Recently we’ve been having a lot of those “I just can’t” days: I just can’t understand why I’m so tired. I just can’t remember where I filed that e-mail I now urgently need. I just can’t figure out why despite having a second espresso at 3:00 p.m. I’m in still in a complete and utter haze. So we started doing what we do best, scouring the Internet to figure out if there was anything we could do to improve this brain daze. Our discovery? There are actually a few easy lifestyle shifts that have been shown to strengthen neurons for a healthier, more active and more alert mind. In other words? File these five ideas under your most productive year ever.
— By Dylan Essertier
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Cook for Cognition
Your brain needs food — good food. Just Google ‘healthy brain’ and you’ll find thousands of articles written about how a shift in diet can have a radical impact on overall cognitive health. In short, this is because some foods are actually neuro-protective, which is a fancy way of saying that they literally shield the brain from nerve injury and degeneration. So skip Seamless tonight and try cooking up something from any of these brain-healthy cookbooks, all of which feature recipes with nutrient-dense ingredients to help your brain function better.
Train Your Brain
The only way to get your ass in shape is to drag it to the gym and get it moving, and the same pretty much goes for your brain, too. And while the brain technically isn’t a muscle, you still need to treat it like one because it’s the only way to keep it sharp. So what does a mental workout look like? Crossword puzzles and brain teasers are good, but we love Lumosity https://www.lumosity.com/en/ , a free brain training program that you can tailor to your specific goals — everything from memory and attention to problem solving and processing speed will help make sure your brain is constantly working at max effort. Plus, the games are fun, so maybe your newly trained brain won’t even notice it’s actually working.
Ready, Set, Sleep
Get a good night’s sleep, easier said than done, right? We know we know, but we can’t emphasize enough how important sleep is for your overall brain health. How can you ask your brain to perform its best when it hasn’t had the rest it needs? If seven to eight hours feels impossible don’t worry we have a trick: consider trying a nap-a-latté, which consists of going down for a 20-minute nap immediately after you down a strong cup of coffee. In short, this is effective because sleep experts have found that even short naps are still able to increase overall brain alertness, boost creativity and improve memory. The added kick of caffeine will help fight any post-nap grogginess. You heard it here first: Starbucks and snooze is the new Netflix and chill.
There’s really no other way to put it — you must exercise. We don’t care what you do, whether it’s running, spinning, pilates-ing, bootcamping — whatever. But we will say that recently we’ve been experimenting with dancing, which many experts (including the ones in this Why is Dancing So Good for Your Brain article) says demands a unique blend of cerebral and cognitive thought processes that has been proven to lead to sharpened memory functions. The chance to show off your moves and actually remember where we left our keys? Yes, please.
Raise your hand if meditation feels crazy difficult to nail. We get it. Us too. But if there’s anything capable of convincing us to find our inner namaste it’s the fact that meditation has been shown to have some serious brain benefits, including increasing concentration and attention span. Not only that, but just a few weeks of meditation has also been proven to decrease brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling fear and stress . So do yourself a favor and go ahead and feel free to give your brain some much-needed TLM (tender loving meditation).