Our brains are undoubtably the most important asset we have.
Without our brains, we are powerless.
It is ultimately what separates us from animals: The ability to think and act complexly.
“The brain is a muscle that can move the world.”
~ Stephen King
Needless to say, taking care of your cognitive functioning is imperative.
Let us cut the small talk and get right into 5 ways you can improve your brain function.
1.) Go To Sleep By 10:00PM
Quality of sleep matters more than quantity of sleep.
I don’t know about you, but if I stay up late and get a full eight hours of sleep from 1:00AM to 9:00AM, I will feel like a zombie in the morning.
However, if I get a full eight hours of sleep from 10:00PM to 6:00AM, I will feel like a million bucks in the morning.
Turns out, there’s a very good explanation for this.
You see, your body has a circadian rhythm that releases different hormones on a set schedule.
Working in sync with this hormone release is key for a quality nights sleep.
Everyday, there is a secretion of cortisol to wake us up in the morning and a secretion of melatonin to put us to sleep at night.
Between 10:00PM and 2:00AM is when melatonin and human growth hormone are secreted in their largest amounts.
If you deprive yourself of the highly regenerative sleep between these hours, you may still feel groggy and fatigued in the morning.
Sleep sounds complicated, but only because we inadvertently make it complicated.
Naturally, we would ideally wake up when the sun comes up and get ready for sleep when the sun sets.
A big problem nowadays is our own technology.
We are constantly being bombarded by blue light from our smartphones, television and other electronic devices.
Blue light actually inhibits or halts the production of melatonin in our bodies.
There are photoreceptors in our eyes that track blue light.
When blue light is detected, the photoreceptors signal the suprachiasmatic nucleus to slow the production of melatonin in the pineal gland. Thus, keeping us awake.
This is, without a doubt, another big factor for poor quality of sleep.
2.) Limit Internet Usage
Everything is online in todays age (like this blog) so it can be nearly impossible to pull the plug completely.
Some people are hopelessly addicted to the internet. However, you don’t need to be addicted to see the detriments.
The internet plays games with your neurotransmitters like dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making you want to do things.
Dopamine is also the reason why drugs can be addictive.
Drugs cause a surge of dopamine in the brain. Your brain then recognizes this surge and down-regulates your dopamine receptors.
Meaning, you now need more of the dopamine (drug) to create the same effect or feeling of motivation.
Basically, what it comes down to, is that your receptors have become desensitized to dopamine.
It doesn’t have to necessarily be a surge of dopamine either. It can be a small, but constant influx of it.
This small, but constant influx of dopamine is what platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter provide.
- Click a link = Small dopamine release
- Receive a like = Small dopamine release
- Retweet a picture = Small dopamine release
Repeat this hundreds of times per day and you will desensitize your dopamine receptors.
Eventually, over time, it will get more and more difficult to get motivated by activities that are not instantly gratifying.
The internet can gratify you in a matter of seconds; whereas an important project may take hours before completion and thus, gratification.
3.) Feed Your Brain The Food It Needs To Flourish
The brain only represents around 2% of the total body weight of a human. Though, it contains 20% of the bodies cholesterol.
The brain is actually 60% fat, which makes it vulnerable to damaging chemicals called free radicals. Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant and protects the brain by eliminating these free radicals before they can cause damage.
Omega 3 fatty acids also aid in the development of cell membranes throughout the brain and body.
Fat is essential for a healthy, thriving brain.
This is why I have adopted a zero carb diet. I’ve cycled through many diets and the mental clarity and optimal functioning is superior to any other diet I’ve experimented with.
If you want to see for yourself, try the Ketogenic Diet; you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to go extreme with it like I do and get the most out of your brain and body; the Steak & Eggs Diet is superior.
Another important thing to note here is that sugar is a potent dopamine releaser.
Carbohydrates, especially in the form of a simple sugar, will desensitize your dopamine receptors.
According to studies, sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine.
This is likely why some individuals, coming from high carb / sugar diets experience carbohydrate withdrawal when switching to a ketogenic or zero carb diet.
Sugar is a drug and should be kept to a minimum, or better yet, avoided at all costs.
4.) Get Into The Gym & Exercise
I came across an article, here, that I found very intriguing.
One of the things that stuck out to me in this article was the following:
“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”
Exercise explains many conditions:
- Cognitive Decline & Disorders
- Premature Aging
- Greying Hair
- Diminished Muscle Mass
- Gonadal Health
- Lessened Ability to Hear
- Thinned Skin
- Eye Health
- You Get The Point…
Exercise is not only good for the body, but also the brain. The benefits are astounding and overlooked.
The best type of exercise you can do for your brain health is aerobic. (AKA: Cardio)
Aerobic exercise increases a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the brain.
BDNF plays a big role in protecting neurons, growing new cells and memory.
In fact, Dr. John Ratey called BDNF ‘Miracle-Gro for the brain’ because when researchers added BDNF to nerve cells, they began to grow.
Just know that the benefits of exercise are plentiful for the brain and body.
If you aren’t taking advantage of exercise, don’t expect to get away with it. You will end up paying the price with your health.
5.) Supplementing Deficiencies
Sometimes we aren’t born perfect or our bodies have years of abuse to recover from.
This is where supplements come in handy.
From electrolytes like magnesium to methyl groups in methylated vitamins; we all need something different because our individuals needs can vary.
Your specific needs can vary on:
- Physical Activity Levels
- What You Eat
- Your Genetic Profile
It is important to note here that you cannot ‘out-supplement’ a bad diet.
Your diet should be your nutritional keystone and supplements are supplemental!
Things like essential oils, herbs, vitamins, electrolytes and more.
The crazy thing is that if you’ve been living with low levels of a nutrient; you feel as if it is normal to feel the way you do.
It isn’t until you supplement what your body NEEDS that you notice a drastic shift in how you feel.
A common nutritional deficiency, especially in the United States, is magnesium.
It is estimated that up to 50% of the US population is magnesium deficient.
… And that’s not even the bad part.
A lot of nutrients have ‘synergies’ or work with one another to perform a biological function.
It just so happens that vitamin D cannot be metabolized without adequate magnesium levels!
So not only do you end up magnesium deficient; but also vitamin D deficient as well.
I supplement this form of magnesium. Try it out for yourself as there is a high likelihood of being deficient in the US.
You will notice a difference if you are deficient. Personally, I felt more at ease, less stressed, less anxiety and more energy.
If you want to go all the way, Magnesium L-Threonate is the absolute best.
It’s the best because it effectively crosses the blood brain barrier and increases brain magnesium levels.
I use this form of magnesium sparingly as it does get quite expensive.
Magnesium is important for a variety of brain functions like:
- Learning / Information Retention
- Memory Function
- Increased Cerebral Blood Flow
- Neurotransmitter Synthesis
This is just one example of a nutritional deficiency that can hinder your brain function.
There are plenty of other examples I won’t have time get into in this particular post.
If you’re looking for a good all-around multivitamin to cover all your bases; I would recommend this multivitamin by Pure Encapsulations.
I really enjoy their products due to their quality but they are on the more expensive end of the spectrum.
An important thing to note overall is that there is a strong connection between mental health and physical health.
If you are physically unhealthy, it can and eventually will manifest as a mental health issue.
On the other side of the same coin, poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions.
The mind is just as important as the body.
It is YOUR responsibility to take care of both your brain and body.
Cheers to better health my friends!
Until Next Time,