Tag Archives: cognitive skills

Keys To Success: Use cognitive skills to reach your goals

What is success? Is it a college degree? Getting hired for your dream job? Finally, securing financial stability? Or is success about thriving relationships, connecting with your inner self, or finding happiness? Success is something we all strive for, but do not always know the best way to obtain it. Keep reading to discover the keys to success, as well as the underlying cognitive skills you can apply to reach your version of success!

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What is Success?

Success is the achievement of set goals and desired objectives. The term “success” is ambiguous—open to more than one interpretation—being that each individual possesses unique aspirations. While some endeavor to earn a six-figure salary and rank high in social status, others are content with a few strong relationships and a meager salary at a job they are passionate about. Neither version of success is wrong. Defining the concept of success simply depends if you meet your personal goals.

Why is Success Important?

Success is important because if done properly, it contributes a sense of well-being. Reaching your view of success brings happiness, fulfillment, and increases confidence. You know that if you were successful in achieving your goals despite the obstacles, you are equally capable of tackling whatever you set your mind to in the future. However, following another’s version of success is counterproductive. You cannot feel satisfied aspiring towards goals that are not your own expectations. Still, success can facilitate outside success. Accomplishing your aspired intentions benefits the productivity of businesses and the economy, which can inspire others to seek their own keys to success.

Keys To Success: Have Goals

The beginning key to success is to formulate realistic goals. Having a goal provides you with direction. You cannot “achieve” your desired outcome unless you know what it is you wish for in the first place.

Outline your goal(s). Write them down. Visualizing your goals on paper allows you to brainstorm how to go about achieving them. From there, you can divide the main goal into smaller, short-term goals, to increase your chance of success.

When mapping your goals:

  • Ask yourself, What are your values and priorities?”—Your inner beliefs are a guide through the decision-making process.
  • Consider your skills—What are you good at? What skills have proven beneficial in previous jobs?
  • Keep your goals realistic—While it’s important to aim high, you will eventually become burned out or discouraged if you create unrealistic goals.
  • Research—Have others been successful at your goal? How did they accomplish this? Learning from their mistakes may make reaching your goal easier.

Keys To Success: Strengthen Cognitive Skills

Now that you have a goal, you must framework each step necessary to successfully meet that goal. The complex thinking involved in doing requires cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are a set of higher-order thinking processes that allow us to reason, pay attention, learn, and remember. They are the skills we use to make sense of the world around us and to complete tasks with problem-solving. Cognitive skills are the keys to success because being successful entails overcoming problems and analyzing our environment.

Memory

There are multiple types of memory, but working memory is the most crucial key to success. Working memory is a form of short-term memory designed to temporarily hold the information we see and hear for our brain to work with it. Only a few pieces of information are stored in working memory at any given time. Remembering the digits of a phone number long enough to make a call is a prime example. Working memory is comparable to a mental sticky note. The process of working memory also assists in organizing information for long-term use if deemed important.

To be successful, working memory is imperative. You must recall information to meet your goals. Brain training games, like those offered by CogniFit, are great resources to strengthen working memory.

Attention

Attention describes the ability to selectively choose to focus on relevant stimuli in the environment and respond to it, while intentionally ignoring irrelevant stimuli. The cognitive skill of attention relied on our level of alertness, the amount of time we can attend to a stimulus, and the ability to alternate attention between multiple stimuli. Success demands attention because you need to focus in order to create and attain your goals. A tip to improve your attention span is to limit distractions in the room when working. This includes a cell phone or television.

Logic and Reasoning

Logic is the step-by-step method of problem-solving, whereas reasoning is abstract thought in which we deduct conclusions from premises. Together, logic and reasoning lead to using information for concept formation and problem-solving. These two cognitive skills are strengthened through stimulating the mind by trying new activities and hobbies. Because of logic and reasoning, you can think innovatively about your goals to become successful.

Processing

You easily visualize vivid representations as you conjure your inner thoughts, right? That is visual processing—the ability to think in images. Processing occurs with sound too. Auditory processing is blending and segmenting sound. Processing is also how we respond to the information we receive. Arriving at success calls for imagining what goals you seek to be successful at, along with the actions required (i.e. the response).

Keys To Success: Possess Confidence

Confidence is believing in your power to succeed. It really is the key to success because of the belief in your own abilities drives your actions. Ruminating on the ways in which you may fail or putting yourself down is a form of self-sabotage that confidence counteracts. If you possess confidence, you are more likely to pursue opportunities for success out of your comfort zone. Recent Princeton University research on mathematicians revealed that those who were confident in their numeric abilities had better financial outcomes and fewer instances of disease.

Keys To Success: Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is maintaining awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present. It is the state of accepting current experiences without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness is developed through meditation training. During mindfulness meditation, the intention is to focus on breathing. As distracting thoughts enter your mind, you simply reroute your thoughts back to your breathing and do not attend to them. Mindfulness is important for success because it cultivates self-awareness, which is crucial to prevent biases and opinions from impacting decision-making.

Keys To Success: Connect with Values and Spirituality

Values are fundamental beliefs that motivate behavior. They are how we establish what is desirable so that we can generate a vision of how we want to be successful and what we have to do to get there without compromising our standards. Your values are sourced from your inner-core and spirit—who you are as a person. Studies of college studies indicate that spirituality provided students with a life purpose, thereby reassuring students of their academic plans and provided an ability to overcome barriers (Wood & Hilton, 2012). As you connect with your values and spirituality, you live an authentically honest life and are more likely to take responsibility for your thoughts and behavior, as well as having a matured sense of self-esteem.

Values and spirituality differ from individual to individual. For some, values are rooted in their religion (i.e. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.). But religion is not the sole form of spirituality. Prayer and are great, yet practicing environmentalism, humanism, or volunteering for social justice issues are also means of increasing spirituality for success.   

Keys To Success: Creativity

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

Creativity is characterized as the ability to think abstractly, discover possibilities, produce innovative ideas, and then apply those ideas to real-world situations. Creativity sets people apart and makes them unique. It is beneficial for success because it adds to the available resources we need to reach our goals. While art and creative writing are obvious examples of creativity, the result of creativity is not always tangible. Successful creativity is:

  • Organization—Clearly state your goals and your plan of action to reach your goals.
  • Communication—You will notice success requires effective communication skills in both writing and in speaking orally. Communication also includes knowing which questions to ask regarding your goals and to whom.
  • Open-mindedness—The willingness to consider unconventional concepts or produce ideas others have not thought of is a key to success.
  • Physical activity—Exercise is a mode of expression. The endorphins released during exercise have a positive effect on the brain, which increases the use of complex thinking skills.
  • Mathematics—Connecting math for real-life situations is creatively thinking about numbers.

Keys To Success: Build Strong Relationships

Humans are social creatures. Although we may be content being alone for brief periods, friendships and interactions with others have many benefits to success. Firstly, relationships promote feelings of happiness. When we are happy, we are motivated to be productive.

Next, healthy relationships offer you the increased freedom to focus on your goals. You are less likely to have disputes with the people surrounding you (i.e. coworkers, classmates, etc.) if you have strong relationships. The attributes of a strong relationship include trust, respect, communication, integrity, and openness.

Further, nobody can be successful alone. Those people are available to help you reach your goals. Relationships offer a surplus of resources you would not have connections to otherwise.

Keys To Success: Use Effective Communication

Communication is how we exchange information between groups of people. Whether at work, school or in your personal life, effective communication is a key to success. Communicate may take the form of speaking orally, a written language like in a letter or email, and through bodily gestures. Communicating incorrectly leads to misunderstandings and controversy. While communicating for success, be specific about your goal. Say exactly what you mean. Ensure the information you are delivering is accurate and concise. To practice effective communication:

  • Listen—Engage in active listening. Truly hear the other person out before responding with your perspective. Do not interrupt them in the middle of their conversation.
  • Be constructive—Constructive feedback gives each party a central point to focus on, whereas destructive comments create tension and defensiveness.
  • Control your emotions—Communicating in an emotional state is not advised. If angry or upset, you are more likely to say something you regret or give inaccurate information without thinking thoroughly about your decisions.
  • Speak with purpose—Know what you are going to say and why. You cannot achieve your overall goal without a purpose.

