It is possible to become 66% smarter by using simple mental simulation techniques.
Brain scans show that when people imagine a flashing light, they activate the visual area of the brain; and when they imagine someone tapping on their skin, they activate the tactile areas. A review of thirty-five studies featuring 3,214 participants showed that mental practice alone - sitting quietly, without moving, and picturing yourself performing a task successfully from start to finish- improves performance significantly. Overall, mental practice alone produced about two thirds of the benefits of actual physical practice.
Think about how much idle time you spend each day. Time spent acting is a fraction of the time we spend waiting for that moment. Instead of just watching TV, imagine what's going to happen next. Instead of merely sitting in the car on the highway, imagine who you are going to talk to that day and what you are going to say to them. The more visualization you do the smarter you get. Some of the best visualizers can predict what people are going to say, what happens at the end of a complicated movie, and yes, solve complex mathematical equations.
Mental simulation is a simple technique that you may already use. Mental simulation is the reason people use bathing or showering as a brainstorming technique. Bathing takes away distractions that keep us from visualizing the future. It's no wonder that Alan Greenspan spends two hours a day soaking in the tub.
Mental simulation improves skills, problem-solving, and emotional management.
Mental simulation can build skills. Mental simulation helped people weld better and throw darts better. Trombonists improved their playing, and competitive figure skaters improved their skating.
Mental simulation helps with problem solving. Even in mundane planning situations, mentally simulating an event helps us think of things that we might otherwise ave neglected. Imagining a trip to the grocery store reminds us that we could drop off the dry cleaning at the store in the same shopping center. Mental simulations help us anticipate appropriate responses to future situations. Picturing a potential argument with our boss, imagining what he will say, may lead us to have the right words available when the time comes (and avoid saying the wrong words). Research has suggested that mental rehearsal can prevent people from relapsing into bad habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, or overeating. A man trying to kick a drinking problem will be better off it he mentally rehearses how he will handle Super Bowl Sunday: How should he respond when someone gets up for beers?
Mental simulations help us manage emotions. There is a standard treatment for phobias of various kinds - spiders, public speaking, airplane travel, and others. Patients are introduced to a relaxation procedure that inhibits anxiety, and then asked to visualize exposure to the thing they fear. The first visualizations start at the beginning of the fear. For example, someone who's afraid of air travel might start by thinking about the drive to the airport. The therapist leads the patient through a series of visualizations that get closer and closer to the heart of the fear ("Now the airplanes' engines are revving up on the runway, sounding louder and louder..."). Each time the visualizations create anxiety, the person pauses for a moment and uses the relaxation technique to restore equilibrium.
Notice that these visualizations focus on the events themselves - the process, rather than the outcomes. No one has ever been cured of a phobia by imagining how happy they'll be when it's gone.