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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

6 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Cognitive Thinking

6 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Cognitive Thinking

Dolly Parton may have said it best when she sang,

“The day you’re born is the day you start to die.”

Bleak? Sure, but it also gets to the heart of why we need to take care of our brains while we still can. If you want your cognitive thinking to stay sharp into your golden years, you need to take active steps now to improve and preserve those skills.

Luckily, the brain doesn’t stop growing and developing when you become an adult. Our brains are plastic, which means they can continue to change. Therefore, it’s a good idea to learn some tips and tricks on how to improve your cognitive thinking while you still can.

This article will give you 6 scientifically proven, research-backed ways to preserve and improve your cognitive thinking. The first three lay the foundation for healthy brain functioning, and the last three are strategies to improve higher-order cognitive thinking skills throughout the day.

Cognition Defined

Cognition is anything having to do with intellectual activity. Examples of cognitive skills are remembering, thinking, and reasoning. Basically, cognition is anything having to do with your conscious thought processes.

Bloom’s Taxonomy gives us a cheat sheet for a variety of cognitive thinking skills. Increasing in difficulty and complexity, Bloom’s Taxonomy includes remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and then creating. [1]

Ways to Improve Cognitive Thinking

1. Reduce Stress

The human brain doesn’t operate at full capacity when it’s stressed out. Research shows that stress exacerbates or even leads to illnesses such as depression, dementia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.[2]

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Therefore, managing stress is crucial to optimal cognitive thinking and overall brain health. Here are a few ways to help manage your stress.

Breathing Exercises

Stress reduction comes in many forms. Some of the most effective are breathing exercises, meditation, and taking walks.

Breathing exercises for stress reduction should include slow, measured deep breaths. Focus on the breath itself as you breathe in and out. This takes your mind off your stressors and delivers some much-needed oxygen to the brain, something it needs for optimal cognitive thinking.

Meditation

Meditation also helps with stress reduction. Even five minutes of meditation a day can have significant impacts on stress levels.

Meditation is about monitoring your thoughts more than forcing yourself to not think. As new thoughts pop in your head, just let them roll on by. Some people visualize their thoughts as clouds to help themselves with their meditation practice.

Take a Walk

It’s often better to walk away when you’re stressed than to try to muscle through. To reduce stress, take a break. Get some fresh air to help you clear your head and avoid being reactive. Moreover, getting out into nature is good for the soul.

2. Do Aerobic Activity

Another way to improve your cognitive thinking is to get some aerobic exercise. Moving your body and increasing your heart and breathing rates have been shown to stop the natural deterioration in the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortices, which decreases cognitive thinking.[3] Deterioration of these regions is a natural part of aging, but getting aerobic exercise can help slow the decline.

Brisk Walking

You may not think walking is vigorous enough to count as aerobic activity, but it absolutely is. Just pick up the pace and walk as fast as you’re able. Twenty minutes of brisk walking each day will go a long way toward boosting your cognitive thinking.

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Swimming

Swimming is a great choice for aerobic activity. It’s easy on the joints, and you won’t even know you’re sweating as you do laps in the pool.

Yoga

Certain types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, can give you an aerobic boost in addition to helping you with meditation and flexibility.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Research also points to sleep as an important part of optimal cognitive functioning. One study indicates that sleep may be an integral part of memory.

Sleep is when the brain ditches certain synaptic connections in order to strengthen others. Basically, your brain needs sleep to sift through everything that happens to you each day, remembering what’s important and forgetting the rest.

It’s recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Keep in mind that sleep isn’t something that you can catch up on. Consistency is crucial.

Consistent Bedtime Routine

In order to ensure you’re falling asleep at around the same time each night, a consistent bedtime routine is important. Come up with your bedtime routine and stick with it. Switching up your routine can mess up your sleep schedule.

Limit Your Screen Time

As part of your consistent bedtime routine, make sure to limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Screens release dopamine in your brain and get your adrenaline pumping, so they also get some people too amped up to easily fall asleep each night.

