.

Sleep helps greatly with the ability to problem-solve. Sleep is a source of peak performance. And sleep is a necessity for being able to learn new things. All three of these are crucial for software engineers.

Sleep is a vital part of getting smarter. This is because when we sleep, our brain transports information from short-term memory to long-term memory and creates a connection between learned concepts and what we already know.

This process flushes the hippocampus, which in turn allows you to absorb new information. Without sleep, the hippocampus would be overloaded and unable to accommodate new information.

In a TED talk about sleep, Matt Walker talks about an “experiment” that our governments perform on us. We undergo this experiment twice a year—1.6 billion people across 70 countries—and it is called Daylight Savings Time.

In spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In autumn, when we gain one hour of sleep, a 21% reduction in heart attacks is observed. Similar data is found for car crashes, traffic accidents, and suicide rates.

Matt continues by stating that there is a 70% drop in the immune system after a single night of only 4 hours of sleep instead of the required 7-9 hours. You become literally unprotected just after one sleepless night.

He also shares secrets for improving the quality of sleep, which is just as important as quantity:

  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Cool down the room to fall asleep.

Lack of sleep robs you of your ability to learn and operate at a high level. So next time you consider sacrificing a couple hours of sleep to do more today, stop and think how much it will take away from tomorrow.

Body And Mind: Two-Way Binding

You can change the way you feel by changing your body language.

Amy Cuddy did a research study in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University that revealed that people who sat in power poses for a couple of minutes felt more powerful afterward.

Another study, by Jessica Tracy from the University of British Columbia and David Matsumoto from San Francisco State University, analyzed the 2004 Judo Olympic and Paralympic competitions. They looked at 12 blind athletes who were blind from birth and who had therefore never seen people celebrating victory or handling loss. Surprisingly, when these blind athletes won, they made gestures of pride similar to the sighted athletes, and when they lost, they slumped their shoulders and narrowed their chests in shame just like the sighted athletes.

Bidirectional connection between our mind and body can allow us to manipulate our mind by replicating body postures and movements to achieve a desirable state of mind.

Another bit of research comes from my wife. When she is under pressure and wants to have fun, she starts dancing. This works for her as a stress-reducing activity—proven by multiple experiments in our home!

Another body motion that benefits the mind is walking. Studies in Stanford University revealed the positive effect of walking on creative thinking.

Harvard University studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. Aerobic exercise that gets your heart beating faster and makes you sweat affects the brain in ways that improve memory and thinking skills.

Next time when you need a spark of creativity or are searching for a solution, try to get away from your desk and take a walk.

Key takeaway: our body is a tool. So use it.

  • Make movements of joy when you want to overcome stressful situations.
  • Stand in a powerful, confident pose when you lack confidence.
  • Take a walk when stuck on a problem.

Brain Fuel

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”

– Paul Prudhomme

What we eat affects how our brain operates, how we feel physically, and our mood.

Studies have shown that students’ dietary habits affect their grades.

Football manager Arsène Wenger changed the English Football Premier League with his diet regimens that revitalized Arsenal and led the football club to “the invincible” season without a single game lost—the only case in modern English football.

Food has a direct impact on our performance, including our cognitive performance, which is why the wrong choice at breakfast or lunch can ruin your day.

Avoid foods with high glycemic indexes:

  • Doughnuts
  • Pancakes
  • Soda
  • Dates
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar candies

This kind of food creates peaks of glucose and dips right after the peak. This results in a bad mood and shortens our attention span. We are definitely not the best developers when we are in a bad mood and can’t focus on the task at hand.

Replace high-glycemic food with oats, grains, and legumes:

  • Barley
  • Black Rice and Wild Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rye

Drinking water is also very important for your brain and its activity. Drink 8-ounce glasses (or 250 ml) of water 8 times a day.

Some foods can take away from our brains, but some can give.

Here is the list of superfoods to supercharge your brain:

  • Blueberries
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Coconut Oil
  • Eggs
  • Kale
  • Salmon
  • Turmeric
  • Walnuts
  • Soy Products
  • Dark Chocolate.

Conclusion

Master skills faster with 7-9 hours sleep and include rest during the day.

Be in control of your mind. When negative emotions overwhelm you, use your body to fight your state of mind:

  • Make movements of joy when you want to overcome stressful situations.
  • Stand in a powerful, confident pose when you lack confidence.
  • Take a walk when stuck on a problem.

Give your brain what it needs to get better results:

  • Drink 8-ounce (or 250 ml) glasses of water 8 times a day.
  • Avoid dips in your mood and ability to focus by including in your daily diet more low-glycemic foods like oats, grains, and legumes.
  • Supercharge your brain with superfood.

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