The human brain is the most complex piece of hardware in the known universe.
It’s an immensely powerful tool.
The brain is also the device through which we decode and perceive reality. So to say that it’s important to optimize brain function is a severe understatement. I think we can all unanimously agree that it would be a good thing to improve brain function, right?
Instead of rambling on with more poetic descriptions of the brain, let’s just get straight to the applicable information.
15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function
1. Regular Practice – The brain, like everything else, is like a muscle. To strengthen it, it must be exercised regularly. Learn something new every day. Test your memory regularly. The more practice, the stronger it gets.
2. Variety – While regular practice is the foundation, it’s also important to switch things up. Do new things. Engage in unique experiences. This keeps you on your toes, highly adaptive, thinking spontaneously and builds the skill of learning how to learn.
3. Limit Sugar – Reduce your sugar intake (and processed, refined foods in general). Sugar is highly addictive and keeps you in the wired-then-tired trap of what I call “the insulin roller coaster.”
Limiting sugar will help you have healthy gut flora as well, which is intrinsically linked with brain health.
The brain can run on sugar (glucose) or fat (ketones). In both my experience and that of many other people, the brain operates optimally on fats.
4. Eat More Healthy Fats – Some of the best healthy fats are fish/krill oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, olive oil…etc. Coconut oil, for example, appears to be an ideal brain food.
Here’s a challenge: Instead of starting your day with a carb-heavy breakfast, start with a cup of coffee (or tea) with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. I call this combination “steroids for your brain.” Yes, it works. Try it out and feel the effects.
5. Intermittent Fasting – “Human and non-human animal studies have shown that IER (Intermittent Energy Restriction) increases synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory), enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly, leads to the growth of new neurons, promotes recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury, decreases risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and may improve quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with these diseases. IER has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.” (Stanford)
Want to try fasting? The best introduction I’ve come across regarding intermittent fasting is Eat Stop Eat. It does a great job of explaining the benefits of fasting and gives you a stupid simple protocol that gets amazing results. I’m actually doing a variation of Eat Stop Eat right now.
6. Brain Boosting Herbs – Brain boosting herbs include Gotu Kola (which I personally take every day), Brahmi, Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba. There’s a lot more too. Do a little research and see which one is best for you.
7. Learn a New Language – Learning a new language literally opens up a new world to us. When we expand our horizons, neuroplasticity kicks in and we form more neural connections.
8. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recharge for our bodies and our brain is no exception to this. Everyone knows that their brain works better on 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. Prioritize sleep and reap the brain benefits.
9. Focus – Limit distractions and cultivate focus. Being scatterbrained severely inhibits mental capabilities. Focus is the precursor to learning and problem-solving.
Tip: When you need to focus, set a timer for a specific amount of time and only work on the task at hand for that block of time.
10. A Morning Routine – Starting the day off on the right foot greatly helps with how our brains function. Having a peaceful, enjoyable morning routine gets us in a clear headspace, which allows us to operate with focus for the rest of the day.
For more on morning routines, read my article The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual
11. Exercise – Exercise improves memory and thinking skills. It also boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety.
12. Walking – “Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.” – (Live Science)
Walking also helps with creativity and generating ideas, especially when done outside.
13. Positive Thinking – Stress and anxiety kill brain function. Research has shown that positive thinking, particularly in the future tense, speeds up the creation of brain cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.
Also, when you’re in a state of fear, it activates the amygdala and shuts off higher brain function (like logic and reasoning). So positive thinking really does make us smarter.
14. Reading – This one is so obvious. We learn by reading nonfiction and expand our imagination by reading fiction. And sometimes we learn by reading fiction and expand our imagination by reading nonfiction. Reading also improves vocabulary, memory, concentration and helps hone visualization abilities.
15. Meditation – There are so many benefits to meditation, it’s ridiculous. A regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves memory, combats anxiety, improves concentration, helps kick addictions and increases productivity (along with a lot of other things).
Meditation helps cultivate awareness of our thoughts and gives us the choice to indulge in positive thinking instead of energy-sapping, negative thinking.
Meditation also has the absolutely crucial benefit of mindfulness. If you’re unaware of what’s going on in your brain, you’re unconscious and living in reaction-mode. This results in you being a slave to your brain, instead of the master of it. The brain is a powerful tool. It is in your best interest to learn how to use the tool without the tool using you. This is why meditation is so important.
Learn more about meditation here: Introduction to Meditation
Time to Apply
Try incorporating some of these into your daily life. If you want to pick just one to start with, I’d strongly recommend meditation. Meditation is the habit that all other habits build off of, the skill which enhances every other skill and the practice that gets you in touch with the essence of existence.
Want to start meditating? As soon as you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and use that time for meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, take some deep breaths into your belly and simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Do this every morning.
With most of this list, it’s common sense that these things improve brain function. But knowing and applying are two different things. Most people don’t apply what they know on a daily basis. Take action and commit to a daily practice.
Your brain is a miraculous tool. Treat it well and use it wisely.
– Stevie P!
Which of these do you apply on a daily basis? Did you learn anything new? Which ones do you want to start applying? Leave a comment below.
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