In this chapter, you will learn some techniques which directly or indirectly improve memory, concentration, and intelligence.
Take These Vitamins to Improve the Functioning of Your Brain and Your Body
One of the simplest and also one of the most important ways to improve the functioning of your brain and your body is to take vitamins and mineral supplements.
This is a controversial topic. Most doctors in America and other advanced countries agree that people should take vitamins every day. The controversy is about how much vitamin to take regularly. Even in those countries, most doctors are old-fashioned in the sense that they want to stick to an old recommendation called RDA (recommended daily allowance) which is the minimum amount necessary. Many doctors now believe that a much larger amount is needed for the best (optimal) functioning of the body and the mind.
I am not a medical doctor. What follows are my recommendations based on my reading of several books. In particular the Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling’s book How to Live Longer and Feel Better.
You should consult a doctor before taking vitamins and mineral supplements.
You can also take this book with you when you go to see a doctor to discuss vitamins.
Value of vitamins and minerals for the proper functioning of your body and your brain
I will quote Linus Pauling from his book “How to Live Longer and Feel Better“. He writes
“My most important recommendation is that you take vitamins every day in optimum amounts to supplement the vitamins that you receive in your food. These optimum amounts are much larger than the minimum supplemental intake usually recommended by physicians and old-fashioned nutritionists. The intake of vitamin C they advise, for example, is not much larger than that necessary to prevent the dietary deficiency disease scurvy. My advice that you take larger amounts of C and other vitamins is predicted upon new and better understanding of the role of these nutrients-they are not drugs-in the chemical reactions of life. The usefulness of the larger supplemental intakes indicated by this understanding has been invariably confirmed by such clinical trials as have been run and by the first pioneering studies in the new epidemiology of health.
“… young people, striving to find their places in the world, live under great stress.
“… I have formed these beliefs based on my knowledge of a great many observations about the effects of vitamins in varying amounts on animals and human beings under various conditions of good or poor health, …
“… At present time the main job of the physician [doctor] is to try to cure the patient when he or she appears in the office [hospital] with a specific illness. The physician usually does not make any great effort to prevent the illness or to strive to put the person consulting him or her in the best of health.
“… If you don’t take ascorbic acid [vitamin C] with your food you get scurvy, so the medical profession said that if you don’t get scurvy you are all right. I think that this is a very grave error. Scurvy is not the first sign of the deficiency but a premortal syndrome and for full health, you need much more, very much more. …
“The discovery of vitamins during the first third of the twentieth century and the recognition that they are essential elements of a healthy diet was one of the most important contributions to health ever made. Of equal importance was the recognition, about 20 years ago, that the optimum intakes of several of the vitamins, far larger than the usually recommended intakes, lead to further improvements in health, greater protection against many diseases and enhanced effectiveness in the therapy of diseases. … The nutritional establishment has shown itself to be, however, sluggish in recognising this discovery….
“Of all the organs in the human body, the brain is the most sensitive to its molecular composition. The proper functioning of the brain is known to require the presence of many kinds of molecules in the right concentrations. The physiology of the brain tends to always maintain that environment constant. In persons suffering from scurvy the concentration of vitamin C in the brain is kept high even when there is almost complete depletion in the blood and other tissues. So sensitive is the brain that if a person is deprived of oxygen for a few minutes, the brain dies … while the other organs survive.
“An interesting investigation … It was found that the average measured intelligence quotient (IQ) of the higher-vitamin-C group was greater than that of the lower-vitamin-C group in each of the four schools; for all seventy-two pairs of the subjects the average IQ values were 113.22 and 108.71, respectively, with an average difference of 4.51 [in IQ]. Both the groups were given supplementary orange juice [which has vitamin C] during a period of six months and the tests were repeated. The average measured IQ for those in the initially higher-vitamin-C group had increased very little (by only 0.02), whereas that for the lower group had increased by 3.54 IQ units …”
Of the several books that I have read on nutrition and vitamins, I have only quoted Dr Linus Pauling, who is one of the most respected researchers. This should convince you about the need for taking vitamins for the proper or best functioning of your body and your brain.
Normal food cannot practically have all the nutritious things we need
We need to take vitamin tablets because it is practically impossible to get enough vitamins from normal food. We cannot get enough vitamins from normal foods because our food was not designed keeping in mind the nutritional needs of our bodies.
