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Brain-Boosting Tips: Evidence-Based Ways to Stay Mentally Sharp

octubre 22, 2021

Woman learning to play an acoustic guitar

Being mentally sharp offers significant benefits to health and well-being. Mental sharpness improves our mood, increases productivity and can even boost our ability to concentrate and retain information. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the mental clarity we want, and instead experience symptoms like brain fog or difficulty paying attention.

 

Having healthy ways to improve focus, memory and learning can help keep your mind sharp, even as you age. These brain-boosting tips will provide you with evidence-based ways to naturally improve your mental clarity.

Increase Your Exercise Levels

Physical activity is directly tied to our cognitive abilities. Research shows that exercise has positive effects on thinking, learning and memory skills. During physical exertion, the body undergoes physiological processes that encourage the production of growth factors. As proteins that contribute to the healthy development of neurons, growth factors are critically involved in the brain’s ability to adapt to new information and retain knowledge. 

 

Brain imaging shows that physical exercise has a particularly positive effect on the hippocampus, which is one part of the brain responsible for memory. The hippocampus is often one of the areas of the brain that degenerates with age-related cognitive decline. Preserving the hippocampus through exercise may help to maintain brain performance with age.

 

Exercise also contributes to improved brain function in indirect ways. Increasing your physical activity levels can improve sleep quality and mood, both of which are associated with improved attention, problem-solving and other brain processes.

Increase Your Amount of Sleep

Sleep is critical for cognitive function. During sleep, the brain goes through a consolidation process where it takes all the information from the day and converts it into long-term memory. Consolidation is a critical process involved in learning, and it’s how we retain information and gain knowledge. Research shows that not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of depression and impaired learning and memory.

 

In addition to memory consolidation and learning, other processes the brain undergoes during sleep involve the elimination of neurotoxins that accumulate during the day. One of the toxins the brain removes during the night is a protein that’s involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, a 2021 study found that people who got an average of only six hours of sleep per night in their 50s and 60s were more likely to develop dementia in later life.

 

Getting enough sleep protects against both short-term and long-term cognitive impairments.

Eat Brain-Boosting Foods

Food supplies us with the nutrients our bodies need to operate. Nutrients give us the energy required to power our physiological functions, as well as the minerals our cells need to build and repair themselves.

 

Certain nutrients are particularly essential to cognitive function, making some foods better brain-boosters than others. According to experts, the following brain-boosting nutrients can help with mental sharpness and cognitive well-being:

 

    • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, avocados or walnuts are one of the essential fats for brain health and reducing inflammation.

 

  • Antioxidants in berries are connected with a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline.

 

  • Vitamin Kin dark green vegetables, like broccoli, is associated with producing a type of essential fat that makes up brain cells.
  • Zinc, magnesium, copper and iron and other metal minerals found in meat, eggs, nuts and seeds are essential for the communication between brain cells.

 

Deficiencies in any of the above nutrients and minerals can contribute to brain fog, so eating a balanced diet can help improve mental sharpness.

Drink Plenty of Water

Did you know that water makes up about 75% of the human brain? Water is essential to all physiological functions, but only recently have scientists learned about the important role that water plays in maintaining brain function. Research shows that certain cognitive abilities and moods are affected by the amount of water we consume.

 

According to one study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, even a 2% loss in hydration can result in symptoms of memory loss, poor focus and attention, and slower thinking. It can also lead to headaches and irritability. Other research shows that when people are dehydrated, they’re more likely to make mistakes due to slower processing times and reduced ability to concentrate. 

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, men need 3.6 liters of water per day and women need 2.7 liters of water per day. Your unique hydration needs depend on your climate and your activity levels, both of which can increase the amount of fluids you lose through sweat.

Learn a New Skill

In addition to taking care of our physical health, there are also other things we can do to boost brainpower. Continuously learning new skills is one way to experience lifelong mental sharpness. Skill-learning involves repetitive practicing of an activity in order to develop mastery of it. This repetitive practice builds up connections in the brain and increases the rate at which brain cells communicate.

