Leaders: 4 Ways to Improve Your Ability to Think and Learn

Think and Learn

Successful leaders need to think and learn on a consistent basis. It’s been proven that stress reduces our ability to learn.

Fight or Flight

Our response to stress is born from the “Fight or Flight” response that is critical in danger.  In these types of situations like a car accident, we need the rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and sugar in our system to boost our energy.

This short-time reaction to a short-term situation is not only beneficial, but it is required for survival.

Long-term exposure to the “Fight or Flight” response causes physiological changes that reduce our ability to learn.

The Franklin Institute reported that Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, showed that “sustained stress can damage the hippocampus, the part of the limbic brain which is central to learning and memory.”

The institute goes on to say this about chronic stress:

“Chronic over-secretion of stress hormones adversely affects brain function, especially memory. Too much cortisol can prevent the brain from laying down a new memory, or from accessing already existing memories.”

Good News! It’s reversible

Arline Bronzaft, PhD, an expert on the stress of noise pollution, conducted a study in the 1970′s in a New York school.  Some of the classrooms faced a loud subway rail and others were quiet.

Her study documented that by sixth grade, the children in the noisy rooms were a year behind those in the quiet rooms in reading skills.

But good news was right around the corner. This noise-induced difference in reading skills was reversed after acoustical tiles were installed that reduced the noise of the subway trains.

However good remedial methods are in reversing negative efforts on learning in humans, the great news is that it is all preventable.

Great News! It’s preventable

Here are four ways to improve your ability to think and learn by preventing stress

Positive Thoughts

Our thoughts can reduce stress in our lives just as sure as they cause stress in our lives.

Napoleon Hill author of the best-selling book Think and Grow Rich said:

We are what we are, because of the vibrations of thought which we pick up and register, through the stimuli of our daily environment. Resolve to throw off the influences of any unfortunate environment, and to build your own life to order.”

Here are some environmental influences that can occur each day, and ideas on how to reduce their stressful impact on your life:

ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCE STRESS REDUCER
Demands on your time become more than you have time to deliver. -Recognize what is important-Organize what is due-Prioritize when it will be done
New situations arise -Learn  from the facts available-Seek guidance from others’ past success-Do the best you can
You doubt your own abilities -Remember your past success-Focus on common experiences-Tell yourself you can

Soothing Rhythms

Studies show that brainwaves resonate in time with the rhythmic stimulation. Slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with meditative states.

The first experience a newborn has in the hospital is stress: bright lights, poking, prodding, cold air and using its lungs for the first time.  Of course babies cry, I would to.  All birth room doctors and nurses know by training what every mother knows by instinct: the baby will be instantly soothed by placing it on the mother’s chest so the familiar rhythm of her heartbeat can be felt and heard.

There is a large industry for swings and bouncers for children as they move into the toddler ages.  Why do they sell so many? Because the soothing rhythm of moving back and forth calms the stressed toddler.

Music has the same effect on stress.  California State University music therapy professor Ron Borczon said, “The most powerful aspect of music is rhythm…Rhythm will help you get more excited when sped up; when slowed down, it helps the body calm down.”

According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S., wellness coach, author and health educator, “The change in brain wave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you have stopped listening.”

Tip for Success:

Invest in music, sound machines, or, if you can afford it, move to the beach to hear ocean waves to stimulate your brain with soothing rhythms that will help prevent stress.

Regular Exercise

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”

Exercise fills your brain with endorphins.  This natural chemical produces what is commonly known as a “runner’s high,” which brings a positive and energized outlook on life.

While you exercise you take your mind of the day’s stress as you concentrate on the weights you are lifting, or the tennis ball you are hitting, or the laps you are swimming.  You will return to your stress causing issues with a calm perspective, able to think through your options.

Tip for Success:

Schedule time each day to get up and move away from your stress.

Inspirational Atmosphere

In John Maxwell’s latest book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, he says this:

“Everyone needs a time and a place to pause and reflect.”

Here’s a quick description of the contents of my inspirational atmosphere – my home office.

The first section contains a collection of many different bible translations, in depth bible studies, and recent translations of ancient historians like Josephus.    This section keeps me grounded on my foundation of leadership.

The second section contains a picture of my wife and me at the very spot where we met.  I also have pictures of my two children at school and in sports.  This section keeps my focus on my number one leadership assignment.

The third section contains pictures of the United States of America’s most important historical leaders, and copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Emancipation Proclamation. This reminds me whom and what made America the great country that it is.

The fourth section contains many shelves of leadership books that I have read and continue to re-read.  These are my textbooks in leadership where I perfected my life’s dream.

The last section contains memorabilia from many trips and seminars that reminds me of how very blessed I am to have had these experiences in life.

Tip for Success:

Create a place to pause and reflect that surrounds you with wonderful memories that takes your focus off of you and directs it to what is really important in your life.

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————–
Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker and Writer
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Image Sources: inventati.org

5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on enchanting leadership and commented:
    Be calm and win!

  2. Reblogged this on richeleyasu's Blog.

  3. Reblogged this on Denis G. McLaughlin and commented:
    My latest post on linked2leadership.com talks about how to deal with stress and its impacts on learning.

  4. Fabulous Dennis, I especially loved the part on the quiet place of reflection. I love my santuary moments. Patricia Leonard

  5. Thank you Patricia, me too.

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