Particularly, in our country, food evolved based on poverty and the need for high calories. Just 50 years ago, we, the people of India, had to walk a lot. Just 10 or 15 years ago, many more people used to walk or ride a bicycle. Now slowly we are moving towards cars, buses or two-wheelers. As a result, the total amount of calories that we need is significantly lower than it used to be.
On one hand, people in the upper-middle class and upper class continue to eat a lot of food. No wonder so many of them are becoming fat and unhealthy.
On the other hand, some middle-class people and a lot of poor people do not get enough nutritious food. They are under-nourished. They are thin and smaller in size (Yes, good food may make you grow bigger, even though the main factor is genetics. For example in England, girls are, on average, one inch taller than their mothers.)
Further, the food you eat keeps varying every day.
Dr. Linus Pauling’s recommendation
Dr. Linus Pauling recommends the following in his book “How to Live Longer and Feel Better”:
- Vitamin C … 1-18 g
- Vitamin E … 800 IU
- Vitamin A … 20,000-40,000 IU
- Vitamin K … none
- Vitamin D … 800 IU
- Thiamine, B1 … 50-100 mg
- Riboflavin, B2 … 50-100 mg
- Niacinamide, B3 … 300-600 mg
- Pyridoxine, B6 … 50-100 mg
- Cobalamin, B12 … 0.1-0.2 mg
- Folacin … 400-800 mg
- Pantothenic acid … 100-200 mg
- Calcium … 100 mg
- Iron … 18 mg
- Iodine … 0.15 mg
- Copper … 1 mg
- Magnesium … 25 mg
- Manganese … 3 mg
- Zinc … 15 mg
- Molybdenum … 0.015 mg
- Chromium … 0.015 mg
- Selenium … 0.015 mg
My recommendations: take the following vitamins and minerals daily
It is not yet common or popular in India to take vitamin tablets. It is because India has been poor. We, as a nation, are becoming rich: we are getting color TVs, mobile phones, washing machines, air conditioners, scooters, motorcycles, and cars. The next step will be heart diseases: heart attack and heart failure. And the next stage will be health consciousness: physical exercise, health clubs, and vitamins.
A change is already taking place. Direct marketing companies like Amway are selling vitamins and other health/nutrition products.
As a user of this book, you may be about 10 to 20 years ahead of the nation in taking vitamins.
I recommend that you take vitamins and minerals every day. I will recommend that you plan to take vitamins for the rest of your life.
I know that not every student can afford to pay for high doses of vitamins for daily use.
The vitamins and minerals you can take depend on how much you can afford to spend on this.
Now, Amazon.in has a great selection of vitamins.
I want to recommend some books for the best information on vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. These are by Jeff T. Bowles. He’s done research on himself and we follow him and find his results to be far superior to the standard vitamins recommended by various government bodies in India and USA.
For my latest understanding along with recommended books, please visit this webpage:
- After age 30, men should not take any supplement that has iron because excessive iron leads to many health issues.
- Do not take more than one tablet of a multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement because you will get “too much” minerals that are dangerous for your health. While most of the excess vitamins are passed out of the body, the excess minerals are not. The right way to take large amounts of vitamins is either to follow my recommendation after consulting your doctor or ask the doctor for a prescription to suit your special nutrition needs.
Nutrition: Eat Good Healthy Food
Many books are available on this topic. I cannot tell you enough about food in the limited space here.
However, I will mention a few very important things you should consider.
The goal of good health
The goal of eating is to:
- Enjoy the very experience of eating.
- Have a lot of energy
- Have a strong body.
To me, good health means only two things: energy and strength. Being “not fat”, “not thin” or “normal” is not the goal. Being fat or thin is a way to know that there is something wrong with your lifestyle.
So, do not change your diet just to be thin or fat, but rather see a doctor and make necessary changes so that you have good health. So that you have enough energy to study. So that you do not feel tired. So that you do not feel weak. So that you feel strong.
Some tips on what to eat
Drink a lot of water. Avoid too much sugar and too much oil (and ghee). Eat when you feel hungry, but do not overeat.
If you are rich enough to eat as many fruits as you like, then eat a lot of fruits, drink a lot of fresh fruit juices, and eat a lot of fresh vegetables. Be aware that canned fruits and bottled fruit juices have no nutritional value. Also, take dry fruits. Eat a variety of food items. Eat cheese and drink milk for protein.
