Achieving success, whether financially, in your career, relationships or any other area in your life, is usually a goal at the top of most people’s list. Being successful does not always come easily and requires a lot of effort and dedication. Making the time to devote all your energy and attention on specific tasks you are working on, can be both stressful and elusive.
Maintaining the right attitude, having a healthy body and mind goes a long way to achieving these goals. You don’t have to be a genius to reap success, focusing your brain correctly can help you attain a superior level of progress. Below is a list of brain empowering assignments to help strengthen your mind and boost your performance.
1. Eat Brain-healthy Food – The brain requires fuel to function and be alert. Healthy fats are among food items that supply the brain with energy. This includes Omega 3, salmon, almond butter, avocados and healthy oils such as coconut and olive oils. Although the trend today is low fat diets in order to lose weight, reducing your healthy fats can also slow down the functioning of your brain.
2. Focus on the “here and now” – Life is hectic and allows for very little down time. We barely finish one task before moving onto the next thing. It is important to take time to focus on the project you are tackling at one specific time. Don’t let your mind wander and think about other things you should be tackling. Multitasking often leads to incomplete tasks performed in a shabby manner. It also lends itself to rushing through life without taking time to notice and enjoy events and building up memories of your life. Focus on the here and now. Put all your effort into completing one task and getting satisfaction from that before moving onto the next item. It will help focus your mind and imprint memories on your life.
3. Reset Your Inner Clock – Often we work late into the night, albeit at an unproductive rate, and then have trouble starting the day at an appropriate time. Try and reset your inner clock to make an earlier start in the morning when you are the most productive and can make the most of the morning freshness and beauty. As the day moves on, we tire easily and our productivity falls. It is better to train yourself to wake up earlier and retire earlier to help focus your mind and be alert during your working hours.
4. Practice some form of Meditation – Participating in a Yoga class can do wonders for your body and at the same time help relax and focus your mind. It gives you a sense of awareness and can improve your concentration, clarity and productivity. The same applies to meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress and improve your memory. The advantage of meditation is you do not need to attend a class in order to do it, you just have to learn the techniques and make the time and effort to practice.
5. Take on a Positive Attitude – In our hectic lives, there is so much that can pull us down and cause depression. It is important to maintain a positive attitude, always. Surround yourself with people who are upbeat and positive and can influence you in this way. Shake off the negativity and try and see things from the perspective of the ‘cup being half full as opposed to half empty’. Having a positive attitude can give you the power to accomplish so much more in life and give you the necessary inspiration and push to achieve great things.
6. Take on a New Hobby or Career – A bored brain is an unchallenged brain. Keep yourself young, motivated and challenged by trying a new hobby or career. Doing crossword puzzles and sudoku can keep you busy for hours, but is not as mentally challenging as learning something totally new and interesting to you. Prevent early aging by keeping yourself stimulated and alert. Push yourself to try new things, whether it be on the educational side or physical side – don’t doubt your ability to boost your brain and learn new skills.
7. The Power of Music – Music is a powerful tool to help improve your mood by increasing the production of dopamine in the brain – the feel good chemical. It also has been shown to improve productivity in the workplace. Classical music can be very calming and help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your sleep patterns and give you an overall feel-good composure.
8. Write down your Thoughts – Stress and anxiety can wreak havoc in your life, leading to sleepless nights and hours of wasted time expended on worrying thoughts. Staying awake at night mulling over various issues in your head can cause you to become more tired and over-anxious, without providing any solutions in sight. Jot down your thoughts on paper. Look at the problems and then try and figure out reasonable solutions. By writing your thoughts out, it can relieve your mind of having to dwell on the issues and give you some respite before sorting out the problems. Sometimes, getting adequate sleep and then seeing a problem in writing can bring on the solution and reduce your stress levels considerably.
9. Practice Makes Perfect – Learning a new skill or career may not be easy, but with plenty of practice you can learn to master your new skill or make your new talent shine. Don’t give up. Put your mind to the task and know, that with plenty of repetition and practice, you can become proficient in what you have taken on.
10. Learn to Speed Read – The internet, books and magazines abound, there is so much information to read and learn from, but there seems to be so little time. Learning to speed read is a useful skill in order to cover as much material as possible in a limited time. This can enhance your productivity and help you gather information and gain as much knowledge as possible, quickly.
The saying “you are what you eat” not only relates to the effect food has on your outer physique, but also on the inner functioning of various organs. Scientists are discovering that certain foods have a large impact on brain health and play a role in helping to stave off certain diseases such as dementia. There is no magical potion or cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, however exercise, diet and genetics are factors that influence brain health.
When the body is stressed, it releases inflammatory cytokines that prompt the immune system to step in and fight stress through inflammation. Low grade inflammation is not a health threat – rather it is needed to fight infection and help heal the body when you cut yourself or have an open wound. Chronic information is a whole different story. It is linked to major diseases including autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and more.
Our gut helps keep the immune system and inflammation under control. Furthermore, gut hormones that enter the brain influence cognitive ability like helping us know when we feel full, staying focused on a specific task and processing new information. Foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and good fats, provide energy and sustenance and help protect the brain against diseases. When we feed our bodies nutrient rich foods, we are benefiting our gut and our brains simultaneously.
