Saturday, October 10, 2009

Think Smart

I finished reading Richard Restak’s book ‘Think Smart’. It’s the second time I read his work. Earlier I thought his style of writing is a bit convoluted which could be improved with some editing. But I realize that he sounds like those types of people who seem to talk a lot and say the obvious thing but suddenly you realize that there are a few bits of wisdom. His earlier book was like that such as ‘Mozart Brain and the Fighter Pilot’ but I did not like his lack of precision like it was more a rehash of his works. But this book is different with new material though his style would benefit with more conciseness.

The main idea is that the brain needs a certain set of exercise to be in tip top shape. Unlike physical exercises, one can have a general improvement over all. But the brain needs to have a specific set of exercises in order to improve. For example, exercise to improve spatial thinking or logical thinking and so on. I like his book because it provides a holistic strategy from diet and nutrition, to social strategies to thinking exercises to late brain research. I borrowed a DVD from the library about this subject and it was essentially saying the same thing.

I think my goal of writing fits in with keeping the brain fit as one gets old. With the rise of mental illness and decline, one should not only focus on one’s physical health but also one’s mental health. I guess it is all the more important for people like me who belong in the so called ‘knowledge worker’ category. It’s the way your mind reacts to new situation and problems that will spell the difference between being successful and handling stress. Also, physical exercises also have good benefits on one’s mental health so working out can also keep your brain fit.

An interesting concept is also ‘cognitive fitness’. I guess this covers a more abstract level and not only the biological impact of the brain. This more about the structuring of knowledge and the strengthening the synapses between the neurons of the brain when one handles different sorts of problems. Tools like mind-mapping and other forms of visual thinking help in this process of re-structuring knowledge. The role of sleep is also important in synthesizing all these new knowledge that is coming into the brain and how one can react effectively to one’s circumstances. Otherwise, one can be accused of being ‘clueless’ or lacking social or emotional intelligence.

Social situations are also important in keeping the mind fit. I also like his quoting Haruyuki Murakami regarding his running and writing. I had read Murakami’s book and the fact that a neuroscientist confirms his observation is a good turn. It shows Restak is well-read and has good sources that I appreciate. For me, the lessons are significant because I have abused drink, cigarettes and food in my youth that it may have slowed down my mental prowess as I approach middle age. So I must constantly battle any mental decline while still keeping my dream to be writer alive. It is books like these that keep me active and on the road moving forward.

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