Five Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp and Grow Your Mind in 2021

Five Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp and Grow Your Mind in 2021

Five Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp and Grow Your Mind in 2021

By Ms Ashley Müller, Content and Editorial Lead at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy

In an era of information overload, how can we constructively sift through the seemingly endless amounts of content that is continuously pushed at us? Indeed, why even try to make sense of it all? Isn’t it easier to just scroll mindlessly through headlines to pick up what is trending, instead of trying to delve deeper into each piece to ascertain its deeper meaning – or, in the era of ‘fake news’, to ascertain whether it is fact or fiction?

In order to cut through the noise, here are five ways to keep your brain sharp and extract the information you will need to grow and prosper in 2021 from the massive amounts that are directed at you daily.


  1. Read, read, read … or listen, listen, listen!

Despite the overload of information that is available to you, this information will nonetheless provide the raw material that will allow you to learn more about any topic that interests you. Thus, 2021 may be the time for you to read more, not less. Read books, read newspapers, read archives, read reports, read analyses. For those who are not readers, there are plenty of things to listen to out there that can serve the same function, such as podcasts, audiobooks, and so forth. Prioritise the kinds of analyses that delve deeper into their subject matter and train your brain to think critically about each topic.


  1. Fact-check by utilising footnotes, hyperlinks and references

When you are reading through a piece that attempts to present viewpoints and ideas, valuable resources that will give you a more holistic understanding of where the author is coming from (both literally and figuratively) and what he/she is attempting to say will appear in the footnotes section. If there are no footnotes, then the author may use hyperlinks to help you understand what factors shape his/her ideas and provide background information. So, in 2021, click on those links! They may provide an alternative viewpoint or key information you need to make sense of the content you are reading.


  1. Follow experts that present diverse perspectives

This year, go through your social profiles and start following people who have different perspectives and backgrounds to your own. In our divided and polarised world, the worst thing you can do is lock yourself away and hide behind a protective wall of your own ideas. Given the amount of information that is available, it is important to set boundaries to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed, but, starting today, why not try to extend your horizons by looking at a newspaper that you normally wouldn't read? Many world leaders start their day by scanning all major newspapers – both in their respective countries and internationally – to get the gist of the political narratives of the day. Essentially, you can do the same.


  1. Engage in critical thinking by formulating your own conclusions

In 2021, make a conscious effort to start thinking for yourself. Take ownership of your positions and opinions, and critically examine any conclusions that you draw. When you are reading or listening to material that seems to be trying to make serious points of some kind, you can take a number of steps that will help you to engage critically with what is being said: take notes in the margin or on your Notes app; reflect on the issues being discussed and ask questions about the conclusions the author comes to; analyse and dissect his/her viewpoint in light of your own ideas; re-read the material and attempt to draw conclusions based on your own analysis.


  1. Discuss issues with friends, colleagues and peers

In a New York Times opinion piece, Bret Stephens, author of the book The Dying Art of Disagreement, said, “We have lost the art of disagreement”. How often have you been in conversation with a friend or colleague and dismissed what they say without hearing their side of the argument? While this may make you feel good  – “I certainly sorted him/her out”it doesn’t teach you very much. In 2021, engage in debate and don’t switch off when others disagree with you – you never know what you will learn or how your opinions may evolve by letting the discussion flow.

Ashley Müller is currently a Content and Editorial Lead at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), based in Geneva, Switzerland.