It’s important to remember that if your brain doesn’t function fully, nothing else in your life will. Most people have days where they can’t seem to concentrate. This feeling can be difficult to put into words, but here we will define it as brain fog.
It’s very normal to have these days, but if you’re experiencing it daily, then you’re probably dealing with brain fog for a specific reason.
There are several factors that can contribute to brain fog. In this article, I will not be discussing one of these factors in particular (mental disorders), as it would become a lengthy article. Rather, I will focus on the average person in society and the challenges they may face concerning brain fog or, simply put, a lack of mental clarity and focus.
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How to Define Brain Fog and What Causes It
Brain fog is more of a symptom than a medical condition itself, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. We can define brain fog as a cognitive dysfunction that can lead to memory problems, lack of mental clarity, and an inability to focus.
Several different factors can cause brain fog, and here are the five most common reasons.
1. Lack of Sleep
During sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself. Further, it removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This indicates that poor sleep quality can cause brain fog. However, quality sleep can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functionality.
We all need sleep to function, but how much sleep is needed varies from person to person. A few people can function on as little as 3-4 hours of sleep every night, but these people are very rare. Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep.
If you don’t get the sleep you need, this will interfere with your brain, and you may experience brain fog.
2. Poor Hydration
Did you know that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water? This to me is a no-brainer (pun intended), and shows that one needs to drink water frequently to have high mental performance and clarity. Water quality is also important, and I suggest natural spring water or alkaline water.
3. Poor Nutrition
The gut is often considered a second brain. Let’s keep this one simple in saying fast food and sugar is typically not going to yield mental clarity.
Refined carbohydrates like sugar will send your blood sugar levels up and send you right back down. This will lead to brain fog because your brain uses glucose as its main source of fuel, and once you start playing around with your brain it gets confused.
Besides being hit by brain fog, you’ll also experience tiredness, mood swings, and mental confusion. So, if you want to have clear mind, stay away from sugar.
Personally, I feel clearest when I eat meals containing high-quality protein content such as salmon, steak, or chicken. In the case of a less meaty dish, I load up on beans and leafy greens like spinach.
4. Lack of Exercise
Aerobic exercises can reduce cognitive impairment by putting the brain in overdrive. When the brain is in overdrive, it supplies the blood with adrenalin, and when this adrenalin-rich blood is supplied to the brain, memory is enhanced.
Take away exercise, and your brain misses out on these benefits!
5. Stress and Anxiety
It’s no surprise that we’ll find stress on the list; most people are aware of the dangers of stress.
When you’re stressed, your brain can’t function at its best. It gets harder to think and focus, which makes you stress even more.
Stress hormones might be regularly released by your brain as a result of chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Headaches, vertigo, and depressive symptoms may appear more frequently as a result. Needless to say, brain fog follows chronic and even acute stress and anxiety.
How to Get Over Brain Fog
There’re several approaches I personally use to get rid of brain fog, some being simple tricks or hacks and others being lifestyle adjustments. I’ll briefly touch on a few in the below breakdown.
1. Make Lists
One of the simplest ways I have been able to overcome brain fog is by organizing. Creating lists is a great approach to organizing one’s thoughts and actions. I feel much more focused after I have created a detailed to-do list.
I go beyond simply listing items, I create a scale of importance of those items. I use a star to indicate priority, a square box to indicate a secondary task, and a circle for quick tasks in between. As I get through my daily or weekly list, I place a checkmark next to the completed items or further notes if required.
2. Clean Up Your Diet
Poor diet can lead to inflammation of the gut, which essentially means “second brain fog.” Inflammation is one of the leading causes of illness and disease and is often associated with poor eating habits as well as lack of hydration. Simply put, clean up your diet, and you’ll notice remarkable clarity.
I suggest applying intermittent fasting at least 3 days a week and seeing how you feel.
Some foods to consider that can help boost your brain are fatty fish, frozen blueberries (there is an added benefit of freezing blueberries to increase the anti-oxidant properties, so I suggest giving that a shot), turmeric, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and nuts (such as walnuts). Of course, all of these should be taken in moderation.
3. Sleep Better
During sleep, your brain repairs and restores itself, much like the rest of your body and its DNA and cells.
Much research around sleep and its effects on the brain found there is a link between sleep, chromosome dynamics, neuronal activity, and DNA damage and repair.
For more tips on how to improve sleep quality, check out this video:
4. Exercise Often
More benefits come with exercise than just brain-boosting.
The regions of the brain linked to memory, task management, coordination, planning, and inhibition often may be enlarged as a result of exercise.
Because of this enlargement, the developed parts of the brain function faster and more efficiently. What does this mean in simple terms? Less brain fog!
When you exercise, you increase the flow of oxygen to your brain.
5. Reduce Anxiety With Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful practice that you can adopt. It helps you to be intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.
Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Other meditation practices I suggest are movement meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, and loving-kindness meditation. Personally, I have been practicing meditation while in a float tank (sensory deprivation tank), which allows me to clear the mind totally without any detraction from the senses.
Maintaining Mental Clarity
Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining mental clarity. I suggest creating a routine or habit of practicing good nutrition (with intermittent fasting incorporated), sleeping well, and getting regular exercise. If you need help on how to build a routine, check out this article: What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works.
Mental clarity won’t come overnight, so be prepared to commit to yourself and your personal growth going forward!
How to Get Over Brain Fog
Recommended actionable tasks to benefit immediately
Keeping the mind clear and functioning optimally is not as challenging as it may seem. As the fog dissipates, the new norm becomes mental clarity.
When the mind is clear, it can best guide and direct your daily life in the direction that is conducive to your highest potential.
Featured photo credit: Sage Friedman via unsplash.com
|||^||Science: The interconnected causes and consequences of sleep in the brain|
|||^||USGS: The Water In You|
|||^||Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark: Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior|
|||^||UCF Health: Lift the “Brain Fog” with Aerobic Exercise|
|||^||Mayo Clinic: Effects of Anxiety on the Body|
|||^||Science Daily: Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep|
|||^||Current Sports Medicine Reports: Exercise is Medicine for Concussion|