Keys To Success: Establish A Healthy Routine

Routines are often viewed as boring or monotonous. However, when it comes to success, a healthy routine is anything but! Adopt a routine that incorporates all of the keys to success into your day. For example, setting aside twenty minutes to free-write daily fosters creativity and encourages a routine for success.

Ideas for a healthy routine include abiding by a sleep schedule, consuming healthy foods, exercising daily, and meditation. Eventually, these actions form consistent habits to more efficiently track your progress.

Keys To Success: Learn

Knowledge is power. The more you learn, the more successful you potentially become. Learning combines all of the keys to the success mentioned above. It gives you the skills to adapt to unexpected obstacles interfering with your end goal. The learning process initiates new ideas, and in turn, alters your perspective. Almost anything can be a potential learning experience. Yes, what you read in books imparts knowledge, but discovering information via technology, directly applying experiences from past situations, and observing others are additional opportunities for learning.

References

Peters, E., Tompkins, M., Knoll, M.A.Z., Ardoin, S.P. (2019). Despite high objective numeracy, lower numeric confidence relates to worse financial and medical outcomes. PNAS, 116(39), 19386-1939. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903126116

Wood, J.L., & Hilton, A.A. (2012). Spirituality and Academic Success: Perceptions of African American Males in the Community College. Religion and Education, 39(1):28-47. DOI: 10.1080/15507394.2012.648576

Brain Training: Discover the Benefits of Brain Exercises

Much has been said about physical exercise and the multiple benefits it to your body. However, what about brain exercises? Do we really know what benefits you can get from brain games? Discover what brain training is about and how cognitive stimulation can benefit us throughout our lives.

What is cognitive stimulation and how does it work?

Brain gym and cognitive rehabilitation are synonyms to refer to cognitive stimulation techniques. However, what is brain stimulation?

Cognitive stimulations are actions and activities where the main objective is to improve or maintain brain functions. It is about carrying out different exercises aimed at stimulating cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, language, executive functions, visuospatial functions, perception, etc.

When the brain is not stimulated it tends to get weaker and weaker. Our neurons which are responsible for receiving, processing and transmitting information through chemical signals, are the main engine of our brain. Therefore, when we exercise our brain, what we do is stimulate our neurons so that they regenerate, both anatomically and functionally, and form new connections.

At a scientific level, it has been shown that brain training regularly stimulates brain plasticity. Even if we don’t realize it, in our daily actions whether it’s reading a book, driving to work or cooking we exercise our neurons. However, our brain tends to stimulate the parts that it uses most but we stop stimulating very important parts. That’s why it’s important to do a proper brain training to train all the functions.

In order for brain training to be more effective, it must be adapted to the person who is doing it and look for the ideal moment when the brain is at its maximum level of activity.

To understand well what brain training and cognitive stimulation are about, we must learn and understand concepts such as brain plasticity.

Broadly speaking, according to recent research we can say that brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity) is “the ability of the nervous system to change its structure and functioning throughout its life, as a reaction to the diversity in the environment”.

In other words, brain plasticity allows the brain to adapt to new situations or even sometimes recover after suffering injuries or certain pathologies. In this way, brain training and cognitive stimulation aim to help the brain generate new connections between neurons thus promoting greater brain plasticity.

Brain Training

Brain training can (and should) be performed by everyone. Children in an early intervention during the first years of life, or adults when enhancing the skills required in different jobs, everyone can benefit. In people with cognitive impairments, cognitive stimulation is essential for the deterioration to be slower even though unfortunately, the impairment is irreversible.

People tend to associate cognitive stimulation only for people who have some alteration. It is true that cognitive stimulation is the most supported non-pharmacological intervention applied to people with mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia or even normal aging.

Brain Training- Neuroplasticity

Cognitive stimulation and brain training not only work on cognitive processes but they are perfect for anyone, with or without pathologies.

Brain Training for Children and Teenagers

The brain continues to develop since we are born. Childhood and adolescence are especially critical stages as they form brain crisis periods where the brain undergoes drastic changes. There are many differences between a brain and an adult brain.

Brain plasticity appears every time we learn something new, and it stays that way throughout life. Our brain is prepared to learn over the years, but we have to exercise it.

Neuroeducation or brain-based technology is now part of education. Brain training helps children relax and concentrate. Teachers can use puzzles, reading, crossword puzzles, etc.

Brain training results are visible in children over time. They understand reading better and solve problems and exercise better than children who have not trained. These children tend to develop their creativity and have better study habits which give them a better quality of life.

Among the most relevant cognitive abilities to train in children are planning, working memory, cognitive flexibility, reasoning and creativity among others.

Brain Stimulation in Healthy Adults

If we want our brains to age in a healthy way, we must stay active both physically and mentally.

Wanting is power and neuroscience is helping a lot. When we talk about staying mentally active, we think of spending hours and hours doing additions, subtractions, math problems… Wrong! It is clear that activities like these can help stimulate mental capacities but they are not the only ones, nor are they the best way to activate your brain.

There are traditional board games (cards, bingo, etc.), question and answer games and even digital leisure games (video games) that can bring us benefits. Discover brain games that can help train your mind.

Brain training traditional Games

Traditional games can bring us benefits such as:

  • Social interactions. They are extremely important for brain development and reduce loneliness.
  • Moods improve and motivation and self-esteem increase.
  • It increases self-efficacy, increases levels of satisfaction and coping capacity in stressful situations.
  • Exercising cognitive skills enhances sensory perception and improves the maintenance of healthy habits

the other hand, some video games can improve people’s executive processes.

Some researchers have wondered whether video games benefit brain functions that deteriorate over time and after several studies, they concluded that video games such as “Rise of Nations” improve cognitive abilities.

Brain training with video games

This particular video game (“Rise of Nations”) consists of “conquering the world” by building cities, expanding territories, maintaining armies and caring for citizens. Among the most significant cognitive improvements that have been found in Kramer’s team study are processing speed, updating, shifting, reasoning, spatial memory, etc

There are also pages where you can carry out personalized brain training.

By regular brain training, over time we retain more information and faster. The trick is to perform different activities to relax your mind and get better results.

CogniFit Brain Training: Trains and strengthens essential cognitive abilities in an optimal and professional way.

For example: When Einstein was exhausted he would play the violin to clear his head, thus solving his mathematical problems better. Apply it to yourself!

Among the benefits of cognitive stimulation in healthy adults we find:

  • Increased brain function.
  • Prevention of cognitive deficits.
  • Better brain plasticity and greater potential therefore, you will be more skillful.

Brain Training in Adults with Brain Injury

In people with some kind of impairment, cognitive stimulation is essential. It is the main non-pharmacological treatment used in cognitive impairment and dementias to slow evolution and preserve abilities.

  • Benefits of cognitive stimulation in adults with some impairment are:
  • Keep non-altered cognitive functions healthy.
  • Improve brain plasticity.
  • Increase in the quality of life and delay in the evolution of the disease.
  • The activities must always be adapted to the person and their degree of deterioration.

Some activities that can be carried out in adults with any type of brain injury, deterioration or dementia are:

  • Attention exercises: Counting
  • Language exercises: Ordering letters to form words, crosswords, word searches, completing words, etc.
  • Mobility exercises: You can use everyday tasks to make the person feel entertained and motivated.
  • Time estimation exercises: Keeping a calendar, a clock or anything that they can have as a reference.
  • Number exercises: Math problems, additions, subtractions, etc.
  • Creativity exercises: Drawings can be used to encourage people’s creativity and motivation.
  • Reading exercises: Newspapers, books, magazines adapted to the person’s tastes.

Just as we take care of our bodies, we must remember that it is important to take care of our brain. Brain training is a great resource for strengthening our mental abilities. Remember that it is never too late to train your brain.

And what do you do to train your brain? ????

Effective Communication Skills: 10+ tips for speaking up at work, school, or wherever.

Have you ever wanted to communicate better? Do you feel insecure when speaking in public? Is it hard for you to write? Do you not know what to say sometimes? In this article, we will tell you what are effective communication skills, what types there are and where can you apply them. Furthermore, we will give you tips on how to improve them.

Effective communication skills

Effective communication skills: Definition and purpose

Communication skills can be defined as a set of skills that enable a person to communicate properly. According to Hymes, the creator of this concept, effective communication skills consist of knowing “when to speak, when not, and what to talk about, with whom, when, where, in what form“.

