Want to get your brain to learn more easily?
When we are young our brains are primed for quick and easy learning. After about age 25 this declines, and learning takes more effort. However, at all ages there are things you can do to learn more easily.
Everyone thought that once you were an adult, your brain pretty much stayed the same. Research has now shown that the brain remains “plastic” and able to change throughout life. (It is just less plastic than it was when you were a kid!)
Certain behaviors turn on the neurochemical cocktail of epinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine which alert your nervous system, increase neuroplasticity and make it easier for your brain to learn.
FIRST, you need to get things wrong!
Try something new or something that has frustrated you. We often give up, when we get things wrong and give up. Based on the neurochemistry for learning when we stick with it, those very errors help us learn. Turns out that if you like making mistakes, you are optimizing learning and neuroplasticity.
Making mistakes triggers 3 neurochemicals for your brain to pay attention and figure out what change is needed to get things right.
3 neurochemicals for optimal learning:
Epinephrine for alertness
Failure signals what you are doing did not work and gets the brain to produce epinephrine.
Acetylcholine for focus
Acetylcholine is produced to give you focus to help solve and remedy the mistake
Dopamine for motivation and reward
As you keep trying to solve the errors and make progress “feel good” dopamine is released to reward you.
Try any NEW skill – motor, mental, emotional. Remember the object is to make mistakes, stumble and fail, not succeed . Focus on this anywhere from 7 to 30 minutes, and you will have an hour or so to learn something you want to learn while your brain is in this “plastic” state”.
SECOND, switch to learning something else where you want to succeed faster.
After making errors on the first task your brain will stay plastic for a while so you will have an easier time learning another skill like speaking a second language, baking bread , playing an instrument, or memorizing a speech. If you are over 25 years old you will need to do shorter bouts – about 90 minutes – of learning (one reason young people can learn relatively faster is that they have a LOT of new things to learn).
Learn to attach dopamine to process of making errors
Try to subjectively associate the experience of making errors with something good. Make failing repetitively a positive by telling yourself making errors revs up your brain’s plasticity. Make frustration the source of what is ultimately good for fast learning.
To summarize the steps to better, faster learning:
- Try a new learning experience where you will make a lot of errors for 7 to 30 minutes. Do not deliberately make mistakes as you need to learn by having to adjust and make corrections . (Motor learning is a good place to start because motor skills, like hitting a tennis ball or trying new dance steps, are observable and quantifiable.)
- During the next hour you will have increased brain plasticity to learn something you want to learn quickly and easily. I t does not have to be a motor skill, it can be learning anything, even making emotional connections.
- Keep your second learning bouts short, no longer than 90 minutes, whether once a day or 3 times a day.
- Know your own cycle and use the time of day when your focus and energy are naturally at their best. (To learn about your cycle, Click here for Mood Chart and Mood Tracker to download with instructions). Being calm and alert is optimal.
- Remind yourself why making errors is important!
Try it out and tell us how it works for you.