Contrary to the myth, we do use more than 10% of our brains every single day. In fact, scientists say we use all of it. But why is it so hard to stay focused and productive if we are using all of our brain capacity? It comes down to how we use that brain power. Just as your legs can be used to walk or to sprint, your mind can be switched to autopilot, or can be engaged in mental athleticism.
If you have been battling to engage your brain, there are some simple tips to help you improve your brain power, engage your mind, and excel at life and at work. Improving your brain power will help you to problem solve more efficiently, generate new ideas, and process data more quickly. Supporting your brain health will help you achieve goals now, but it will also help your brain to stay healthy long-term, decreasing the chances of early-onset conditions like dementia.
What can you do to improve brain power?
We’ve rounded up the top suggestions from leading psychologists and neurologists for improving brain power. All of these tips can be implemented easily into your life to help you maximise your brain functionality. Our top tips are:
– Eat brain foods
– Get some sun
– Sleep well
– Learn something new
– Listen to music
– Learn how to rest
It’s easy to think of exercise as something for the body and not the brain, but as you exercise you increase blood flow to the brain, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients – the things your brain needs to work optimally. Some studies found that those who exercised for more than 30 minutes, three times a week had better memory and cognitive function after 12 weeks than those who hadn’t done any exercise.
Cardio is particularly good for brain building, so incorporating running, cycling, swimming, active sports, or dance into your weekly routine can improve your muscle health as well as your mental health.
Eat brain foods
We all know that food plays an important role in how we function. This is no different for our brains. Antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamin E are all essential to a healthy functioning brain. Instead of grabbing an unhealthy snack from the vending machine, stick to nuts, berries, wholegrains, fish, and avocados.
And treat yourself to a glass of red wine too – moderate consumption has been linked with healthy cognitive function.
Get some sun
The easiest and healthiest way for your body to absorb vitamin D is through sun exposure. Vitamin D helps to regulate your mood and strengthens bones, teeth, and muscles. But vitamin D also slows down natural brain deterioration that comes with age. By ensuring you are getting enough vitamin D, you are helping your brain to perform better and age slower.
Have one bad night’s sleep and you will know that sleep is vital to brain functioning. It may be tempting to stay up late to work on reports or meet deadlines, but the quality of your work in the long run will suffer. Sleep is your brain’s chance to consolidate information and build memory. Without enough sleep, your frontal lobe (the part of your brain responsible for memory and executive functioning) starts to shrink. Ideally, adults should be getting between 6-8 hours of sleep every night and waking up early. Early rising has been linked with success and productivity.
Learn something new
Your brain is like a muscle. If you do the same thing with it constantly then it will start to only be able to do that one thing. But if you challenge it, and change the movement, and try something new, you are building up strength and flexibility. Learning something new doesn’t have to be academic either. If you get to the end of the day and are desperate to not think about work, try learning a new skill like a musical instrument, a craft, or a tactical game. Online games can be a great way to think tactically and compete while not feeling like you’re doing work.
Listen to Music
Music is a unique brain stimulant because it activates multiple parts of the brain unlike most other things. Working with music on, enjoying music, or playing music can all help to stimulate your brain and enhance general cognitive functioning. Music memory is the last thing to go when people suffer from conditions such as dementia, so by linking music to other activities, you are also embedding certain brain functions more deeply into your subconscious.
Reading is good for so many things. People read to relax or to learn, to motivate themselves, or to escape from the realities of life. But reading has another benefit: brain building. The process of reading requires your brain to process large amounts of information in a unique way. It helps to stimulate different parts of your brain as you process, visualise, empathise, learn, and remember plot lines and characters. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re interested in, just the act of reading can help boost your brain power.
Learn how to rest
Just like every other part of your body, your brain needs a chance to rest. Although some stress is necessary for healthy brain function because it helps with decision-making, problem solving, and response times, too much stress can become toxic for the brain as cortisol builds up. Learning how to let your brain rest can be one of the healthiest things you can do for it. Putting your feet up to rest at the end of a long day doesn’t help your brain if you’re still thinking about work.
If you’re struggling to rest, try some relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, mediation, or yoga. Alternatively, try some new hobbies or sports. Switching to a new activity that you enjoy and that allows you to use a different part of your brain or “switch off” from work pressures will help your brain detox and stay healthy.