1. Thoughts from the Zeitgeist

What? So What? Now What?

The second in a series on the journey for better brain health.

At the risk of dating myself, I can recall a time when a person had to intentionally work to keep up with the news of the world. You could read it in the newspaper or watch the evening news on one of three network TV channels. If you wanted more information on a given topic, you bought a magazine or book.

Today, we are barraged by information, which is great until it isn’t. I’m pretty good at filtering incoming news feeds and blogs. But I find it stressful when the content vying for my attention is all legitimately interesting and relevant, because it is still more than I can process.

That’s why I appreciate the most recent skill sets we are practicing in my Center for BrainHealth® course. The idea is to apply integrated reasoning when processing information, which helps our brain’s overworked frontal lobes by easing cognitive load. They call it “integrated” reasoning because it applies different learning and sorting tactics to promote meaningful comprehension and recollection. Here’s an easy approach.

Ask “What?” Instead of trying to focus on all the details being shoved your way, try to zoom in on the most relevant facts (for you and your situation) and intentionally block out the rest. My dogs are great at this. When my wife and I are talking, they hear something like, “blah, blah, blah,  COOKIE …  blah, blah, blah, PARK?”  They snap to attention when they hear what they need. Unlike my dogs, however, my cognitive load is more complex.

Ask “So What?”  This is the habit of sorting incoming context by zooming out to consider the big picture. We can also improve our communications by providing this context to people we’re talking to. It’s a lot like setting an agenda before holding a meeting. It helps keep you on task and focused on the larger goal, instead of stressing out your brain by struggling to memorize every detail. It also helps your brain process information ― for example, after listening to a blog or reading a long article ― by taking a quick minute to reflect on the key concepts and note your prioritized takeaways.

Ask “What Now?” Think about how this information applies to you and how you want to use it in the context of everything else you already know. How does this change what you know? How does it inform an old challenge? Reflect on how to connect the dots in new ways.

It’s not too late to teach an old brain new tricks. Integrated reasoning helps boost our brain health and improve our cognitive function. And that helps us elevate our thinking so that we can deal with the new problems the world keeps throwing at us. There’s a word for people who do this habitually; we call them innovators.

Reminder:  If you want to embark on your own personal BrainHealth journey, you can sign up at thebrainhealthproject.org

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