We interact constantly with other people and we can’t stop expressing ourselves. Therefore, mastering these skills is fundamental to our personal and social development. We use them when speaking, listening, reading and writing.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

Nowadays it’s hard to get away from our computer screens and mobile phones. Communication is constantly changing and we have to quickly adapt to it. Even so, no matter with what you communicate, you need to use effective communication skills.

We all know how upsetting misunderstandings are. We also know or can imagine the uncomfortable feeling when someone doesn’t pay attention to us when we speak. Sometimes, it’s inevitable that what we say is not interesting or that there are errors in the communicative process. However, here we will give you some guidelines to encounter those situations as little as possible. Discover how to improve your communication skills.

Effective communication skills: Applications

We can’t stop communicating, even if we try. A single gesture betrays us. In fact, even when we are alone we talk to ourselves. Finding the right words and thoughts comes in handy in all aspects of life. We will mention three main ones.

1. Effective communication skills at work

People who work harder or better don’t always receive all the attention. Sometimes the main thing is how ideas are sold to the boss and the power of persuasion. Effective communication skills allow us to develop influential techniques and reach a greater audience.

At the professional level, it is essential to know how to deal adequately with peers, make good decisions even in stressful situations or under job stress. This is one of the reasons why effective communication skills are increasingly valued.

They are almost as important as mastering other languages or handling various computer programs. A person with good communicative skills stands out above the others in several areas and is the most prominent candidate in job interviews.

Specifically at work, effective communication skills are highly valued as well as assertiveness. Communicating what you need in a polite and respected way is very important in corporation settings.

2. Effective communication skills in education

We can train these skills from childhood, the best and most appropriate way to develop these skills is in our natural environment. Communicating well improves our personal relationships and our well-being. It makes us feel competent.

It is essential to include these skills while teaching. If we make sure that our children are capable of effectively communicating then we will make sure they become resolute and satisfied adults.  Likewise, we will be able to improve our communication with children. In order to educate in communication, we also have to be good communicators. It is impossible to convey this knowledge well if we are not good role models to imitate.

3. Effective communication skills in everyday life

We need these skills to communicate constantly. For example, to tell our roommate to wash the dishes, give bad news to a friend or send a postcard to our relatives. From the smallest to the most complicated interaction, we are in constant demand to effectively communicate ourselves. Communicating well saves time, effort and makes life more enjoyable.

Everyday effective communication skills what us come complex settings. It’s like a trial run for complicated situations for us to see our mistakes and work through so we can communicate effectively in other areas of our daily life.In

4. Effective communication skills in a difficult conversation

We all have conversations that we feel are difficult to tackle, here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with this issue. Miscommunication is very common because even though we might be in a conversation speaking the same language, our interactions are more complex than you could imagine. The next video explains how miscommunication is very easy and how to avoid it.

a) Deliver more positive than negative feedback

Postive statements are those that come across as supportive, appreciative, encouraging, meanwhile negative ones are those that are critical, disapproving and contradictory. Our brain tends to focus on the negative aspects more than the positive, therefore, it’s important to deliver around five to six times as many positive statements to every negative statement. This comes in handy not only for work settings but personal relationships as well.

b) Facial expression

Remember that emotional intelligence is all about reading another person’s emotion and empathizing. For effective communication skills, it’s important to focus on their facial expression. Smiling is important for social interactions when delivering feedback try to keep your facial expression as positive as possible and always looking for cues of how the other person might take it.

c) Stress the importance of working together to solve difficulties

When speaking about a problem always try to describe the situation without any evaluation, identify your feelings regarding the situation (don’t place blame) and suggest solutions that can make it better (avoid arguing about who is right or wrong).

d) Eye contact

Psychologists describe resonance as a person’s ability to read someone else’s emotions. This is mainly done through eye contact, it allows for people to create a connection and helps with feedback.

e) Be authentic 

Even though there are many tips on how to effectively communicate in complicated situations the critical aspect of all is that you should always remain authentic. If you come out as someone other than yourself your efforts will backfire.

f) Be Compassionate

Treat every conversation, regardless of context, as an opportunity to connect with another person who has their own needs and pain. Everyone, at some point, goes through tough times, sad times, etc. By remembering the human experiences we all share, you will find that you are able to bring kindness and compassion into the conversation.

Effective communication skills in everyday life

10 Characteristics of a person with effective communication skills

1. They are observers

In a way empathy allows us to infer the mental states of others. Good communicators know how to anticipate the reactions of others, recognize them, and modify their speech accordingly.

2. Can understand the context

People with effective communication skills are characterized by being curious about the world and adapting to the individual, social and cultural differences. Imagine that you are traveling to an Asian country and you notice that its inhabitants feel uncomfortable talking to you. It is probably because they consider disrespectful to stare into their eyes.

We do not have to go that far to assess the situation. It is important to always take into account your surroundings when assessing the best way to communicate.

3. Have high self-efficacy

They see obstacles as challenges. Believing in our possibilities makes it easier for us to focus on what we have to say without being distracted by our insecurities. It is normal to have certain doubts (and convenient when learning to improve ourselves), but there are appropriate ways to value more the perception that we have about our abilities.

4. They are respectful

A person with effective communication skills is able to talk to people with whom he disagrees and not lose their temper or patience. This is complicated if we argue about politics, religion or football. How many times have we seen people lose their tempers over nonsense? Good communicators accept the other person’s point of view and give their arguments kindly.

5. They are emotionally intelligent

They worry about what their interlocutor feels. They are assertive and empathetic. They know what questions they have to ask, how to address them, and when it is best to keep quiet.

6. They are organized

They order their thoughts before explaining them. They think before they speak and are not afraid to admit that they don’t know something. Both speaking and writing require that we order our ideas consistently. This way we will make it easier for our interlocutor to follow our argument and find our words more attractive.

7. They are creative

They tend to tell stories to generate emotional bonds with their listener, create the right metaphors, look for witty and memorable examples, etc. They are flexible and know what is best for each occasion.

8. Have good references

They examine other’s communication skills and take the best out of each encounter. They learn fast and perfect their techniques. If this is not something you tend to do, put it into practice as an exercise to achieve effective communication skills.  

9. They are not afraid to be wrong

We can’t have everything under control, no matter how effective our communicative skills. Excellent communicators are not great for their perfection. They are great because they learn from their mistakes, they don’t give up and take their mistakes with humor. Failures are inherent in the communicative process.

10. Practice, practice, and practice

It is true that there are people who seem to have a supernatural ability to communicate. However, this potential is wasted if our communicative skills are not exercised. A little rehearsal never hurts. Practice enough to make sure your communicative skills are effective. 

Types of effective communication skills

1. Grammatical or linguistic skills for effective communication

Language knowledge is important for this skill. This consists of integrating every aspect of the language, form, and meaning, maintaining a bidirectional relationship.  It includes the phonetic level (intonation, rhythm, etc.), lexical-semantic (vocabulary) and grammatical (structure of words, how they combine, etc.). It is the basis of communication, without it, we could not even understand ourselves.

2. Sociolinguistic ability 

To use this ability correctly we must be able to understand different expressions depending on the situation. Language is time-based, therefore it’s important to always have context. We can tell the difference between listening to a couple say “silly” affectionately and hear the same term when two people criticize another. Learn more about how we listen.

3. Fluency skill for effective communication

It includes different skills, from interpreting messages and transmitting various types of speeches in different circumstances. The content of the speech must be coherent and cohesive. We put it into practice when we tell (orally or written) a group of friends about our weekend through an orderly and logical structure.

4. Strategic skill for effective communication

It allows communication to be effective and enables mistakes to be repaired without breaking the course of the conversation. It involves a great deal of tactics to fill long silences or correct misinterpretations. It also includes non-verbal language. For example, it consists of redirecting the conversation what the argument gets heated without being too abrupt.

10 Tips for effective communication skills

1. Analyze yourself

Look for people in your environment who broadly convey what you want to say and examine their style. You will be more aware of what you do well and how you can progress. Soon you will carry out this process automatically. Try to not be too severe on your self-evaluation or self-appraisal, because it will only make you more nervous.

