Healthy Learning Brain
4 tips for peak brain performance
Seeking to take your learning and intelligence to the next level? What better place to start than the ins and outs of brain health. The way we form and maintain neural pathways, our body’s highways of information, is an ever evolving science. And the latest findings on brain/body intricacies point to everything being connected. So what would a holistic approach to brain performance look like? Here are 4 areas where investing in good brain care habits will help you grow your intelligence, increase your productivity, and take your learning up a few notches.
1. Get your Zs
We can’t stress this enough. Poor sleep changes everything, including productivity, memory and learning. Sleep scientist and author of 'Why we sleep', Matthew Walker, found a massive 40% decline in memory formation among sleep deprived participants. Research also suggests that sleep plays a role in consolidating memory. Think of it as putting a seal on your day’s learnings. Another vital reason to get enough Zs, is that they help the brain rid itself of the fatigue-inducing toxins that build up daily. So if you’re looking to boost your concentration and memory, give your sleep routine some TLC.
How to improve your sleep:
- Stop screens an hour before sleeping. This removes excess stimulation and allows your brain to start processing all the day’s 'input' before you try to sleep.
- Get over 7 hours sleep
- Guard your sleep cycle. If you do get up in the night, keep the light off to prevent the release of wakeful hormones.
- Eat right - food rich in melatonin, so that would be nuts, eggs, fish and fruit.
2. Oxygenate your brain
Oxygen is brain fuel. For energetic, productive and concentrated mornings, instead of aimless and procrastinating ones – feed your brain more oxygen. How? Exercise. It gets your heart rate pumping and kickstarts the flow of oxygen to your brain. No need to turn into a gym buff, though. Any movement that gets your heart rate up can have a positive impact on your productivity – and that includes brisk walking. Simply find what works best for your schedule and fitness level. Stay hydrated. And don’t overdo it. Fatigue and dehydration detract from your learning abilities.
How to feed your brain oxygen:
- Less driving and buses. More walking and cycling.
- Working from home? Have a brisk 20 minute walk at the start, and end of your day.
- Try a home workout. Get inspired through any of the free training apps available.
- Dance it out. With everything cancelled in 2020, you’ll easily get the heart pumping to the sound of your favourite tunes.
3. Eat nutritious food
You truly are what you eat. Sustaining productivity throughout the day means feeding your body (and brain) nutritious food. Research suggests that a varied diet, especially with diverse plant-based fare, is very important. Snacks that are high in refined sugar can make your blood sugar and energy levels spike – followed swiftly by a crash, taking your concentration with it. No need to stress over which foods are 'good' and 'bad'. Opt for colourful and whole foods to maximise your energy and concentration.
How to be brainy about eating:
- Choose foods and snacks that slowly release their energy (such as porridge, nuts, fruit or veg) over items high in refined sugars.
- Eat 3 meals a day. Don’t skip breakfast, it’s the first fuel of the day. While regular meals will give your brain a steady stream of energy.
4. Make stress your friend
Stress can negatively impact your focus and brain functioning. Reducing it as much as possible can certainly maximise your productivity (and general wellbeing). But stress is also one of the body’s natural responses. Research suggests that viewing stress about a task or deadline as a helper in brain functioning, can actually enhance the outcome. So here’s how to harness it to improve your performance. Imagine feeling that quickening heart rate, or getting sweaty palms. This is your automatic stress response to a perceived threat. While this may seem like a nuisance to your success, Stanford psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, found that viewing this response as our friend can swing things in your favour. Next time you get a stress reaction, think of it as your body preparing to perform at its best.
How to make friends with stress:
- View it as a helper in productivity and performance. Your brain is raising a flag to rally your body for success. An increased heart rate is your body pumping more blood and oxygen to your brain, giving you more energy for thinking. Your pupils dilating is ensuring you have eagle-eye vision.
- Tackle 'bad' stress: know what you can control and what you can't control. Focus on what is within your power to change, and don't worry about what you can't affect.
Ready for anything
Our brains are our body’s command centres, tasked with keeping everything in perfect and delicate balance. So if you want to be on top form, both in your learning and your living, make sure you sleep well, eat well, move often, and change how you view stress. Make these healthy habits part of your routine, and you’ll be well on your way toward supercharging your learning – and ready to play your part in the knowledge revolution.