If you are not rich enough to eat fruits and vegetables, then eat whatever you can afford. Likely, you do not get enough protein, so you should eat groundnuts and soybean for protein. Because a large number of people in India are vegetarians, soybean is becoming popular. You can eat it with vegetables or mix it with chapati flour, etc.
Avoid cold drinks like colas because they have too much sugar and caffeine.
Avoid “chats” common in north India because it has “tamarind, which makes you sleepy.
Read faster. It will save you time and also help you study more in less time. The most important use of faster reading is not in learning a subject for the first time but in revising it again and again and frequently.
For details, see Chapter 1.
How to Sleep Well
Sleep is essential. During sleep, your body recuperates (repairs itself). You also dream while sleeping. Many scientists say that it is during dreams that the whole day’s memory is reorganized in the brain.
The amount of sleep people need varies. Some people need more than 8 to 10 hours of sleep while others may need just 5 or 6 hours. Sleeping between 4 to 10 hours is normal. Most people sleep between 6 to 8 hours a day.
While too little sleep may make feel you restless, too much sleep can make you feel lazy. If you sleep well, you will feel energized on waking up and ready for a new day. If you feel tired after your normal sleep at night, you should consult a doctor.
Your sleep happens in cycles. These are 90-minute cycles. Your sleep process repeats after 90 minutes. During these 90 minutes, the brain waves change representing a change from awareness to deep sleep. In each cycle, there is a period for REM (Rapid Eye Movement). During this period, there is a rapid circular movement of the eyes. Now scientists have found that this REM sleep represents dreaming.
You can do the following to get good sleep:
- Keep your room quiet and dark. If you do not have a separate room, you may not be able to do this. At least, you can request the other members of your family to try to be quiet.
- Avoid coffee, particularly after lunchtime.
- Eat less sugar, salt, fats (oils and ghee), and difficult-to-digest foods, particularly at night.
- Physical exercise helps, preferably in the afternoon, but not at night.
- Take time to slow down. If you are doing something very active and suddenly you go to bed, you may not get sleep. So spend the last hour or so doing relatively non-stressful activities.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
- Do not read or watch videos when in bed. Use the bed for sleep only.
- Learn and do relaxation exercises in this chapter.
Sleep during day time also
Sleeping for a little while (half an hour to over one hour) during the daytime is of great value. For example, you can sleep when you come back from school. This makes you fresh again and you can study more efficiently in the evening and the night.
Do it for one week. If you feel the benefits of sleeping during the daytime, continue it.
What Type of Exercise is Best for Students
Doing regular physical exercise based on your age, health and physical abilities is important to your mental functioning. Exercise brings more oxygen to the brain through improved blood circulation. This additional oxygen improves the functioning of your brain.
Two important points to remember:
- Be regular in exercise.
- Do not do too much exercise in a single day.
Types of exercises
As more machines were developed in advanced countries, many people stopped doing physical activities. This eventually resulted in heart diseases. As a result, a lot of research was done on “How to exercise for keeping the heart good ?”. The result is the concept of “aerobic exercise”.
Exercises are of two types: (1) Aerobic exercises and (2) Anaerobic exercises.
An example of Anaerobic exercise is weight lifting. In such exercises, you apply a lot of pressure for a short time, then relax and repeat. These exercises develop big muscles but they do not help your heart.
Aerobic exercises are excellent for your heart. For example, walking, jogging, running, cycling, and swimming. I recommend that you warm-up for 10 minutes, then exercise for 20 to 30 minutes and then cool down for 10 minutes.
Aerobic exercise and HIIT for health and weight control
Aerobic exercise is good for weight control or for reducing fat in the body.
Aerobic exercises tend to be 30 to 40 minutes to raise your heart rate.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is a new form of exercise where you mix slow and intense exercise for about 4 to 10 minutes.
Alpha-Breathing for Relaxation
Alpha-breathing is a technique of deep breathing.
Deep breathing is important for three reasons.
First, the brain needs a lot of oxygen to function at a high level of intelligence. The brain weight is about 1.5 kilogram, which is about 3% of your body weight. But, the brain uses 20 to 25 percent of the total oxygen intake. Deep breathing helps satisfy the oxygen demand of your brain.
