1: Quick & Easy – Good Old Fashion Exercise
Get up and move! Those of us who sit at a desk all day long are prone to lose focus and mental clarity (not to mention suffer from back problems). It’s important that we keep physically active to maintain healthy circulation to power our brains. The next time you hit a mental energy slump, try running in place to get your heart rate up and to increase oxygen and blood flow to your brain. You may even take a brisk, 10-minute walk around your building. Another great way to stimulate your brain is to keep a yoga mat handy wherever you go, so when brain fatigue strikes, you can stop, drop, and do some yoga poses, push-ups, or sit-ups.
A quick, 10-minute exercise can be more than enough to refresh your brain and has been shown to enhance focus, decision-making, and problem-solving. It can also boost your mood and energize you. Studies have shown that patients who maintained a healthy level of exercise scored better on tests than those who didn’t. (1) Moderate-intensity exercises, like cycling, jogging, or jumping jacks, showed longer-lasting results. (2) Another study showed that high impact running improves learning ability specifically. (3) The best improvement in cognitive performance and accuracy was seen after 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. (4)
2: Know What You Eat – Proper Nutrition
Eat your protein! Some high-protein sources are eggs, meat, beans, peas, and nuts. Studies show that your diet choices can greatly affect your mental function. This means that if you want a reliable brain all day, that convenient bowl of sugary cereal won’t cut it for breakfast. Make sure to get adequate protein in your meals, and maybe even keep some handy for snacking throughout the day. Protein is your go-to when you’re having trouble focusing or feeling distracted. High-protein foods is linked to alertness. (5)
Another perfect snack is a handful of fatty nuts, like walnuts, pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts. Eating nuts regularly can actually strengthen brain waves associated with cognition, learning, memory, and other brain functions. (6)
One important thing to avoid, especially when life calls for a high-functioning brain, is sugar. This means pastries, high-carbohydrate food like bread, pasta, or pizza, and even sugary drinks like soda pop or flavored coffee. According to a study by UCLA, sugar can sabotage learning and memory. (7)
3: It's All About That REM – Sleep
Forget staying up late, cramming for tests! Routine quality sleep is an absolute necessity when it comes to brain function. When we sleep, our brain works to process everything we’ve experienced throughout our day. Sleep plays a crucial role in memory and learning ability (8).
For the best results, you should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night. (9) If you have trouble sleeping, be sure to mention it to your doctor, and ask about some natural sleep remedies to try.
4: You're Not A Vampire – Spend Time in Nature
Sometimes, all you need to do is play in some dirt! It’s true. Naturally occurring soil bacteria can improve learning and decrease depression and anxiety. (10) How do you reap the benefits of these bacteria? By going outside and taking a deep breath. You’re bound to ingest some beneficial bacteria this way if not just good old brain-boosting oxygen.
Just seeing nature is enough to stimulate our minds. In one US study, people who walked around in a garden did 20% better on a memory test than those who walked around in the city. Even looking at photos of nature can improve mental function. In a study done at Hiroshima University in Japan, students who spent several minutes looking at cute pictures of animals performed about 44% better during mental testing than the students who didn’t! (11)
Great habits like the ones above are ideal for stimulating the brain. That being said, a few other quick tips to stimulate brain function are quitting brain-damaging habits, like smoking, drugs, or binge-drinking (13), having a meditation or mindfulness practice (14), solving challenging puzzles or problems (15), and avoiding stress (16). These changes may seem insignificant, but the science surrounding their benefits on mental health is vast.
Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone struggles with mental fatigue. That’s why we all have to eat well, exercise, sleep, spend time in nature, and do whatever else we can to keep our brains in tiptop condition. All we can do is try our best with what we’ve got. Believe in yourself and in your abilities, even when you’re overwhelmed, and you will most likely succeed. Science says so. (17)
If after reading these tips you're left thinking...
"Okay, this is great and all, but...
a) These are basic. I was already aware of these practices and am even doing some if not all of them...
b) It's not that I don't want to do these things - it's that I don't have the time to do them.."
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