2. Be simple

Many times “less is more”. This is no exception. Do not waste time with huge expressions or bombastic terms. They will stifle the communicative process and do not always look good. This does not mean that we have to stop expanding our vocabulary. We simply have to know when to use the exact word and do it naturally.

3. Be natural

Have you ever thought that a person is not being themselves while talking to you? Sometimes we try to look and express ourselves like other people. This does not mean that we are lying but rather adapting. Imagine a person on a first date. You may be unsure and seek acceptance from your companion above all else. You may try to show that you have knowledge or characteristics that please your potential partner. Although we have the best intention in the world, this is forced and unconvincing. It is essential that you trust yourself and feel comfortable communicating well.

4. Be nice

It may seem obvious. However, sometimes with the rush, stress or bad mood, we forget to smile. It is hard for us to speak by transmitting positivity rather than by frowning. Not all circumstances require us to maintain cheerful behavior, but we can try to be as empathetic as possible. Develop your social skills. You will notice the benefits of being kind in both how others relate to you.

5. Adapt to your listening partner

Each person has their own reality. We differ in our sociocultural level, contemplate different points of view or have a different mental representation for the same word. This can lead to misunderstandings.

These mistakes can be avoided if we observe the listeners reactions and act accordingly. If you see that they are not understanding, look for explanatory examples. On the other hand, don’t let anything left unsaid if in doubt ask if your communication is effective. 

6. Try Relaxation Techniques

An important exam, presentation or a person who makes us nervous can dimish our communicative skills. It is normal that we find ourselves restless in these circumstances. Still, there are ways to stay calm in stressful situations. For example, you can count until you feel better. It may seem silly to you, but it serves to focus on something else and get some distance from the problem.

7. Look for inspiration

Search and read more about effective communication skills. You can research topics such as body language, storytelling or neurolinguistic programming (NLP). Search the Internet for experts in your field and see how they communicate. On the other hand, literature can be another source of inspiration, in addition to producing great satisfaction.

8. Remember the power of images 

If you have to make a presentation rely on visual resources. Use photos, illustrations or graphs to boost your ideas. You can rely on color psychology to create a more emotional bond with your audience. You will reinforce your words and the audience will remember them better. Just remember that the power will always rely on words.

9. Enjoy communicating

Communication is not just a medium, it can also be enjoyed.  Not everyone loves to write stories or expose a delicate subject to hundreds of people. However, our communicative skills can also be comforting as telling a joke or giving a hug. Improving them will make these experiences even more satisfying.

By the way, this process will be more gratifying if we are not doing more things at the same time. This can not only be irritating to the other person. It will also diminish our attention and will not let us appreciate the conversation to the fullest.

10. Listen

Practice active listening, be empathic and try to get your interlocutor to feel understood. Knowing how to listen is as important as being grammatically flawless or having a broad vocabulary. That way you will not stop learning and you will enrich your interpersonal relationships.

11. Ask for feedback

Receiving honest feedback from peers, family members and even bosses will help you become an effective communicator and improve your skills. It is the perfect way to discover areas of improvement that might be overlooked.

12. Engage the audience (if its a group setting)

Every person has a different attention span, imagine all of those attentions spans combined. Keep this in mind when applying effective communication skills in group settings. Be sure to make your speech interactive by asking questions, allowing others to speak, etc.

13. Manage you time

Remember you are not giving out a monologue. Effective communication skills are all about time management and giving others the opportunity to speak as well. If you are giving a presentation and need to restrict information into a time frame, remember to always keep in mind your key points in order to communicate them effectively.

14. Be concise

Remember to always be direct, simple and to the point when trying to apply effective communication skills. Focus always on getting your point across keeping in mind all the other variables mentioned.

15. Be curious

Ignite your curiosity! Keep up to date with the news, your interests, etc. This will help you engage people and your effective communication skills will be great!

Watch to see more tips for effective communication skills by Celeste Headlee.

Thank you very much for reading this article. Will you exercise your communicative skills? I invite you to practice and comment if you liked the article or want to know more.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Cognitive Trauma: What you need to know

Cognitive trauma in relation to brain impairment is not something that is greatly known, due to its diminishing characteristics that create deep-rooted effects. However, in recent years there has been more and more research conducted that indeed reveals insight into this neuropsychological dilemma. This article, in particular, will outline the whole idea revolving around cognitive trauma in neuropsychology, what is cognitive trauma, effects of cognitive trauma, problems derived from cognitive trauma, tips on dealing with cognitive trauma.

Introduction to Cognitive Trauma

Cognitive Trauma: Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The neuropsychology field turns to be flooded with cognitive development in regards to traumatic brain injuries. As stated in the Cambridge University Press, “well-recovered individuals who had sustained a minor trauma more than half a decade ago continue to have long-term cognitive sequelae relevant for everyday social and professional life” (Konrad et al, 2011, p. 1197). Such concealed, and yet evident findings into cognitive trauma and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) help gain insight from various doctors and in return use it as a primary source to represent the development across the field. On the other hand, many doctors find the information revolving around cognitive trauma conditions to be minimal. As sometimes the determination of whether or not permanent brain withdrawal is present can be unsubstantial.

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There is a rising occurrence of TBI’s and cognitive trauma in military personnel, and they are also becoming more prominent in the war zone and terrorist attack victims too (Risdall & Menon, 2011). Traumatic brain injuries, in particular, are something that happens due to direct contact with the head, often causing some type of cognitive trauma. For instance, something such as an accident or explosion could result in a blow to the head developing the potential for cognitive trauma in an individual. This is particularly prevalent in military personnel within war zones due to the constant turmoil and upheaval occurring around them. However, it’s the symptoms that follow a TBI that can be particularly uncomfortable and challenging. When faced with this adversity certain things such as cognitive trauma conditions can start to play a part. The big question that many people often want to know now is whether traumatic brain injuries can directly cause cognitive trauma conditions? Without the slightest doubt, cognitive trauma conditions are quite prevalent in some cases specifically in military war conditions. “TBI is rarely an isolated finding in this setting, and persistent post-concussive symptoms are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, a constellation of findings that have been called the polytrauma clinical triad” (Risdall & Menon, 2011, p. 241).

Cognitive Trauma: Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

First and foremost, after a TBI instance occurs an individual needs to be checked out immediately by an appropriate professional health care provider to determine the course of treatment. This is something that many patients are unaware of, as a TBI requires additional treatment after the incident that most likely will be needed for the remainder of the patient’s lifetime. The typical approach for treatment post TBI involves a bold approach of ICP monitoring for serious cases, where it scientifically increases the overall result of recovery and diminishment of overall cognitive trauma (Stein, Georgoff, Meghan, Mirza & El Falaky, 2010). A brain injury and cognitive trauma coinciding is something that can really impact an individual for the rest of their life. Between managing the symptoms and dealing with treatment and recovery it can be a hard feat. Managing symptoms is a big task alongside treatment, which can become overwhelming with the numerous courses of rehabilitation. Yet, it’s the alternative treatments that are limited and need to be expanded upon through research. As research into new treatment methods can help provide more sound reasoning into the appropriate ways certain methods can make a difference in cognitive trauma and TBI’s.

Cognitive Trauma: Problems after Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

The most prevalent problems associated with cognitive trauma and TBI consist of:

When an individual experiences a TBI there can often be cognitive problems that arise as a result, due to the injury. Initially one must understand what cognition is in order to explore further, cognition is often described as the thought of knowing. The different types of cognition that will be explored are areas such as, info processing, communication, reasoning, concentration, memory, and control.

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It is important to keep in mind that there are many different aspects of cognition, but for the sake of how TBI’s can affect cognition these will be specifically addressed. When an individual has a TBI it is often the after effects that cause the most issues, this is where info processing takes a hit. Following a TBI one’s potential to process something decreases substantially influencing reaction time and other similar avenues. Communication is another dilemma that is faced for victims of TBI’s creating adversity with all things in connection to asserting and comprehending the material.

On top of these two issues is also the halt in concentration making the need to focus a thing of the past. Control and reasoning are another plaguing problems often going hand in hand with one another. Where brash choices are made often due to the lack of being able to identify issues in the first place. It is important to note that not all these problems will occur for every individual that presents with a TBI. Nonetheless, when issues arise it is key to report them to a health care professional to ensure the appropriate treatment measures.