Second, deep breathing relaxes you.
Third, breathing with a regular natural breathing cycle is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase the alpha content of your brain waves. This helps to learn.
Breathe from your diaphragm
Before we learn alpha-breathing, let us learn to breathe from the diaphragm.
Common sense says that for deep breathing our chest should move in and out. Not our stomach. But it is not true.
The diaphragm separates the lungs from the stomach. The diaphragm is the muscle of breathing. As your stomach moves slightly outward, the diaphragm moves down and as a result, the lungs expand.
Breathing from diaphragm
If you watch a child sleeping, you can notice that the stomach moves in and out as the child breathes. That’s what you should also do.
Practice breathing in such a way that your stomach moves in as you breathe out. And your stomach moves out as you breathe in.
Here are the steps for alpha-breathing. Use this technique now before reading any more. Use this technique regularly for relaxation.
Repeat the following steps a few times.
- Breath from your diaphragm. Breath in through your nose for a count of four (saying to yourself one, two, three, four.)
- Hold your breath for a count of four. While holding, imagine that oxygen is relaxing your brain and your body.
- Breathe out through your mouth for a count of four. While exhaling, imagine that all stresses and tensions in your body/mind are going out with the breath.
- Do not pause. Immediately repeat the above steps.
Pranayama is known to be greatly beneficial.
You can learn it by watching Shri Ramdev Ji on YouTube.
Or, you can learn from some other teacher.
Meditation Can Help You Get Success
Scientific research on meditation
As the advanced countries became interested in meditation, they also did scientific research to find out the effects of meditation on body, mind, and performance.
TM (transcendental meditation) created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the most extensively researched of all the meditations. Mahesh Yogi got an M. Sc. in Physics before becoming a yogi. He became world-famous in the 1960s when the famous American music group “Beatles” came to learn meditation from him. Even Ph.D. work has been done on the effects of TM. There are over 350 published studies on TM in prestigious scientific journals.
The scientific research on TM showed that the TM practice produces a state of relaxation deeper than sleep. That it reduces anxiety and stress, lowers high blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system. Students who practiced TM got better grades or more marks.
The long-term benefit seems to be slowing down the aging process. Five-year TM meditators were tested to have 12-year younger “biological age” as compared to people who do not meditate.
Meditation is more relaxing than even sleep
During sleep, we rest and relax. As a result, the need for oxygen reduces. We consume less oxygen. The following graph shows that 20-minute practice reduces the oxygen consumption to less than the oxygen consumption after about 5 hours of sleep.
Lower oxygen consumption means a more relaxed state (also called deeper relaxation). It means you are relaxed more during meditation than during deep sleep.
More relaxation (less oxygen consumption) during meditation
Meditation increases intelligence
The following graph shows that the intelligence increased for the people who meditated for one year. There was more increase in intelligence for regular meditators. Even irregular meditators increased their intelligence.
Meditation increases intelligence
In the past, psychologists and doctors believed that the intelligence of a person reached a maximum around the age of 15 or 16 and after that, it declined. But the above experiment has proved that meditation can again increase intelligence.
Meditation improves memory
The following graph shows that meditation improves recall. The recall is of an intermediate-similarity list of paired associates one week after reading. The average number of correct responses in the first seven trials is mentioned. A high score represents superior recall (memory).
Meditation improves memory
Meditation results in learning faster
A group of ten meditators and ten non-meditators were tested on their ability to learn a path through a maze. The following graph shows the meditators learned the same task in less number of trials.
Meditation results in learning faster
Meditation improves exam results
The following graph shows that the increase in Grade Point Average was higher for students practicing meditation for 6 terms as compared to students practicing meditation for 3 terms. Here “term” means about 3 months. Some American colleges have “terms” instead of semesters. It shows that as people continue to meditate, they get more and more benefits from meditation.
Meditation improves exam results
Meditation improves personality
The following graph shows the changes in personality as a result of practicing meditation. Note that meditation reduces negative aspects and increases positive aspects of the personality.
Meditation improves personality
Two Effective Meditations that You can Learn Easily and Benefit Quickly
Relaxation Response is based on TM (Transcendental Meditation). I learned TM from a trained teacher in Madras. To Learn TM, you have to go to a trained teacher who gives you a mantra and teaches you TM.
