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How Your Reduced Mental Clarity Tells Much About Your Health Conditions

How Your Reduced Mental Clarity Tells Much About Your Health Conditions

Ever have those moments where it feels like you just can’t think straight? When it comes the end of a very long day or after an intense mental activity, you feel tired, unfocused, and can’t seem to get your head in the game. That haze of mental obscurity is what many refer to as brain fog.

The most common symptoms associated with brain fog are:

  • Inability to focus
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Feeling “groggy” or confused
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Saying one word but meaning another
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

The causes of brain fog generally fall into one of two main categories — either it’s lifestyle-related or a side effect of a medical condition or medication. The most common causes, by far, are related to nutritional and biochemical imbalances that affect the brain and central nervous system of the body, which can be easily corrected with a few lifestyle changes.

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How To Prevent Brain Fog

1. Proper nutrition

Refined carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup allow your blood sugar levels to quickly skyrocket followed by the dreaded and severe crash. Your brain uses blood glucose as its main source of fuel. This puts your brain on a roller coaster ride — first too much, then too little glucose. Low brain glucose leads to brain fog, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, mental confusion, and impaired judgment.

Another mentally devastating diet fad is one that is too low in fat. Your brain is largely comprised of fat — about 60% by dry weight — and research shows low-fat diets have been disastrous for our brains. According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a leading expert in non-pharmaceutical applications to chronic illnesses and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working, the brain starts to literally “digest itself” for the raw materials it needs to create essential brain chemicals when you don’t eat enough dietary fat.

In order to stave off brain fog, eat foods that are rich in good fats such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Foods rich in vitamin E and antioxidants such as blueberries work wonders in sustaining good mental health both long and short term.

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2. Drink Plenty of Water

Over 70 percent of your body is composed of water and every function in the body is dependent on water, including the activities of the brain and nervous system. Water gives the brain the electrical energy for all mental and processing functions. According to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, brain cells need twice as much energy as other cells in the body. Water is the most effective and efficient way to provide this energy.

Water is also needed for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Nerve transmission requires half of all the brain’s energy. When your brain’s water reserves are full, you can process information quicker, are more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.

3. Proper Amounts of Exercise

Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health, it also helps your brain stay sharp. Your brain is no different than rest of the muscles in your body―you have to train it to ensure its elasticity and strength. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

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Exercise stimulates brain plasticity by triggering growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain—making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.

Another important benefit of exercise and physical movement is, it increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain. The brain uses about three times as much oxygen as muscles. Oxygen is vital to brain function and brain healing. Optimal brain function is dependent upon healthy blood flow.

4. Rest and Reduce Stress

Sleep is essential to proper brain functioning and for mental clarity. The brain needs sleep in order to recuperate. When sleep is regularly interrupted or you only get a few hours of shut eye, you are more likely to experience brain fog in the morning and throughout the day. While you sleep, cerebral fluid rushes in, “power washing” your brain, clearing it of debris. It’s during sleep that you consolidate memories so you can recall what you learned the previous day.

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Stress is very powerful and it can negatively affect the body in a number of ways, including causing brain fatigue which gives way to the fog. Being stressed is often equated with being productive, popular, and successful, however that is far from true. In fact, prolonged stress leads to anxiety, depression, poor decision making, insomnia, and memory loss. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol leads to a surplus free radicals ‒ unattached oxygen molecules ‒ that damage brain cell membranes, causing them to lose normal function and die.

A healthy brain begins and ends with a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, staying hydrated, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress are the keys to not only avoiding brain fog but ensuring your brain’s overall health long term.

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

Fortunately, meditation can help.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

    3. Challenge Your Brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

    4. Take More Breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    5. Learn a New Skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

    6. Start Working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat Healthier Foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain, too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – Improves memory
    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

    Final Thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

    More on How to Improve Memory

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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