Blueberries, which is known as one of the superfoods, is packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as vitamins C, K and fiber. Due to their high gallic acid, blueberries have an ability to protect the brain from oxidative stress and age related diseases. Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries have lead to greater learning capacity and motor skills in aging rats. Blueberries can be enjoyed on a daily basis, either fresh, frozen or freeze dried.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, as well as other fatty fish such as trout, sardines and mackerel. Omega 3 contains anti-inflammatory substances that are excellent for brain health. According to a 2014 study, mice that were given supplements of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, showed improved cognitive function while they aged. Two to three portions of fatty fish per week is recommended.
3. Cocoa Flavonols
Believe it or not, chocolate is not so bad for you after all. Dark, dairy-free chocolate that is minimally processed and has about 70% cocoa, is packed with flavonols that contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart. Cocoa flavonols contain several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration and stimulates the production of endorphines, which helps improve mood. This food however, is best eaten in moderation.
In one recent large-scale analysis, researchers found that a diet supplemented with walnuts — which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, folate, antioxidants, and melatonin — improved adults’ performances on a series of six cognitive tests. Walnuts have a high antioxidant level and vitamin E can help ward off Alzheimer’s. Enjoy nuts as a daily snack, but limit the quantity as they some are high in sodium and are rather fattening.
5. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce, have proven brain health benefits. According to the National Institute on Aging, eating a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help stave off cognitive decline as well as other chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, has been shown to be both brain and heart healthy, compared with the regular western diet.
6. Green Tea
Green tea is known to be good for a lot of things, including brain health. In a recent study completed at the University of Basel, researchers discovered that green tea extract enhances your thinking process and working memory. After receiving green tea extract, participants scored higher for working memory tasks and an MRI showed a boost in connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain. Professor Stefan Borgwardt, an author of the study, determined that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain. So go ahead and enjoy your tea.
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its rich, golden color. Although there are a lot of spices that are full of antioxidants, turmeric has the added benefits of having anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective compounds. It reduces brain inflammation and can help break up the brain plaques that are implicated in causing Alzheimer’s. Turmerone, another substance found in turmeric, stimulates the production of new neurons and encourages brain repair. It has been found that older adults in India have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world because turmeric is a staple in their diets.
8. Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil, that improved cognitive functioning and memory. The Mediterranean diet is a big proponent of these foods and has been touted together with the MIND diet (which is a slightly altered version), as one of the best diets for brain and heart health. Olive oil has antioxidants, vitamins K and E which are good for memory retention and prevent cognitive decline. Oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory agent unique to olive oil, helps clear the brain of the beta-amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s. Drizzle it on your salads and use it in your cooking, but make sure you use a superior quality oil.
These are some of the brain-healthy ingredients that will help nourish your brain. Remember, the wrong foods such as sugar and processed foods can leave you feeling tired, brain fogged, forgetful and depressed, whereas the right nutrient, rich foods help improve your memory, mood and cognitive functioning. You make the choice.
In our day and age, where the pressure is on all day to achieve and perform at our best, the need and desire to have our brain charged and functioning is of top priority. How often have we wondered where the day went to and how there is so much more to accomplish and complete than we are able to achieve?
This desire to optimize our cognitive functioning has led to a number of companies developing brain-training products that have promised to help. People usually look to these games to improve creativity, memory, focus, and speed. Whilst these games may make us feel smarter and seem like our brains are working faster, this might not necessarily be the case. Four alternative ways to improve cognitive functioning are mentioned below.
1. To Improve Your Creative Side, Tire Yourself Out
Being awake, sharp and alert for a presentation is very important. However, when it comes to accessing your creative side of the brain, it is better to be in a more relaxed, tired mode where you can let your mind wander. Research has shown that people are better at solving analytical problems at their optimal time of day, which is in the morning if you are a morning person and vice versa if you are more of a night owl. However, your creative side is more pronounced during your non-optimal time of day.
2. Learn Something New and Exciting to Improve your Memory
Researchers at the University of Texas undertook a study in 2014 that determined when people are preoccupied in learning something new, stimulating and demanding over a period of time, it improved their memory function. This included activities such as learning a musical instrument, starting a new business, or learning a new trade or hobby. Undertaking a new activity that is fascinating to you is far more beneficial for memory retention than repetitive memory tricks and games.
3. Help focus your brain with music
A recent study showed that listening to your favorite music can help you tune out to surrounding distractions and focus on the task at hand. Sitting in silence may not be the way to go, rather place a pair of headphones on and tune into the music and your work.
4. Speed up your mind with healthy snacks
Fluctuation in your insulin levels throughout the day can cause your brain to slow down and prevent you from performing at your optimum level. A study at Brown University showed that rats who were unable to efficiently process insulin, had a difficult time finding their way through a maze. How so much more important it is for us to eat healthy snacks throughout the day and not skip meals or binge.
These different ideas can help keep you “on your toes” and maximize your cognitive function.