Also, make sure to set your phone to Do Not Disturb, so it doesn’t interrupt your sleep with beeps and buzzes. In fact, researchers now say that keeping it in a different room altogether may be even better for a good night’s rest.

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Melatonin

Melatonin can also help you fall and stay asleep. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body that spikes during nighttime sleep cycles, so supplementing with a Melatonin pill can help the body with its circadian rhythms, getting you the sleep your body needs for optimal cognitive thinking during the day.

4. Cognitive Simulations

Reducing stress, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep lay the foundation for improving cognitive thinking, but to really boost your brain, there are three more strategies you can implement during the day.

Cognitive simulations are really just brain teasers where the individual must use their existing knowledge to come up with solutions to novel problems — think crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

Cognitive simulations boost the brain’s cognitive processing abilities because the brain is plastic, meaning it’s malleable. If you don’t use the brain’s ability to take new information and solve problems, you lose it.[4]

Therefore, it’s crucial to keep your brain challenged and active. Cognitive simulations are one way to do exactly that.[5]

5. Thinking Aloud

The next strategy to improve your cognitive thinking is a technique called thinking aloud. It’s as simple as it sounds. Instead of thinking silently in your head, verbalize your thought processes.

Thinking aloud is a great training tool. It helps the teacher hear where the student’s comprehension needs improvement. It has also been shown to improve clinical outcomes in nurses.[6] Thinking aloud forces you to verbalize all parts of a problem, which helps you avoid oversights.

6. Concept Mapping

Finally, concept mapping can also improve your cognitive thinking. Concept mapping is a visual representation of someone’s thoughts — think word webs. Concept maps are basically just drawings that demonstrate all the connections and relationships between ideas.

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In one study, concept maps improved the critical thinking of grad-level nurses.[7] Similar to thinking aloud, concept mapping showed deficiencies in student thinking, but also strengthened the students’ critical thinking skills.

It’s like that saying, if you want to really learn something, teach it. By mapping what we know, we force ourselves to ruminate on all we do and don’t know about a certain topic. This strengthens our understanding and makes clear where we need to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

Final Thoughts

Cognitive thinking isn’t the same as critical thinking. Cognitive thinking also includes remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Reducing stress, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are crucial for making sure our brains are healthy, getting plenty of oxygen, and sorting through memories each night.

During the day, we can exercise our brains with cognitive simulations, thinking aloud, and concept mapping to improve our higher-order cognitive thinking.

You may have started dying since the day you were born, but a better way to look at it is that your brain can continue to grow and develop until the day you die. Just make sure you’re actively improving your cognitive thinking with these six tips.

More on Improving Thinking

Featured photo credit: Clever Visuals via unsplash.com

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Published on March 18, 2021

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

7 Best Brain Supplements that Actually Work

As important as it is to look after our body, it’s also important for us to be looking after our own mental health. Doing daily exercises, eating plant-based or organic meals, amongst other activities are a good way of promoting our brain health. But for many other people, they feel that they can be getting more out of it.

There is a tonne of top brain supplements available for you to look out for. With plenty of brain supplements available on the market, we wanted to pick out the ideal supplements for you to purchase. As such, the ones we recommend offer the following:

  • Nootropics – Every one of these supplements is a nootropic, meaning that they are drugs that have a track record of improving cognitive function.
  • Science-backed – One of the big problems with brain supplements is that there is no oversight. The best memory supplements, therefore, are the ones that have been researched and have studies to support the use of them.
  • Price vs. Value – All of these nootropics are able to work on various parts of the brain, offering plenty of value at a reasonable price. They’re one of the best memory supplements and can stave off age-related brain problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Below is a list of the best brain supplements to improve your memory, sharpen your focus and grow your brain further.

1. Blended Vitamin & Mineral

When it comes to supplements, it’s hard to find a supplement that offers a blend of vitamins spread over many vitamins. This isn’t the case when you’re purchasing from the Infuel brand. Infuel Focus Boost offers a great blend of vitamins and essential nutrients that can help in whatever you hope to achieve.

