BRAIN BOOSTING HACKS TO GET SH*T DONE
Consider this. We use our brains every single day, from the biggest of tasks to the most mundane jobs, yet we don’t often give this major organ the same amount of love that we would our skin or gut health. And we often don’t realise that our brains could do with some TLC until we’re jumping from task to task, forgetting our pup’s birthday or are unable to focus on the smallest of jobs.
Poor productivity levels could simply mean that you need to mute the group WhatsApp for the time being, but it may also suggest that its time to invest in a little brain training and support.
Deep diving into the health of your brain, brain cells and the behaviour of your neurotransmitters has countless benefits that surpass simply completing your to-do list in a timely fashion. We’ve listed our sure-fire ways to go about it, from radical rest and self-care to nootropic supplementation.
Perhaps we should start with the basics, regardless of how obvious they may be. Don’t fret, we’ll get to the juicy stuff soon.
BUT it’s important to shout about the things that really make the difference. So, for those in the back who still think it's okay to sacrifice the most brain restorative act to cram a few hours of extra work, this one’s for you.
When we sleep, we intensely consolidate declarative and non-declarative memories, an essential part of being an optimally functioning human being, at the very least. The former is the ability to recall facts and the latter is how we can access learnt behaviours without consciousness, such as walking or taking our supplements.
Furthermore, when we deprive ourselves of sleep, we deprive our brains the ability to improve and build on creative thinking, fluid speech and planning. Some of our favourite ways to nourish our brains through quality, restorative sleep include:
- Investing in blackout blinds and/ or a silky eye mask.
Committing to no screens at least two hours before bedtime If you must look at screens, turn night shift mode on for both your phone and laptop.
- Investing in blue-blocking glasses and wear them religiously when around blue light in the evening. Blue light delays the release of melatonin.
- Consider red LED light bulbs or red/pink lamps. Both are incredibly calming in comparison to excitatory blue lights.
- Have a magnesium-rich Epsom salt bath each evening and consider magnesium supplementation
- Turn aeroplane mode on and keep your phone out of reach.
- Establish an effective wind-down routine.
For optimal brain health and peak performance, we really can’t forget about fat.
Not only is the brain made up of around 60% fat, but our brain cells and nerves are also protected by fatty myelin. Without this protective layer, cognition and mental sharpness can become greatly compromised. Myelin health is also responsible for how well we solve problems, learn and pay attention.
It is the essential fats that we don’t make endogenously, and therefore need to be consuming every single day to ensure our minds are functioning to the very best of their ability.
Whilst plant-based sources such as chia seeds and walnuts are fabulous, they can be a little harder for our bodies to convert into the most bioavailable form, so consuming wild-caught oily fish and pasture-raised, organic eggs are a guaranteed way to get in those EFAs, in particular DHA and EPA.
You can also supplement with omega-3 or high-quality fish oil, best kept in the fridge and out of sunlight to avoid oxidisation.
Research has also been done on the effects of MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) in regards to cognition and brain health. On study showed consumption of 56g per day of MCTs over 24 weeks improved participant’s memory and results when cognition was tested. This is due to the liver’s ability to convert MCTs into ketones, which can then pass through the blood-brain barrier. This is optimal fuel for brain cells.
There is a high chance that at this point that you’ve heard about the gut-brain connection.
The two are so inherently linked that we refer to their relationship as the gut-brain axis or the enteric nervous system, due to the influence that the bacteria in our gut has on our neurotransmitters.
There are also crossovers in the production of some of those neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, produced in both the gut and the brain. The two systems are connected via the vagus nerve.
Communication between the brain and the gut takes place via this nerve and the population of healthy bacteria in our guts. We want lots of healthy communication taking place by:
- Activating the vagus nerve by setting non-negotiable time aside every hour on the hour to practice deep breathing.
Consuming a wide range of prebiotic fibre, found in leeks, onions and artichokes and consider a prebiotic supplement like inulin.
- Consider a probiotic. There are many different stains on the market so do some research on the best kind for you.
- Remove any foods that are disrupting, such as processed foods, sugar and inflammatory oils.
- Incorporate glutamine-rich bone broth into your meals or drink it on its own with a pinch of turmeric and coconut oil.
- Eat away from distractions and too many fluids, and focus on chewing your food.
RADICAL REST + SELF-CARE
If being more productive and improve cognition is at the top of our to-do list, then we must schedule in periods of radical rest too.
When we experience chronic stress and elevated cortisol, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) becomes compromised. This wonderful protein helps strengthen brain cells and plays a major role in how well our brains function.
We want to promote BDNF and prioritise self-care, relaxation and time spent away from overly stimulating screens. Meditation is the obvious choice, and studies have shown distinct links between the mindful act and increased GABA in the brain. Whilst GABA is more commonly known for its calming properties, the neurotransmitter also helps to improve cognitive function and mental focus.
- Spend as much time outside, amongst nature as you possibly can.
- Put social media timers on and stick to them.
- Opt for activities such as colouring or painting, which have a similar effect as meditation.
- Practice yoga a couple of times each week.
- Meditate before the part of your day when you feel the most distracted
Phosphatidylserine is the most abundant phospholipid (a type of fat that makes up our cell membranes) found in the human brain.
As it is naturally synthesised in the human body, it's not considered essential. However, the process of synthesising this compound uses a lot of energy, which if you are already struggling with staying focused, maybe even harder for you.
Supplementing short term may be a nice way to improve cognition and boost the way your brain cells communicate with one another. You can also find phosphatidylserine in oily fish and organ meats, two of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Phosphatidylserine may also have mood-boosting properties when taken alongside an omega-3 supplement (another no-brainer brain supplement). Phosphatidylserine works to decrease cortisol, one of our major stress hormones, influencing your stress response to both physical and mentally challenging situations, thus impacting mood.
L-Theanine is an amino acid, found in green tea but can be supplemented too.
It’s a tool we love, due to its slight adaptogenic effects. It aids in focus, memory and cognition whilst helping to maintain a balanced and nurtured nervous system. If coffee leaves you feeling jittery and unfocused, switching it up to a cup of green tea could be hugely beneficial.
Studies show that L-theanine combined with the caffeine found in green tea, significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band, having a direct impact on the brain, promoting relaxation without drowsiness as well as alertness and decreased mental fatigue.
SHOP THE STORY
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