Cognitive Trauma: Current Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Studies

The research that has been done on cognitive trauma relating to TBI’s is relatively sparse and has left a great amount of room for improvement. Initially, a large amount of research that has already been conducted focuses more on cells and sham control for treatment on one end or MRI evaluation on the other.

There was a study conducted by a handful of doctors on cell study in TBI patients properly examined intracerebral effects while also delving into the intravenous application of bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs) with endogenous cellular proliferation following a TBI (Mahmood, Lu & Chopp, 2004). Following, the results that have been discovered are not always conclusive and tend to create some conflicting ideas. It was discovered that that through the proper study of rats this treatment of TBI proved to be successful. Successive TBI in rat subjects established that intracerebral and intravenous MSC dispensation improves endogenous cellular proliferation (Mahmood, Lu & Chopp, 2004, p. 1185).

However, other types of research done found that the results are not an immediate reaction but something that occurs only with the duration of time. In a six month investigative cycle, there was no instantaneous or slowed harmfulness affiliated with cell application. Additionally, not all studies deal with human patients, which makes for insufficient discoveries. Due to the fact that most of the studies conducted have for the most part been done on rat subjects and not all on human subjects, which creates room for error. Lastly, not all aspects of the matter regarding cell study in regards to TBI and cognitive trauma have been fully analyzed.

Cognitive Trauma: The incidence of Cognitive Trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

The overall incidence of cognitive trauma and TBI is only multiplying year after year (Dulac, Lassonde & Sarnat, 2013,p. 891). As behavioral limitations evolve it creates something that all individuals suffering from TBI’s and cognitive trauma misjudge. People that have TBI or cognitive trauma at first don’t always evaluate their situation entirely which creates instances where social situations involving emotions and interactions are turned for a loop. The main cause of this particular issue is due to the alterations that have occurred in “hippocampal, prefrontal cortical, and limbic region function because of alterations in synaptogenesis, dendritic remodeling, and neurogenesis” (Kaplan, Vasterling & Vedak, 2010, p. 427). After a brain injury has occurred various behavioral disorders such as self-awareness become quite prominent. If the frontal lobes of the brain are the source of the TBI a relation between behavioral changes is usually relevant.

Cognitive Trauma: Necessary Development of Research

The various accounts of information that were the result of studies conducted provided some very good insight into the matter. Such concealed, and yet evident findings in traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and also cognitive trauma help gain insight from various doctors and in return use it as a primary source to represent the development across the field. Contrary to all the information that was a gained, the way that individual deals with the instance of a TBI or cognitive trauma are going to be different for each individual.

This research and more and more research adventures down the road are going to open new doors into this field and create a whole new amount of knowledge. Disappointing conclusions are due to the absence of accurate result amounts mingled with the heterogeneity of TBI (Yue et al, 2013). Despite the various efforts over the years to help people with TBI’s and cognitive trauma, more research is without a doubt needed. Over the course of the past 30 years, existing methods into the classification of condition seriousness have yet to evolve (Yue et al, 2013). That being so it creates a necessity to develop new studies so that research can be advanced in a positive direction. This will ultimately help individuals with the strongest effects of TBI and cognitive trauma to help ease the fallbacks of current treatment methods.

Cognitive Trauma Tips

Tips for Dealing with Cognitive Trauma

Learning to live with cognitive trauma is not an easy feat, and hopefully, through useful methods, individuals can cope. One of the most important things that anyone who is suffering from cognitive trauma can do for themselves is seeking out the care of a professional. Through this different types of treatment methods can be discussed leading towards a positive recovery approach. When someone is suffering from cognitive trauma,  one of the most common therapy approaches is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT there are beneficial approaches that can be made to help treat an individual who suffers from cognitive trauma.

 

References

Dulac, O., Lassonde, M., & Sarnat, H. B. (2013). Traumatic brain injury. Pediatric Neurology, 112, 891.

Kaplan, G. B., Vasterling, J. J., & Vedak, P. C. (2010). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and their comorbid conditions: role in pathogenesis and treatment. Behavioural pharmacology, 21(5-6), 427-437.

Konrad, C., Geburek, A. J., Rist, F., Blumenroth, H., Fischer, B., Husstedt, I., … &  Lohmann, H. (2011). Long-term cognitive and emotional consequences of mild traumatic brain injury. Psychological medicine, 41(6), 1197-1211.       

Mahmood, A., Lu, D., & Chopp, M. (2004). Marrow stromal cell transplantation after traumatic brain injury promotes cellular proliferation within the brain. Neurosurgery, 55(5), 1185-1193.

Parker, R. S. (2012). Traumatic brain injury and neuropsychological impairment: Sensorimotor, cognitive, emotional, and adaptive problems of children and adults. Springer Science & Business Media.

Risdall, J. E., & Menon, D. K. (2011). Traumatic brain injury. Philosophical Transactions of the  Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 366(1562), 241-250.

Stein, S. C., Georgoff, P., Meghan, S., Mirza, K. L., & El Falaky, O. M. (2010). Relationship of aggressive monitoring and treatment to improved outcomes in severe traumatic brain injury. Journal of neurosurgery, 112(5), 1105-1112.

Yue, J. K., Vassar, M. J., Lingsma, H. F., Cooper, S. R., Okonkwo, D. O., Valadka, A. B., … & Puccio, A. M. (2013). Transforming research and clinical knowledge in traumatic brain injury pilot: multicenter implementation of the common data elements for traumatic brain injury. Journal of neurotrauma, 30(22), 1831-1844.

Zhang, Z. X., Guan, L. X., Zhang, K., Zhang, Q., & Dai, L. J. (2008). A combined procedure to deliver autologous mesenchymal stromal cells to patients with traumatic brain injury. Cytotherapy, 10(2), 134-139.

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

Not Sure If You Should Take The Leap? Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

We may not look back on our foreign language classes at school with much fondness.However, after reading about the following benefits of learning foreign languages, we may all be searching for our Spanish or French class notes.

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. The older you are, the more challenging it can be. Nevertheless, learning a new language can have a range of cognitive, health and cultural benefits.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Beneficial for traveling, learning and communicating

Learning a foreign language means you can explore a whole new culture, country, or continent through the native tongue. Learning a foreign language also allows us to communicate with individuals who do not speak our mother tongue.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Stay young and stave off disease

Research has found that bilingualism can help counteract cognitive decline. In fact, it was noted that bilingual older adults had better memory than monolingual older adults. Furthermore, there has been links between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, showing the correlation to speaking more than one language and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Evy Woumans and colleagues have found that in older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of progression is slower in bilingual patients compared to monolingual patients.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Be more creative

A review into the cognitive correlates of bilingualism, by Olusola Adesope and colleagues found that bilingualism has been associated with enhanced creativity and abstract thinking. Essentially, being proficient in a foreign language can make you more creative and can help you think outside the box.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improved problem-solving skills

Bilinguals tend to have better problem-solving skills than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals tend to perform better on tasks like the Stroop test, which requires an element of conflict management. Being fluent in a foreign language has been linked to enhanced inhibitory control ability. This means that bilinguals are better at ignoring information that interferes with their ability to complete a task. The message here seems to be that learning a foreign language can help us to solve problems faster and help us to ignore irrelevant information.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Better cognitive control

Researchers Viorica Marion and Anthony Shook tested bilinguals in experiments of task switching. Participants were required to switch between sorting objects based on colour and by shape. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals displayed high levels of cognitive control. They find it easier to switch between tasks compared to monolinguals. Essentially, learning a foreign language may improve our task switching ability. Researchers propose enhanced cognitive control is due to the ability to balance two languages. Bilingual language processing networks for both languages are active at the same time. As both languages are activated, the individual responds in the correct language by learning to inhibit one language over the other. By doing this, bilinguals improve their inhibitory control mechanism, to the point where when processing language, the process of inhibiting the language that isn’t needed at a particular time becomes second nature. Wondering how you can train your brain and cognitive skills? Try some fun brain games!

