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7 Actionable Tips To Help Your Brain Function At It’s Highest Level

7 Actionable Tips To Help Your Brain Function At It’s Highest Level
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The mind is an incredible and powerful thing, and half of the reason why it’s so amazing is it’s elasticity for performance. Someone one day can be ON, and the next day they might feel like they’re in a fog from not having their morning coffee. It’s a wonder we have all of these amazing tools at our disposal to help us think sharply, but unfortunately, many people never use them. The following aren’t just ‘healthy’ options to help your brain– they truly help you think more clearly, and give you energy.

1. Proper nutrition, particularly healthy fats like fish oil

This is something many people will skip, they will go right into the energy drinks when they feel tired, without ever having to consider that maybe it’s their diet that is off. But not only does nutrition have a crazy amount to do with fitness and fat-loss – healthy foods, particularly fish and supplements like fish oil, are used to help treat depression and cognitive decline according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Take 3 fish oil capsules in the morning with your coffee to get these essential fatty acids. 

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2. B6, B12 and Folic Acid (B9)

Vitamins aren’t the easiest, quickest fix – but according to Mercola, Health Company B-vitamins are so integral to brain function that they can slow brain shrinkage and even help treat dementia. If you’ve been experiencing fatigue or mental fog, then you may have deficiencies in some key nutrients.

Take all three of these vitamins with the fish oil to keep your energy and cognitive abilities at their peak throughout the day. 

3. Exercise daily for at least 20 minutes

This is a particularly underrated opportunity for people even during their lunch hour, according to Search Services, who say that they communally do exercises in the office and take walks to loosen up the mind and keep them sharp. Sometimes taking 20 minutes away from your work space to get your blood flowing is exactly what is needed.

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As part of your routine you should include: A 20 minute run/walk every morning, as long as your heart is pumping you don’t need to be running the entire time. Try intervals, which include running and walking intermittently. 

4. Volunteer & socialize

Getting out in the world and mingling with people is very good for your brain, particularly when you’re all doing something constructive to help the community. According to the site Prevention – “Essentially, it’s a drug-free way to keep you feeling young.” and 65.4 million Americans are volunteering every year.

Take, when possible, one trip to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Volunteer an afternoon with your coworkers, or with 2 or 3 of your friends.  

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5. Read on a regular basis

The Open Education Database touts a surprising amount of cognitive benefits. They say, ‘Story structure encourages our brains to think in sequence, expanding our attention spans.’ Neuroscientists also encourage parents to have their kids read or read to them, as it helps encourage story structure and counter issues regarding short attention spans.

Take a moment out of your busy week to read something that excites you, like a well-written novel or a book on a new topic you’re interested in.

6. Try new hobbies and interests that challenge you

Beyond fitness – many hobbies that challenge you like sudoku, puzzles, cooking, playing music, or meditating can allow your cognitive function to be working at peak capacity. According to Goals.com, these types of hobbies and interests can help with things like multi-tasking, creativity, and allow us to consider new perspectives, as well as stimulate visual and tactical responses.

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Take up a new hobby every couple of months, and do your best to mix the enjoyment of a new experience with the aspect of having a good challenge.

7. Get the appropriate amount of sleep

Don’t balk at the basics. The amount and rhythm of your sleep are integrally linked to mental health, according to a Ted Talk by Russell Foster. We’ve all had one of those days where we’ve only gotten 4 hours of sleep, made our way into a room, before completely forgetting what we initially intended on doing. We are not superheroes, most of us need to get 6 to 9 hours of sleep. Increments of 1.5 hours of sleep are considered a general rule of thumb for a sleep cycle according to Psych Digest. Therefore, waking up after 7.5 hours or 9 hours of sleep will help you keep feeling refreshed. This is due to the fact that these times are in between the points of your deepest sleep. This routine would be much better for you than say, waking up after 8 hours or 9.5 hours of sleep, only interrupting yourself in the midst of a sleep cycle.

Take some time at night to wind down, set your phone away from your bed and/or find out what works for you – your best sleep will come when you find and stick to a pattern, rather than changing your routine all the time.

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Best of luck finding the tips that work for you. The process of finding ways to increase brain function and cognitive ability is very fun, and whether you do all of the things above, or just some, I hope that it’s effective and that it yields you interesting results!

Featured photo credit: Pic Jumbo via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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