Do you ever experience a lack of focus, get distracted easily, and wonder the best way to improve your cognitive skills? This has become a common topic in the busy landscape of working from home, raising children, and doing most if not all of it under one roof! It’s easy to drift away from what is in front of you to some faraway island sun tanning on a beach. It might be obvious that a lot of this has to do with your brain health.
Your brain needs support just like all your other working organs. It is hard-wired for social connection, improves when you exercise, and benefits when you eat a certain food. When one of the three is missing or overdone, your focus begins to wane. This is a symptom that can be quickly remedied with your lifestyle.
4 Ways to Boost Your Brain Health:
Spending time with friends, family, and your network is critical to keeping your spirits high and is one of your basic psychological needs for brain health. Social connection can lower anxiety, depression, help process your emotions, improve empathy, and boost your immune system. My suggestion is to grab a few of your closest friends to do something virtually together. Book Clubs, trivia, and sharing a meal are fun to do. Need a virtual break? Host a socially distanced gathering at an outside park.
Exercise is a no-brainer as it sharpens your focus fairly quickly. However, getting started is typically where the challenge exists. A trick that always works to motivate your workout into reality is to tell yourself you can always modify, move slower, lay down, and take breaks. I’ve used this psychological trick numerous times before going to a yoga class by saying “I can always lay down if I don’t feel like completing the class”. It works every single time, and I always finish the class without laying down. Remember the point is to move without perfection getting in the way! Once your feel-good hormones (endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine) release your outlook brightens. It’s an instant mood and cardiovascular boost.
There is a link between spiritual practice and keeping your cognitive skills sharp. One way to start is to create a meditation practice. Meditation helps you focus, and as a result, reduces fragmentation. Another benefit is it helps you to worry less, and empathize more. The brain is wired to attract what you are consciously and subconsciously thinking. So if you are full of worry & doubt, you attract more of what you don’t want! There are several apps available to support your meditation practice, and inspire you along the way.
- Water: I always start with water consumption as most of us are dehydrated. Your brain is about 75% water, and when the reserves are high your focus & creativity levels will soar! Drinking ½ of your body weight in ounces is a good rule of thumb. If you sweat a lot during your workouts, be sure to add electrolytes & up your water intake.
- Blueberries: Truly a rockstar fruit in my opinion. They’ve been proven to increase neurological function among individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Probably because they are an antioxidant superfood, and are nutrient-rich. Grab a carton of organic blueberries you’re at the store, and enjoy them as a snack, or toss them frozen in your smoothie.
- Walnuts: Not only do they look “sorta” like the brain, but they increase processing information time and cognitive flexibility. Rich in antioxidants, and a plant-based source to get your Omega-3’s.
- Green tea: Drinking green tea over ice is a wonderful way to enjoy your break. It’s been shown to improve blood flow, and lower cholesterol. It is high in antioxidants, helps fight inflammation, and as a result, shows a direct connection to cognitive decline.
Remember friends, when trying something new the goal is to find what works best for you. There isn’t one plan or system that works for everyone. Experiment by picking one thing in each area, and put them into practice over the next 2 weeks. Over time, you will find the equation that best supports optimizing your brain’s health.