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Changes brain structure

Bilingualism has been found to increase neuroplasticity. Researcher Rosanna Olsen and colleagues investigated structural brain differences in monolinguals and bilinguals using fMRI. Scans revealed that bilinguals display increased activation in the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC plays an important role in tasks which require control). This part of the brain is associated with attention and inhibition. The researchers found that the hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus are more malleable in bilinguals (The hippocampus is associated with memory and the superior temporal gyrus is associated with sound processing). Furthermore, these structures as well as the frontal lobe are thicker in bilingual individuals (The frontal lobes are associated with executive functions such as problem solving and executive control-need some exercises to improve executive functions?). Increased volumes of white matter have been noted in frontal and temporal lobes. According to researcher Christos Pilatsikas and colleagues, when learning a second language age doesn’t matter, as adults who have learnt a foreign language have shown increase white matter. Being proficient in a foreign language can improve connections of brain regions that control our memory, executive functioning, attention and inhibition processes.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improves attention and attention control

Studies have shown that on tasks of attention control, bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals. Also bilinguals tend to have a higher attention capacity. Bilinguals are better at filtering out unwanted information and find it easier to focus on more relevant information.

Improves ability to process information– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Being bilingual can benefit sensory and information processing. Jennifer Krizman and colleagues present participants with target sounds embedded in background noise. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals found it easier to filter out background noise. The researchers found bilingualism enhances sound processing and sustained attention. The study found that bilinguals process sound similarly to musicians. This means that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is being able to improve the efficiency of the brain’s auditory system, and enhance our ability to distinguish between similar sounds.

Benefits of learning foreign languages

Enhances working memory– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Managing two languages puts increased pressure our working memory. To ease the pressure, bilinguals become more efficient at information processing. Combining this with their enhanced inhibitory control ability, a bilingual’s working memory capacity and efficiency us greater than monolinguals.

Learning multiple foreign languages

We have already established that being fluent in a foreign language can improve our information processing abilities and enhance our sustained attention. As a result of these enhanced processes, bilinguals find it easier to learn a third or even fourth foreign language.

Learning a foreign language can have numerous benefits on our cognitive functions. It improves executive functions, cognitive control, attention, and memory. In addition, neuroimaging studies have revealed that learning a foreign language in later life can actually grow the brain and improve the connections between different brain regions. What is even more interesting is that learning a foreign language can counteract cognitive decline and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the age at which we learn a foreign language, it is still beneficial for our brains to do so. So, although it may be a little more difficult, it is clearly never too late to reap the benefits of learning foreign languages! Encouraging young children to learn a foreign language may benefit them in later life, so schools should look at making learning a foreign language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Aside from the benefits to cognition and the brain, for all of us who have the travelling bug and want to explore new cultures, learning the lingo is obviously the best place to start!

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a note below! 🙂

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research80(2), 207-245.

Krizman, J., Marian, V., Shook, A., Skoe, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(20), 7877-7881.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage63(1), 240-244.

Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, September). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2012). Dana Foundation.

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E., & Saddy, J. D. (2015). The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(5), 1334-1337.

Woumans, E., Santens, P., Sieben, A., Versijpt, J., Stevens, M., & Duyck, W. (2015). Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition18(03), 568-574.

Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2014). How does the bilingual experience sculpt the brain?. Nature Reviews Neuroscience15(5), 336-345.

Olsen, R. K., Pangelinan, M. M., Bogulski, C., Chakravarty, M. M., Luk, G., Grady, C. L., & Bialystok, E. (2015). The effect of lifelong bilingualism on regional grey and white matter volume. Brain research1612, 128-139.

Saidi, L. G., & Ansaldo, A. I. (2015). Can a Second Language Help You in More Ways Than One?. AIMS neurosci1, 52-57.

Social skills: Tips for better and healthier relationships

Social skills. Do you have a hard time starting conversations? Do you avoid speaking to strangers because they intimidate you? You can’t change the subject in a conversation without it seeming abrupt? People think you don’t know how to listen? Do you interrupt a lot?  In this article, we give you some tips on how to improve your social skills and how to teach social skills to your children.

What are social skills?

Social skills are those that allow us to communicate and interact effectively with others. We communicate through verbal language, gestures, posture, the tone of voice and even our physical appearance. That is why if we want to improve our social skills we must have an effective communication of all these aspects.

Human beings are social animals. Our life is based on relationships with others, hence the importance of knowing how to manage ourselves in social environments. Satisfactory social relationships contribute greatly to our levels of well-being and quality of life. In addition, cultivating and maintaining a supportive network with loved ones prevents psychological disorders and problems. We will also have better working relationships. By being good communicators we will get what we want more easily.

Social Skills

Developing and training our social skills is about paying attention to how we communicate with others and the messages we send.

Like any skill, social skills are learned. There are people who have managed to learn them easily and almost unaided. Other people find it more difficult, but it is nothing that cannot be acquired through practice.

Consequences of a lack of social skills

A deficit in social skills can be very damaging.

  • It will reduce our success in creating and maintaining social relationships.
  • Our self-esteem will be damaged.
  • Difficulty expressing our desires and needs.
  • Widespread emotional distress.
  • Academic and work performance will be reduced.
  • More likely to develop a psychological disorder, such as anxiety, social phobia, depression.

How to improve social skills

Non-verbal communication

With non-verbal communication, we transmit more than we think, and we usually don’t pay attention to it. There are different kinds of nonverbal communication that we can modify to improve our social skills.

  • Body movement: hand gestures and head movements.
  • Posture: the way your body is sitting or standing, if your arms are folded.
  • Eye contact: the amount of eye contact often determines the level of trust and sincerity that is transmitted.
  • Non-Verbal Language: they are non-linguistic vocal aspects, such as tone of voice, speed, intonation, prosody, etc.
  • Closeness or personal space: determines the level of intimacy.
  • Facial expression: such as smiles, eyebrow movements and muscles surrounding the eyes.
  • Physiological changes: such as sweating or facial redness.

How do we master the art of non-verbal communication? It is important to know the consequences of our non-verbal behavior in order to use it more consciously. All behaviors can be useful depending on the situation, none of them are wrong in themselves. It is also important to look at other’s gestures to see what they are really communicating.

How do we improve our non-verbal language?

  • The absence of hand gesturing can cause our speech to be flat and monotonous. Hand movements are a way to emphasize the speech and our interlocutor can follow it better. However, very rapid gesturing can be distracting and annoying. Therefore, make sure your gestures are slow and keep pace with what you’re saying.
  • If we want to transmit kindness and friendliness the best thing is that our posture be open and relaxed. Crossing arms and legs can transmit disagreement, discomfort, nervousness. If our shoulders are down and we look down, we are transmitting insecurity. On the contrary, if we are standing upright and looking ahead we transmit security.
  • It is very important to maintain optimal eye contact. If we do not look into the eyes of our interlocutor, he may think that we are hiding something or not trusting him. However, keeping your eyes fixed can be very uncomfortable and challenging.
  • It is very important to respect the personal space of our interlocutor. This will depend on each individual’s own characteristics and the level of confidence. If you get close to the other person and the other person turns away, respect him or her and don’t keep getting closer. If on the contrary, the other person approaches you, perfect, you have established a new level of intimacy. We must pay attention to the signals he/she sends us. For example, if we touch his shoulder and notice how stiff he gets, it’s best not to touch him. Some people are very reluctant to make physical contact with strangers.
  • The facial expression should be consistent with our speech. If it is not, the other person will perceive you as untruthful. A good way to connect with others is to “imitate” each other’s facial expressions. This comes naturally to many people and has to do with empathy, but other people find it harder. If the other person smiles, you too, if he looks sad, do the same. But don’t look forced, because it may be unnatural and the other person may notice.
  • Physiological changes, such as sweating or turning red, can be more difficult to control.  A good way to do this is by practicing relaxation, breathing or other techniques.

Social Skills: Conversation skills

We often find it difficult to start and maintain conversations. Especially with people, we don’t know much about, we don’t get out of the typical dull conversation about the weather. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have trouble starting conversations?
  • Am I running out of subjects to talk about?
  • Do I avoid talking about myself?
  • Do I talk too much about myself?
  • Am I interrupting constantly?
  • Tips to improve our conversation

In the following video, Celeste Headlee gives you 10 tips for better conversations.

