I once gave an early morning lecture in my logic class after having taken some high-powered cold medicine the night before. Maybe the students didn’t notice, but my mind was definitely operating in the slow and fuzzy mode.
Sometimes I take my clear mind and good memory for granted. Careful thinking and an ability to remember things have always come easy for me. In fact, I pride myself on thinking, speaking, and writing in a clear, concise, and cogent manner. Yet as I have gotten older I am increasingly aware of the need to work at preserving and enhancing my God-given cognitive faculties.
Several years ago I suffered a near fatal bacterial infection that compromised my lungs and brain. By God’s grace I recovered fully, but that illness helped me appreciate anew the importance of my brain-mind relationship (Christians have historically affirmed that human beings are a union of body and soul).
It’s difficult to keep thinking sharp if the brain itself is not in good health. As students of logic, the healthy brain-mind relationship warrants our attention.
Five Ways to Preserve and Enhance Brain-Mind Power
With God’s help, I am attempting to incorporate the five points mentioned below into my life (leave it to a Calvinist to have “five points”). I have created a mnemonic device to help in making them memorable.
I = Intellect: Engaging in rigorous intellectual activity can enhance a person’s mental life significantly. Yet just any intellectual activity will not do. The brain-mind needs to be seriously challenged. This means things like reading demanding material or studying a foreign language or doing logic and/or mathematics coursework. The mind works best when it is worked often and rigorously.
D = Drugs: The human brain-mind is very sensitive to drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can indeed impair thinking. Therefore, alcohol should be used judiciously and medications taken according to a doctor’s prescription. Illegal drugs should, of course, be completely avoided.
E = Exercise: Regular physical activity contributes to a healthy heart and, thus, to a healthy brain. Exercise provides physical, mental, and psychological benefits.
A = Appetite: Likewise, a healthy diet also improves the welfare of the heart and the brain. This includes drinking lots of water. Good eating habits impact the entire person’s overall wellness.
S = Sleep: A regular amount of sleep (usually 7-8 hours a night) keeps the brain-mind clear and fully functioning. The body and the mind need quality rest.
Ideas change the world and, metaphorically speaking, these I-D-E-A-S can change one’s physical and intellectual life for the better.
If the areas mentioned are challenging for you, don’t get discouraged. They are difficult for me, too. I struggle with overeating and am inconsistent in my regimen of physical exercise. But with God’s grace, I’m working at it! Preserving and enhancing our God-given cognitive faculties are worthy of our best efforts.
See UCLA scholar Dr. Gary Small’s writings and website for more on thinking, memory, and the human brain.
For more about the importance of logic and critical thinking, see my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.