 

How much cognitive improvement you gain depends on the skill, with more complex skills leading to greater improvement in memory and other cognitive functions. For example, one study found that learning a second language in adulthood helped to reduce the rate of cognitive decline in later life.

 

Other skills you can practice to keep your mind sharp include:

 

  • Playing an instrument or writing music
  • Practicing yoga, tai chi or martial arts
  • Painting, ceramics or culinary arts

 

In addition to helping maintain cognitive function, learning new skills is also linked to improved self-esteem and emotional health.

Eliminate Distractions

Most of us are faced with countless distractions throughout the day. From text messages to social media notifications to emails, there is a constant battle for our attention. 

 

Research shows that our ability to pay attention while avoiding distractions has a significant impact on our memory and focus levels. If we make a habit of responding to distracting tasks over our actual priorities, then our ability to concentrate can erode over time. An inability to focus affects how well we absorb and retain information, meaning that distractions can directly impact our memory.

 

Thankfully, there are many tactics we can use to protect our focus and manage distractions in our lives. One of the most popular approaches is to work in distraction-free sessions of 20 to 90 minutes each. During a session, put away all devices or sources of distraction and focus solely on the task at hand. Once the session is over, take a short break to check emails, social media or texts.

Practice Mindfulness

The ancient practice of mindfulness has important modern applications. According to extensive research on the benefits of mindfulness, meditation and similar practices can actually change the way our brains are structured.

 

One groundbreaking Harvard study found that after eight weeks of daily mindfulness practice, participants had larger hippocampus volume for improved learning and memory, as well as reduced amygdala volume, resulting in decreased fear and stress levels. Additional studies have found that even one mindfulness session can reduce anxiety, which is beneficial to those who have trouble focusing due to stress.

 

To get started with meditation, try out one of the popular mindfulness apps, like CalmHeadspace or MindBreaks.

Improve Your Posture

People who work at a desk all day often have difficulty concentrating for extended periods. The link between working at a desk and limited focus may have to do with posture. Our posture is tied to our nervous system, with good posture making us feel more relaxed, confident and attentive. Conversely, poor posture can cause stress, impacting our mood and cognitive performance. 

 

Poor posture can affect our cognition in several ways:

 

  • Reduces circulation and oxygen to the brain
  • Causes muscle tension and pain that can be distracting
  • Increases rates of headaches and fatigue

 

To improve your posture at work, it’s important to have the right ergonomic set-up that will help you maintain proper spinal alignment. Having a desk and chair that are the right height and width for your body can help encourage an upright position and prevent slouching. With less slouching, you may find that you can improve your focus levels and productivity.

Improve Your Focus With Ergonomic Solutions From Relax The Back

Boost your brainpower and improve your concentration levels at work with ergonomic desk solutions from Relax The Back. Having an ergonomic work set-up that’s tailored to your unique body proportions can dramatically improve your posture and may reduce the risks associated with poor spinal alignment, including fatigue and lack of focus.

 

Shop for ergonomic office furniture online at Relax The Back. Revamp your home office set-up with solutions like adjustable standing desksergonomic office chairs and workstation accessories that improve comfort and encourage better posture. For help selecting the right ergonomic work solutions, connect with a product consultant in our RTB Virtual Store or visit a store location near you.

 

Sources:

 

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-can-boost-your-memory-and-thinking-skills 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/ 
  4. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep 
  5. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sleep-deprivation-increases-alzheimers-protein 
  6. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/lack-sleep-middle-age-may-increase-dementia-risk 
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower 
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/improve-brain-health-with-the-mind-diet/art-20454746 
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15340179/ 
  10. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects 
  11. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2012.10720011 
  12. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/07/30/632480321/off-your-mental-game-you-could-be-mildly-dehydrated 
  13. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256 
  14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/learning-new-skill-can-slow-cognitive-aging-201604279502 
  15. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ana.24158 
  16. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00841/full
  17. https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain 
  18. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423135048.htm 
  19. https://www.calm.com/ 
  20. https://www.headspace.com/ 
  21. https://delos.com/products/mindbreaks/ 
  22. https://medlineplus.gov/guidetogoodposture.html