  • Listen and let them know you are paying attention. Use interjections as “ahá”. It sounds silly but it’s important. You can also paraphrase or repeat the last thing he or she has just said, be careful though no one likes a parrot.
  • You can start a conversation by talking about the weather, making a compliment (“I love that sweater you’re wearing”), or by taking advantage of the theme of the book you’re reading. Anything you may have in common (school, work,etc.)
  • Do nothing else while you’re talking. Listen and talk, nothing more. Multitasking can damage your relationships. Try not to think about what you have to do next, don’t look at your cell phone. Focus on the present moment, the conversation.
  • Don’t be dogmatic, enter into any conversation assuming that you have something to learn from the other person. Don’t try to impose your opinion. Talk openly.
  • Use open-ended questions: how, when, where, why. Let the other person express themselves. Avoid using questions that are answered with yes or no, as it greatly reduces the quality of the conversation.
  • If you don’t know something, say it. Show yourself honest. Assuming that we don’t know anything makes us look more sincere, more pleasant and sympathetic.
  • Don’t equate your experiences with theirs. If she’s talking about a family member who has passed away, don’t talk about when a family member of yours died. It is also often a way to play down the other person’s experiences.
  • Don’t be repetitive. Don’t tell the same story over and over again, people get tired. If you have already told something that has happened to you or that you have achieved, don’t bring it up all the time, without it having anything to do with the subject.
  • Don’t give too much detail. Save dates, irrelevant names, irrelevant details.
  • Never interrupt. For people who are impulsive, this is hard for them because we talk a lot slower than we think and we are constantly thinking about what we could say. Notice when you interrupt, and always apologize when you do. Every time try to figure it out first until you stop. It is extremely frustrating to try to say something when you are being interrupted all the time.

Social Skills: Assertiveness

Assertiveness is a basic social skill that has been much talked about in recent years. Assertiveness consists of defending your rights, making requests, putting ourselves in our place respecting the rights of others. You can find out more about assertiveness in this article.

Social skills in children

Children learn social skills in a variety of ways: imitation, social and experiential reinforcement.

Social Skills

We have already mentioned the importance of having good social skills and exercises to improve them, but how do we pass them on to our children?

  • If you want your children to have social skills, be a good example. Be careful of your behavior when you are in front of your child because he or she will copy it. Therefore, apply all the advice listed in this article.
  • If the child is defending his or her rights properly, when he or she acts politely, listens to others and with consideration, carefully reinforce the child with caresses, smiles, smiles, and words of congratulations. If not, we explain to them the consequences of behaving in that way and try not to pay any more attention to them until they change their attitude.
  • For example, if a child is asking for something by yelling, we can say,”That’s not a good way to ask for things. When you ask me without shouting and please, maybe I will give it to you.” When he does well, we will grant him, if it is a reasonable request.
  • Cultivate their self-esteem.
  • Promote their ability to listen. Listen to him and tell him that we can learn a lot if we listen to others.
  • Encourage him to relate to others. The best way to train in social skills is to practice them.
  • Don’t let your child isolate himself. Encourage them to participate in activity groups with other children.
  • Help them to solve their conflicts properly, respecting others and himself.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdán, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

How We Listen: Is It Just The Ears That Play A Role?

We listen with our hands, not only our ears. Some researchers even suspect we may listen with our hands and other body parts too.

We listen

Ever been in a car and a good song pops on the radio and before you know it your fingers are tapping to the rhythm of the music without you even noticing? Ever felt compelled to clap at a certain part of a song because it follows the beat?  We could say that we listen with our hands. Listening happens thanks to our auditory perception that allows for sounds to be processed by our ears.

Julian Treasure made a short Ted talk explaining how we listen and what can we do to listen better.

However, it is possible that we listen with other body parts.

We listen with our hands

Cognitive research and scientists managed to get solid evidence that the sensorimotor systems are involved in language processing. This suggests that comprehending verbal descriptions of actions rely on an internal simulation of the described action.

Several scientists decided to see if this was true. They got a group of people, ages ranging from 18-34-year-olds, to participate in a study. The scientists prepared thirty-five action words into affirmative and negative context sentences.

The participants listened to the spoken sentences, each in the third person and present tense, such as “John walks to work.” to measure their motor grip as they listened and pinched a grip-force sensor.

The researchers found that subjects increased their grip when listening to action words that involved hands or arms. Some of the verbs hand or arm related were: scratch, grate, throw, etc. But this response depended on context, meaning the grip force was unchanged when the action was negative, as in “Laura did not lift her luggage.”

This suggests that when the person hears the sentences of hand verbs happening at the exact moment the brain sends impulses to the motor neurons and the grip becomes tighter. If the action is not happening the grip does not tighten therefore it understands that it’s not happening. We could say that we listen with our hands because it’s our hands that respond to the words being spoken.

We listen with our hands

We listen with oher parts of the body, too

We listen not only with our hands but we can listen with our whole body. The human brain has the capacity to amaze us each time with what it can accomplish and with all the body parts involved for cognitive abilities to develop.

Susanne Poulette came up with a concept called whole body listening. It consists of breaking the abstract concept of listening by explaining how each body part other than the ears is involved. She explains that the parts involved go as follows; the brain thinking about what is being said; the eyes looking at or toward the speaker; the mouth closed and quiet; the body facing toward the speaker; and the hands and feet quiet and kept to oneself.

Truesdale, later stressed that the most critical part of whole body listening takes place in the brain but we couldn’t forget about the heart which is a way of caring and feeling empathy with those we listen to.

“When we are asking someone to think about what we are saying, we are, in essence, asking for the listener’s brain to be connected and tuned-in.”

Truesdale establishes that whole body listening is a tool, meaning that adults need to think flexibly about how best to use it and there is no one way to teach it.  Gradually, other professionals have come to terms that we listen with our whole body and this helps listening become a less abstract concept and more a concrete concept, easier to understand, teach and practice.

Teaching children

We listen with our whole body, however, teaching children to understand this concept might be abstract. Many parents, teachers, and other professionals have used tips from these professionals to break down the abstract concept of listening into more manageable, concrete actions.

Parents and teachers tend to claim that children have a hard time listening to instructions, stories, etc. When explained into more depth how we listen with our body and what is expected of each body part. Many children claimed that they found listening much easier. Step by step brain training and body training to listen intently and retain the information.

Parts of the body we listen with:

  •        eyes to look at the person talking
  •        ears to hear what is being said
  •        mouth by remaining quiet
  •        hands by keeping them by their side or in lap
  •        feet by placing them on the floor and keeping them still
  •        body by facing the speaker or sitting in chair
  •        brain to think about what the speaker is saying
  •        heart to care about what the speaker talks about

To listen we need to…

Ears: Limit auditory distractions.

Eyes: Look toward the speaker, maybe not directly but checking in for facial expressions to “read” emotions and others’ intentions. Limit distractions and visual clutter. People can hear what is being said even if they are not looking directly at the speaker. Therefore, try to modulate direct eye-contact.

Mouth: Try not to interrupt. Chewing gum can help regulate impulse control.

Hands:  Use a fidget or doodle. Squeeze hands together. Sit on hands or put them in pockets. This helps to concentrate on what the other person is saying.

Feet: Cross or sit on feet to help keep them still. Some people need to move their body to stay regulated, enhance attention, and feel comfortable.

Heart: It’s important to understand why we listen to others. We listen to create rapport, share and experience, and always consider the other person’s feelings.

Brain: We should know how the brain works and how our cognitive abilities and cognitive skills help us to listen with our whole body. Mindfulness can a good asset in being aware of the present moment. This can help to know when to pause and reflect before acting, and knowing how and when to listen with our whole body.

 

Learn To Be More Perceptive: How To Improve Your Intuition

Intuition is the ability that we have that allows us to make one decision, rather than another. It is also what allows us to be creative and adapt to changing situations in our lives. Many people believe that intuition is stronger in women, but both men and women can be intuitive and can work to improve it. These are some tips for developing and improving your intuition.

How to improve your intuition

Tips for how to improve your intuition

When we talk about intuition, many people believe that it is an innate ability, something that you either have or not. There are people that have a type of “sixth sense” for seeing things before they happen, or know what someone is like before getting to know them. While this may seem mysterious and even supernatural, it’s not. Intuition is the mental ability that everyone has, and just like we are able to train our memory and concentration, we can train our intuition. These are some tips for developing intuition.

-Train your senses: They are in charge of collecting information from our surroundings and transmitting it to our brains. Everyone reacts differently to the information that we receive from our senses. Some are especially sensitive to colors, while others are sensitive to smells. Some are also kinesthetic people, who primarily use touch to perceive the world around them.