The vitamins, which include Vitamin A, B complex, C and D, that Infuel Focus Boost provides will allow you to stay focused and sharp throughout the day. You’ll also find that your energy levels, memory retention and overall clarity will be increased with this brain supplement.

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2. Fish Oil

Another one of the best memory supplements to consider is fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements provide a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

These types of omega-3 fatty acids have been tested thoroughly and have been linked to several types of health benefits. One such improvement is brain health.[1]

Out of the various supplements available, Nature’s Bounty is an ideal pick. They are softgels which means your body will be able to absorb all the nutrients. The company also prioritizes purity so you can expect no filler or unnecessary ingredients in these pills. Paired with the fact they are trusted by wellness experts is enough to say this is a quality brand.

3. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits such as grapes and other berries. You can also find this in red wine, chocolate and peanuts.

Even though you could get resveratrol from those sources, health experts still recommend supplements to ensure you get higher doses of it. Studies show that taking resveratrol is able to prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus,[2] the part that is connected to our memory.

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One brand that caught our attention for providing this supplement is Toniiq. The company takes pride in their 600mg capsules providing the highest quality of resveratrol you can find. Better yet, they are ethically sourced and cultivated using an extraction process that ensures a 98% purity. While it’s not 100%, it’s a big stretch as other brands that produce resveratrol tend to contain 50% or less purity.

4. Phosphatidylserine

Also known as phospholipid, it’s a type of fat that our own brain has right now. That said, because our brain will deteriorate with age, taking supplements of this type can actually help in preserving the health of our brain.[3] By preserving your brain, you’ll be able to keep up with typical brain functions as you would normally.

Out of the various best memory supplements available, Double Wood’s phosphatidylserine was a notable one. It’s made in the USA and tested for purity. It’s non-GMO, soy-based, and the capsule is gelatin.

5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid that our body produces ourselves. But like many supplements on this list, boosting its production with a supplement has proven to be beneficial for us. In this case, this is one of the ideal focus supplements to go for as studies show taking these supplements to boost focus, improve memory and slow down age-related memory loss.[4]

Out of the various top brain supplements available, our pick is the NaturaLife Labs supplements. They are GMO Free, and Vegan friendly. Beyond that, these supplements are highly potent at 1500mg. It’s also made 100% pure acetyl-l-carnitine so you shouldn’t expect fillers or binders when taking them.

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6. Ginkgo Biloba

You probably haven’t heard about Ginkgo Biloba much because it’s actually a herbal supplement that stems from the tree of the same name.

Think of it as a supplement hidden in plain sight as it’s incredibly popular amongst people who look past the unique name and figure out what it does. Research shows, taking these supplements increases blood flow to the brain which in turn improves brain functions of the brain.[5]

Nature’s Bounty offers these top brain supplements too and is a great brand to purchase from. Similar to what’s mentioned above with the previous supplements, these are pure and high-quality supplements.

7. Creatine

Creatine is the last on our list and is something that you might be familiar with. After all, it’s commonly found in protein powders, meats, fish, and eggs too. Creatine is also found in our own bodies and plays an important role in our energy levels and metabolism.

That said, not every person is big on eating those kinds of foods. As such, supplements provide a good way to get the creatine your body needs. Not only does creatine help with energy levels, but also sharpen our brain – namely an improved memory and thinking skills.

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You can look to protein powder for creatine, but you can also consider capsules as well. With capsules, you don’t have to think much about adding liquids. Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine capsules are a notable option as they provide 2.5 grams of pure creatine per serving. They’re also easy to swallow making it an ideal supplement to try out.

Bottom Line

When looking for brain-boosting supplements, you don’t have to look far. Paying attention to your diet can help you out in keeping up your brain functionality.

However, adding one or two of these supplements into your daily supplement routine would help you in boosting your brain functionality, memory, and stave off the various age-related brain problems.

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

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