15 Ways to Improve Critical Thinking Skills — Part I

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, herbalist, nutritionist, therapist, or fortune teller. I cannot predict with 100% certainty that you will benefit from the 15 activities described in this post. However, I can say with certainty the following activities were extremely helpful in improving my critical thinking skills. The strategy that worked for me involved free and low-cost activities. I spent no longer than 90 minutes at a time completing any of the listed activities – regardless of whether or not I could continue beyond 90 minutes.

The strategy presented herein may, or may not, work if you are: younger than 20 or older than 150; pregnant, may become pregnant, or currently nursing; consuming any type of alcohol; using herbs, supplements, over-the-counter medicine, prescription drugs, or legal/illegal substances that decrease your ability to think; experiencing any diagnosed or undiagnosed condition for which the activities may be harmful; or living in an environment where the activities may cause additional problems. Failure to adhere to the caution listed above, or failure to use common sense, may result in adverse situations such as allergic reactions, infections, fractures, splinters, or paper cuts. Call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room right away if you experience any serious symptom including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, no blood pressure, fainting, vomiting, difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat, swelling of your tongue, protruding eyeballs, rash, itching, or hives.

I have no recollection of intentionally using the following tools earlier than 14 months immediately after my surgeries, chemo, and radiation; I was too dizzy, tired, nauseous, and irritable. I believe I started contemplating, creating, revising, refining, and following the 15 Ways to Improve Critical Thinking Skills only after I was well enough to realize I needed a viable recovery plan.

Introduction

According to wiseGEEK, critical thinking is “the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. Thinking critically involves seeing things in an open-minded way and examining an idea or concept from as many angles as possible. This important skill allows people to look past their own views of the world and to better understand the opinions of others.”

My Strategy to Improving Critical Thinking Skills

Water Infographic

1. Drink Water throughout the day – There are many theories about the quantity of water your brain and body require each day. If you search the internet, you will find many water-intake calculators. Some calculators request only your weight, while other calculators ask for your weight and additional details such as your lifestyle and environment. Find a free calculator that asks the questions you believe are pertinent, but consult with your physician before you change your water intake. Keep a log (beverage, quantity, and time of day) for everything you drink. You may be drinking significantly less water than a calculator or your physician recommends; I was.

2. Eat nutritious foods (avoid sodas, chips, pastries, candy, caffeine, and fried food) – There are more theories about proper diet and nutrition than there are about water intake. You will have no problem finding a theory on the internet that works for you. Research, then implement a plan that supports your lifestyle, but consult with your physician before you change your diet. Keep a log of everything you eat. What you see in the log may surprise you. Your current food intake may not be appropriate for your lifestyle and may not support your ability to think clearly.

I did not meet with a nutritionist or purchase pre-made meals, but I wish I had done both. I spent an excessive amount of time looking for answers on the internet. Read and understand the nutrition labels on everything you eat.

3. Take one or two 30-minute naps during the day or early afternoon – During the first few years following my brain injury, I was not able to take naps because I slept approximately 20 hours per day. Now, 10 years post injury, when I am awake more than asleep, I recognize that a short nap in the middle of the day increases my ability to listen, comprehend, process, think, remember, estimate, react, and move. I started with two-hour naps but slowly reduced the length of naps over a period of two years. I always set an alarm, but I usually wake up a few minutes before the alarm rings.

4. Sleep well (7 to 9 hours) – Like a good nap, I recognize that proper sleep increases my ability to listen, comprehend, process, think, remember, estimate, react, and move. However, I rarely sleep as much as I should. I frequently stay awake later than I should because I am researching a post, writing a post, or thinking about a post. I have no trouble falling asleep when I decide to, and I have no trouble falling back asleep if I wake up in the middle of the night, but sleeping as much as recommended is certainly a challenge for me.

5. Exercise (gradually improve duration, resistance, and weight) – I started with just one exercise per day. Initially exercise consisted of getting off the floor, a single push up, a walk up and down the driveway, standing, or sitting. Even my initial exercise routine improved my ability to nap and sleep because exercise made me mentally and physically exhausted. I am now exercising at least 90 minutes, three times per week. Consult with your physician before you change your level or type of activity. Remember to drink water before, during, and after exercise. You might consider a physical therapist or personal trainer and an accountability buddy to make sure you are exercising correctly and regularly.

Click here to read the next post in the “15 Ways to Improve Critical Thinking Skills” series.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for the good reminders, Scott.
    Do you know anything about alkaline water? Two people are trying to get me interested in two different machines.
    Nancy

    1. Nancy,

      When I began my journey of recovery, I was living with two doctors. I remember asking them the very same question you are asking me. Although I don’t remember their comments, I will share mine. I never tried it. My personal belief is there is no science to support claims alkaline water or ionized water has any restorative power. Any contradiction to my theory was probably financed (indirectly of course) by the companies that produce, bottle, market, or distribute such water. I believe the special water is little more than a hoax or scam designed to separate you from your money. Now, with that said, I accept the possibility I am wrong.

      If any nutritionists, or consumers of special water, are reading this post. please share your comments about alkaline or ionized water so Nancy and others can benefit from your expertise.

      1. I am a Registered Dietetic Technician. I do not recommend the use of alkaline water, mainly because there are no studies that prove it is beneficial to your body. The best beverage to consume is plain old water. If you find the taste of plain water boring, I recommend adding some fresh fruit or vegetables to it, such as cucumbers, strawberries, or lemons, for some added taste. If you eat a healthy and well-rounded diet, most people will get all the vitamins and minerals they need.

        Here is some information on the Mayo Clinic’s web site about alkaline water: http://www.mayoclinic.org/alkaline-water/expert-answers/faq-20058029

      2. Corinne, thank you for taking your time to share what you know and providing a resource for readers who want to learn more about alkaline water.

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