-Ask yourself questions: Sometimes we get comfortable and we stop questioning our surroundings, which is something that hinders our intuition. Forget trying to fit in with everyone else and make everyone like you, you don’t have to act like everyone else. Stop being so stiff and open your mind. Allow yourself to be more receptive. You’ll keep your brain alert and it’ll be easier for you to adapt to new situations, something that is very important for intuition.

Listen to your inner voice: Sometimes our brain tells us something, like not to trust a certain person or to walk a different way. We may not understand why, but something in our intuition is telling us what to do. Our brain saves all of our previous experiences and helps us make decisions based off of them, even though we’re not conscious of it.

You have to learn to listen to this inner voice, which also implies getting to know yourself. This will improve your intuition and help you understand yourself, two things that will help you feel better about yourself.

5 Must-Have Features for Your Brain Training Program

5 Must-Have Features for Your Brain Training Program

New Year’s Day is a sacred self-proclaimed starting date for healthier habits. And this year, you have decided your brain health matters. Brain health drives our ability to concentrate, problem-solve, and be creative. It is an important, but often overlooked, component of success. The brain fitness industry is a fast growing business, and new brain training programs appear every day, either online or on smartphones. They claim to improve your brain health, but how many of them really work?

Here are 5 features you should consider before purchasing your next brain training program:

1. Scientifically validated – Although there are many brain training programs available, very few actually have research to back up their claims. Most brain games companies claim that their games are “based on science”, which is a very elusive and misleading marketing term. You should always check that the app has a solid scientific validation and has been validated in peer-reviewed scientific research.

2. Capture your unique cognitive profile – Research shows that to provide you with an effective brain fitness program, the brain training regimen needs to be personalized to match your unique cognitive needs. Unlike physical activity, you cannot discern on your own what you want to improve. Consequently, your brain fitness program must start with a baseline assessment of your unique cognitive profile before your training even begins. Training without a prior assessment is ineffective.

3. Personalize your training regimen – Using your assessment and your ongoing performance, the program should be designed to build the optimal brain training regimen that matches your unique cognitive needs. Some programs lacking assessments claim they are “personalized”, but this generally refers to the fact that your training sessions will include your most highly rated games. Such “personalization” is not effective because people tend to highly rate games that are easy for them, so they naturally avoid the most challenging brain games.

4. Adapt the regimen to your goals – Some programs will allow you to choose your level of difficulty level as you go. However, you will have much better results if you use a brain-training program that comes with an independent and objective assessment of your performance level which indicates that you are ready for more challenging tasks.

5. Provide a comprehensive workout – Since you need your brain training program to tell you what skills need to be improved, make sure the brain fitness program includes a wide range of cognitive skills that you use daily such as memory, attention, perception, and coordination.

How sharp is your team?

How sharp is your team?

Most of us spend an important part of our time at work. A good and pleasant working environment is an essential element towards happiness and vibrant mental health. We need to feel respected, productive and ideally work on something that matters to us.

In the last decades, a lot of research has been focused on how to improve work conditions, finding the right balance between work and leisure and to make the workplace a more productive environment.

We know today that money is often not the first motivator for people to work and be productive. Working conditions, training on the job and culture are all important elements that help people be more productive.

Still, one aspect of productivity which is often disregarded is cognition and the level of an individual’s cognitive skills. Cognitive abilities such as memory, focus and concentration are key components to one’s productivity.

Cognitive abilities are not fixed and naturally change over time (they usually decline as we age). Based on the latest research on brain plasticity, we understand today how to assess those cognitive skills and how to train them. Keeping our brain sharp is increasingly important as we evolve and face new challenges and opportunities in our workplace and daily life.

It is also useful to be able to assess the cognitive level of a large number of people within an organization and provide them with the right training. We are unique and each of us shows a different set of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. It is therefore important to use a program that can individually assess you and give you a personalized training based on your needs which may be different from those of your colleagues.

The new CogniFit Professional platform offers an intuitive tool designed to that end. It allows organizations to assess, track and train their employees and help them improve their cognitive skills thanks to specific brain training programs. Each individual can easily access the cognitive assessments and training regimens online.

Improving your cognitive skills and the ones of your colleagues will benefit the entire organization as everybody could become more productive. It will be easier for employees to remember what needs to be done, to focus for longer periods of time or to be able to shift from one task to another. CogniFit trains a large number of cognitive skills to ensure that this brain training is complete and useful.

Independent workers can also access the benefits of brain training by accessing the CogniFit brain training platform for individuals.

So why not start now? Let your co-workers start their personalized assessment, help them train those important cognitive skills with the new CogniFit Professional online platform today and see how sharp your team can be!

Young men have a strong cognitive advantage over young women

A new study by CogniFit finds that young men have a strong cognitive advantage over young women. New finding also shows that as men and women grow older, men lose their cognitive advantage faster.

Using its extensive and validated cognitive database, CogniFit found that young males aged 20 years of age or under have significantly better results in a large number of cognitive skills over females. This male advantage is observed at least until age 40 in cognitive abilities such as working memory, divided attention, eye-hand coordination, planning and response time. Males and females perform equally well on cognitive skills such as auditory memory, naming, processing speed and recognition.

The new study also reveals that over the lifespan both men and women exhibit similar patterns of cognitive decline. Young men however, start with a significant cognitive advantage over women on most cognitive functions and this advantage remains for several decades. The study shows that, eventually, men lose this advantage and their performance, when older, equals that of women. Only two abilities, divided attention and shifting still show an advantage for men by the time they reach 60 years old. For most other abilities the gap is closing or has closed. Closure starts after 40 years old.

The study is the first to mention an advantage for young males across so many variables. The fact that, as men and women grow older, men lose their cognitive advantage over women is also a new finding. This closing of the gap around the fifth or sixth decades seems to indicate a steeper, more precipitated decline for men. We know that mortality occurs earlier for men and this could be related to cardiovascular disease, which is more frequent in males. Cardiovascular sickness is known to impair cognition and men could be losing their cognitive edge, perhaps due to higher rates of cardiovascular difficulties. This is also interesting as decreasing cognitive status could predict cardiovascular risk as early as age 40.

Dr. Evelyn Shatil Head of Cognitive Science at CogniFit, explains: “The present findings make a case for brain training for the prevention of the steeper cognitive decline observed in men, and for bridging the cognitive difference observed in women, a gap which could explain the documented differences between men and women in mathematical ability.”

The study was conducted on 29,835 men and women who were divided into 4 age-groups that spanned ages from 17 to 90 and above. The cognitive decline was documented for each age-group for both men and women, together and separately, on a large and varied array of cognitive abilities. The study is comprehensive enough to also conclude with reasonable certainty that no cognitive ability is immune from cognitive decline. There was a main effect of Gender for 13 among the 19 cognitive abilities measured.

Real-time data on the CogniFit evaluation are collected online each time a user takes the evaluation. For this study, data obtained from users’ first-time administration of the CogniFit evaluation were processed and reduced, using Expert-Judge variable allocation to abilities as well as Factor Analysis Procedures, to yield 19 different cognitive ability scores. Scores on the 19 abilities were then standardized based on norms previously calculated using a well-defined general normative sample.

CogniFit Brain Planning application

CogniFit Brain Planning application.

The CogniFit team is very happy to announce the release of a new application, Brain Planning.

The Brain Planning application includes three new brain games, “Perfect Tension”, “Slice and Drop” and “Fresh Squeeze”.

Planning or the ability to “think ahead” requires strong cognitive skills, creativity and cognitive energy. The new Brain Planning tasks have been specifically developed to train those important abilities.

Enjoy it!

Don’t Forget To Train Your Brain This Summer!

It’s time for the holidays! If you have the chance to leave during this summer, you know how important is for your body and mind to rest and take some time off from the daily stress. It is important for our mental health and our overall vitality to “shut down” and disconnect.

On the other hand, you also want to avoid keeping your brain inactive for too long. The brain is like a muscle that needs to stay stimulated by doing new activities. During the holidays, it is always a good idea to try new activities and learn and discover new things to challenge your brain.

Activities which are unfamiliar are always great and they will force your brain and cognitive skills to adapt to a new situation. Also make sure to keep training your brain regularly with CogniFit brain fitness exercises to continue training your cognitive abilities!