Is it just me or do you find that on those days when you’re incredibly busy and just need to buckle down to get everything done you just... have absolutely nothing! You stare at your computer screen and suddenly forget all your words. Then the brain fog descends and even the easiest of tasks becomes a monumental undertaking that can take you hours to complete. Don’t ask me to sign my name when I’m in one of these moods - I’ll get it wrong!
Today when I sat down to write this I was ready to go with my notes by my side and then out of nowhere I was up to my eyeballs in the dreaded brain fog. At least an hour passed and I was still faced with a blank screen and a blinking cursor. How’s that for irony? Writing an article about brain power and mine was out of juice.
When you’re in one of these brain funks it can seem like that’s it for the day. You might as well crawl back into bed because your brain has called it quits.
Luckily for those of us who experience more fog than a Scooby Doo cartoon (that’s what we are watching these days in the house, after Adrian discovered it!) it's not the end of the road. There are lots of ways we can increase our brain power to become more focused, efficient and productive - and best of all they’re all little tweaks to your existing lifestyle that will be easier to maintain going forward.
But before we start thinking about how we can increase our brain power we first need to understand a bit more about how our brain works.
BRAIN CHEMISTRY FOR BEGINNERS
Look if I were to go into full details about exactly how your brain works we’d be here for days and this wouldn’t be an article, it would be a book. So I’ll try and summarize it the best I can.
To begin with, your brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons that all work together to keep you alive. Different types of neurons help to perform different functions with the help of neurotransmitters, also known as the chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine.
Through a complicated network of cells throughout the body and the electrochemical nature of neurons, your brain is able to control all of your body’s functions. So your brain is kind of like the steering wheel in your car and the neurotransmitters are the brake and accelerator that transmit the messages needed to get you moving.
Since you need these neurotransmitters to perform every function in your life, if you’re depriving yourself of them then your brain is not going to be able to function to the best of its ability. This can have a run on effect with the rest of your life.
For example, Dopamine is released in the brain when you feel pleasure (such as getting a hug from your kid, eating chocolate or while having sex, yeah!) to reward you for behaviors your brain chemicals see as good. Dopamine plays a critical role when it comes to your mood, your nervous system and your ability to sleep (among other important functions).
So if you’re stressed out and find yourself isolated from your family and eating poorly then you will experience stress, anxiety, poor moods and difficulty sleeping. This will in turn affect your brain’s ability to function and learn the next day.
Every part of our body is linked and plays a pivotal role in helping us perform to the best of our abilities. If we stop looking after ourselves in one tiny way then it can have a run on effect with the rest of our body until we’re stuck in a funk and unsure how the hell we’re going to get out.
WHAT IS NEUROPLASTICITY?
The good news is that our brains are not fixed. While it might seem harder to learn new skills, such as foreign languages or hobbies, after we’ve left school the fact is that we never really stop learning.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways to help us to grow, learn and increase your brainpower. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a concentrated effort on your part to reshape your nervous system, but our brains are flexible and our intelligence has the propensity to grow if we want it to.
You can utilise neuroplasticity to help increase your brainpower by implementing new routines that become habits and by making an effort to train your brain to think in new way, whether that means you’re taking a different route home every day or reading news articles that challenge your language and personally held beliefs.
If you’re serious about increasing your brain power and making the most of every day then these easy tips will help you to develop better habits and put your body and brain in its best position to improve.
7 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR BRAINPOWER
If you’re not great at taking supplements regularly then getting a broad range of nutrition from your diet is incredibly important. Apart from a diverse color palette of vegetables (you want to be eating the whole rainbow regularly!) you need to make sure you’re getting lots of iron from your leafy greens, antioxidants from fruit such as berries (or dark chocolate if you want something a little naughty), and omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish such as salmon or tuna. And when in doubt, give supplements another shot.
How much water do you drink in a day? Do you get a gallon in easily or do hours pass without any liquid passing your lips (and in this respect we’re not counting coffee!)? When you’re running around or have a day filled with meetings you can forget to drink water, but did you know that when you start to feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated. From that point you’re playing a game of catch up. Drinking lots of water is vital because dehydration can lead to feelings of exhaustion and make it difficult for our brain to function properly. If you struggle to get multiple glasses in during the day try turning regular minor annoyances - such as pages loading slowly on your computer - as a sign to take a sip. It’s like a drinking game that rehydrates you.
The eight hours of the night we spend resting are incredibly important because that’s when our body works hard at regenerating from the damage we inflicted on it during the day. It’s not surprising that when we’re not getting a good night’s sleep we tend to experience more foggy days. Aside from the physical side of it, sleep can help improve creativity by removing blinders and helping your brain to reset. It also helps cement your memories and “practice” certain skills or situations to help reduce anxiety.
While meditation is most closely associated with stress reduction, it can also help to improve your cognitive functions. When you’re feeling less stressed your brain is better able to function at a higher level and you’ll find your memory and strategic thinking improves. Meditation not only helps you to work through your emotional issues, it can also help you to create new processes of thinking and ways of approaching conflicts as they arise that reduce feelings of stress in the future.
Aside from all the general health benefits - not to mention the ability to still fit into your favorite clothes - regular exercise can help boost brain function. Even ten minutes of moderate exercise can help boost your mood and improve memory. During exercise your brain releases proteins known as neurotrophic factors that can trigger other chemicals that can promote neural health. The increased flow of blood to your brain can also help to boost your brain’s ability to function.
While taking supplements to fill in dietary gaps is always a great idea to ensure your body is functioning at its peak, it might be a good idea to consider Nootropics as well. Nootropics are drugs (in the same way that caffeine is a drug) that have been derived from naturally occurring ingredients and formulated in a way to help your brain and body function better. They can be taken on their own as a single function supplement or they can be stacked together to improve your brain’s function in multiple ways simultaneously.
The most important way to help boost your brain function is to constantly challenge it. When we fall into the same routines and stop actively thinking our brain stops growing - that’s when we find ourselves falling into that zombie state often associated with too much iPhone time. Our brain isn’t able to learn unless we give it something new to try. Whether you constantly read, learn a foreign language, do the daily crossword puzzle or even play board games, as long as you’re challenging your brain you’re helping to improve its function. You can’t expect to run a mile by sitting on the couch so make sure you’re giving your brain a workout as well!
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