You can learn the Relaxation Response technique from the following instructions. I am including Relaxation Response for those people who cannot relax or sleep well. Practice this technique once or twice daily.
Here are the steps for doing Relaxation Response:
- Choose a focus word or a short phrase for which you have deep belief or respect. For most people, this would be the name of some god such as Buddha, Rama, Krishna, Allah, Mahavir, etc.
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- One by one, for each part of your body (for example, hands, legs, chest, head, etc.), move it a little bit so it relaxes.
- Breathe slowly and naturally. As you keep breathing, repeat the focus word.
- The experience is different for everyone. Whatever you feel, whatever happens to you is right for you. Take a passive attitude. Do not worry about doing it well.
- Continue it for 10 minutes or 20 minutes.
This is an easy-to-learn technique for relaxation.
This is my favorite technique. I like it because it is easy to learn, it is effective and it is quick. It takes only a few minutes to several minutes to relax.
This is the technique I want to recommend to you for daily practice. Practice it while going to sleep. Practice it whenever you feel tired.
Here are the steps for Progressive Relaxation.
- Lie down on the bed.
- Adjust your body so that you are in a comfortable position. One by one, move your hands, your legs, your buttocks, your head till you feel that no part is tense.
- Close your eyes.
- Start breathing, deep and regular.
- Tense the legs and then release the tension. Again tense the legs and then again release the tension. You will immediately feel some relaxation in the legs.
- Next, tense your thighs and then relax them. Repeat once.
- One by one, tense each part of your body and relax it. Include legs, thighs, buttocks, stomach, back, hands, shoulders, neck, and face.
- Now with each breath you take in, imagine that the breath is moving to the left leg. Repeat it a few times. Most people will feel a certain sensation or feeling in the left leg. This indicates relaxation.
Repeat the above step with the right leg, then stomach and back, left hand, then right hand, etc. up to your face and your brain.
Simply lie down for a few minutes. Slowly move your hands and legs and prepare to get up. You are now relaxed and ready to study or work.
As you practice this technique regularly, you will take less and less time to relax. Finally, you will be able to tense your whole body in one step and release the tension. Then tense the whole body again and release the tension. Then, as you breathe in, imagine that the breath is going to every part of your body. Repeat it a few times. This will be enough for relaxation.
Use Bapna’s Sri Yantra Poster for Your Concentration
This technique was inspired by Sri Yantra and by the latest developments in brain research.
Sri Yantra is a 5000-year-old Tantric symbol of India. The original purpose of Sri Yantra was to develop mind power. But with time, it somehow became distorted and forgotten. Yogis in India have used Sri Yantra to develop mind power for 5000 years. Over the centuries, some people have developed philosophical ideas about this figure. Some people started wearing it in neck chains for some power. Some people started worshipping it.
Let us learn to use it for mind power: Sit down in a relaxed way facing the poster of Bapna’s Optical-Illusion technique. Use any of the relaxation techniques you like. Now, look at the center dot of this diagram. This diagram is so complex that the human eyes cannot fully grasp it in a single glance. There is a certain optical illusion.
Bapna’s Sri Yantra Poster
As you continue to look at the drawing, you will see that your attention goes to different geometric figures. As you continue to look at the drawing, your attention keeps moving from one part of the diagram to another. This increases communication between your left brain and your right brain. This increases your power of concentration.
This technique and diagram are protected by copyright. But, I hereby permit you to photocopy it for your personal use. Make a poster and paste it on a wall and practice concentration for 5 to 10 minutes every day.
Take Rest Frequently When You Study
Do not study for more than half an hour to one hour continuously without any rest. Take rest for 5 minutes after half an hour of study.
You may get up and walk or you may close your eyes and relax.
Remember two important aspects of rest:
- You relax or take a rest.
- You continue to study after about 5 minutes.
There is a possibility of wasting time if you start talking with someone or if you lie down to relax: you may continue talking for a long time or you may fall asleep.
The best way to use this rest period is to use the 3 Minute Refreshing Technique. See Chapter 8 for details.
You Should Revise, Re-Revise, and Revise Again
Revising is the single most important way to memorize anything. You should revise frequently and systematically. I teach a very efficient way of revising. For details, see Chapter 1 and Chapter 4.