“Our minds our capable of so much more than we usually ask from them. Imagine what you could achieve if you were able to increase your intelligence, to learn faster, to remember more, and to enhance your creativity and problem solving skills.” That’s a powerful statement, and worth thinking about. Even more, it’s worth doing something about – and that’s why Nick Madge set up his website, www.InfiniteMinds.info. He has collected the best resources and the most up-to-date information on how to increase your cognitive skills, improve your memory, and learn the techniques to train your brain to be its best, every day. We recently talked to Nick about the website and the tools and strategies he recommends.
7S: It seems like the first step in many of the strategies for self-improvement is not learning to use your brain, it’s learning how to use your brain. Is this what you have found in your research?
NM: Absolutely, millions of years of evolution have guided our brains to work in particular ways, but the formal education most of us received through school or college doesn’t show us how to make the most of these. This is a big part of the reason why as babies and very young children we learn and develop new skills at hundreds of times the rate we do as adults.
The good news is these natural ways of thinking aren’t lost to us, just forgotten and waiting to be rediscovered. By learning to take advantage of these often simple ideas, you can dramatically improve your results in many areas.
7S: You provide information on specific self-improvement strategies like improving memory or getting better communication skills, but you also talk about more general techniques to improve cognitive function, like meditation and brainwave entrainment. Can you explain what brainwave entrainment is and how it works?
NM: Brainwave entrainment is one of the simplest yet most effective methods for self improvement. Entrainment is the name given in physics to the phenomena of making an object vibrate at a particular frequency simply by bringing it close to something else which is already vibrating at the desired frequency. If you want to see this happening in a really intuitive way, go into a music shop and ask them to strike a tuning fork and then move it close to another, the second fork will start making exactly the same sound as the first.
But it isn’t only tuning forks that have this property. The electrical activity going on in your brain is constantly generating electromagnetic waves which can be read on an EEG machine, these are your brainwaves. While doing this researchers discovered that particular frequencies of brainwaves, matched up exactly with particular states of mind.
Brainwave entrainment brings these two ideas together; you listen to specially designed audio tracks that have a specific frequency encoded into them. Your brainwaves then begin to entrain to the frequency encoded in the track. By selecting frequencies that match up with desirable states of mind; like being deeply relaxed, or highly focused, you can get yourself into these peak performance states as easily as putting on your headphones.
7S: In the section on Accelerated Learning you talk about changing the way you learn, and putting yourself into a state where you’re picking things up quickly and naturally, like a child learns at first. How hard is it to “reprogram” the way we’re used to learning things as adults and get back to a more unconscious, free-flowing learning state?
NM: Surprisingly it is not as hard as you might think to reprogram your mind to think in new ways. Any time you decide to change a habit, it takes a bit of willpower at first, and changing the way you learn is no different. By using the right techniques and knowing how to focus your effort in the right places anyone can pick up the skills to get back into the free-flowing learning state on demand.
The whole principle with Accelerated Learning is that these aren’t outlandish ideas that take a huge leap to get your head around, rather they are thing you already used to know and did naturally. Fortunately, through more than 100 years of cognitive, neuroscience and psychological research many tips, tricks and techniques to make this relearning easier have been discovered.
7S: As you point out, the learning process never really stops, unless we let our brains get sleepy and inactive. What are some good ways to integrate learning into daily life?
NM: The most important thing for integrating learning into your life is to make it enjoyable. Find little games you can play with yourself that force you to think in different ways or to use the any new knowledge or skill you’ve recently learned. Again think back to how we naturally learnt as a child, our parents making us count the stairs in our house, constantly quizzing us on animals we saw, colours, shapes and so on. We often lose that kind of approach as adults, it seems to childish for us, but if you make thing into a game, a bit of fun, it won’t even feel like learning.
There is a research study which has been repeated over many times which is a great example for showing how having fun with something and letting your mind pick it up naturally works much better than formal learning. If you take two groups of people who have never ice skated before, and get one group just to keep practicing skating and another to try and play ice hockey, the group playing hockey pick up the basic skating skills 3 times faster. Challenge yourself, have fun doing it and just let your body and mind learn naturally along the way.
7S: If someone is new to the concept of self-directed learning, where can they start to get a good foundation for learning to improve their brain function and cognitive capabilities?
NM: Once upon a time if you wanted to engage in self directed learning, you either had to shell out for expensive courses or else it meant a solitary process of trips down to the library, trying to decode the mysteries of the dewey decimal system, nowdays it really couldn’t be easier. There are so many incredible resources available online; reputable universities like Stamford and MIT even put entire degree course online for free through YouTube.
The important thing is to decide what it is you really want to know, and then work back from there. There’s no point in picking out a book or video on Quantum Field Theory, if you haven’t got your head round high school maths. The barriers most people seem to hit aren’t anything to do with the subject matter though, I often hear things like; ‘there’s no point in me studying, I never remember what I read anyway’, ‘I get easily distracted’ or ‘it takes too long and I get bored’.
That’s why I started Infinite Minds, some of the most useful things we can learn are how to make the most of our brains and improve our natural cognitive abilities. It doesn’t matter what you’re ultimately interested in; if you discover how to get yourself into a focused, motivated state of mind at will, how to improve your memory so things stick the first time, and how to absorb and process information many times faster, anything else you go on to learn will be dramatically easier and more rewarding.
All you need is a curiosity, you really do have an infinite mind all you need to do is explore it.