7 Tips for Improving Your Mental Sharpness
Do you feel like your head is in a fog? Are you slow, sluggish, and struggling to concentrate? Your brain might need a workout! While your brain is not a muscle, it does get stronger with exercise—both physical and mental activity can help sharpen your mind. The good news is that improving mental sharpness is easy and it requires very few changes to your lifestyle. If your brain feels blah, try these simple tricks to give your brain the boost it needs.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercise can wake up your brain by increasing the flow of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your noggin. Your brain metabolizes the oxygen and nutrients, especially glucose, into fuel.
Research shows that moderate activity increases metabolism in all of the areas of the brain; vigorous activity increases metabolism in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Mayo Clinic recommends exercising for 30 to 60 minutes on several days each week. Choose moderate aerobic activities that get your blood pumping, such as walking at a brisk pace, swimming, or riding a bike.
2. Wake up Your Brain by Sleeping More
Sleep is important to storing memories, and it gives your brain an opportunity to reorganize and recharge itself. While you sleep, your brain also removes toxic byproducts that accumulate there throughout the day. Research shows sleep clears the brain of beta-amyloid, a sticky compound that accumulates in the brain, where it disrupts communication between brain cells. In fact, many scientists associate high levels of beta-amyloids in the brain with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
The old adage, “You are what you eat” is true when it comes to brain health. A healthy diet provides your brain with the nutrients it needs to function at its very best, while a steady diet of junk food leaves your brain feeling listless.
Certain foods, such as coffee, turmeric, blueberries, broccoli, nuts, green tea, pumpkin seeds, oranges and chocolate, can help keep your mind sharp.
Many health experts recommend the Mediterranean diet to improve mental sharpness. A Mediterranean diet is high in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fish, and healthy fats, such as olive oil, and lower in red meat and salt. Research suggests eating a Mediterranean diet can slow some of the brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease. The research shows that people who eat a Western diet, which typically contains an excess of saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar, had a greater amount of beta-amyloid deposits in their brains than do those who consume a Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil is important to brain health because of the omega fatty acids it contains. These fatty acids help cells function correctly, increase mental focus, slow cognitive decline in older adults, and as an added bonus, helps decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. Omega fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so they support healthier brain cells and reduce deterioration of the brain.
Eating seafood can help you get the omega fatty acids you need for mental sharpness. A 5-year study found that older adults who enjoyed at least one seafood meal a week performed on thinking skills than did those who ate less than one seafood meal weekly.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of mind in which you live fully in the moment, and calmly accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is a set of practices that help clear the mind; practices include focusing on breathing, meditating, or simply laying quietly. Research shows engaging in just 10 minutes of mindfulness practice five times a week keeps the brain sharp, and that mindfulness can counteract age-related cognitive decline.
5. Stay Mentally Active
Do crossword puzzles, word games, jigsaw puzzles, or play cards—anything that challenges your brain. It is not necessary to do any paid brain-training programs, as long as you keep the mental exercises challenging and fresh.
6. Maintain an Active Social Life
Humans need to interact with one another, and the absence of human contact can lead to the decline of cognitive function. Social interaction can fend off depression and anxiety, both of which can cause loss of memory and mental sharpness. Interacting with others can also help you stay mentally active, particularly if you play games or have interesting conversations with others.
7. Start Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy uses the power of therapeutic wavelengths of light. Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), penetrates deep into cells. Once there, the light stimulates the function of mitochondria, which are the part of cells that convert food into energy. Research shows that red light therapy improves cognitive performance in participants with brain injuries. Another study tested mindfulness in people with healthy brains; it shows mindfulness could help decrease the rate of memory loss and poor concentration in aging subjects.
Improving your mental sharpness may be easier than you think—simply improve your diet a little bit, relax with some peaceful mindfulness training, play a few games, enjoy the company of others, and make a quick trip to your red light therapy provider. The sooner you start, the sharper your brain can become.