Struggling in school? Need a boost to your brain? Despair no more; we’ve put together some great ways to support your mental performance that you can start doing today! Each method is super simple, so you can try them out with very little preparation.
Take a Catnap
A short rest during the day can really help your memory and productivity. This is true even for naps that are less than 10 minutes long, and if you aren’t tired! It’s very common for entire offices in East Asia to take a 20 minute power-nap during lunch, then come back raring to go. Bear in mind that you should keep naps below 30 minutes, as anything more might cause sleep inertia that could be counterproductive to your cognitive performance.
Almost anybody’s mental performance can benefit from a short sleep, regardless of any other techniques or methods you might be using to help cognition. And it’s dead easy to try: Just find a comfortable position, lay down your head and close your eyes (use a sleeping mask and earplugs for extra tranquility). You’ll hopefully nod off quite quickly – but if you don’t, fear not! The sensory deprivation will still work to rejuvenate your brain.
And, if you struggle to get to sleep at night, try some mindfulness techniques. Focus on your breathing, and on taking long, unhurried breaths. More on mindfulness later in the article!
Overdosing on sugary foods can impair cognition. This is because higher levels of fat and sugar in your blood have been found to be cognitively impairing. Additionally, an Australian study on the impact of fat and sugar on cognition came to the conclusion that unhealthy foods also hurt your mental performance. So, if you want a brain boost, stay away from sugary foods! However, this can be a little tricky. It’s very easy to grab a chocolate bar rather than taking out the time to prepare a healthy meal. The key is to find similarly convenient foods that are lower in sugar, that you still enjoy eating. Fruit such as apples and bananas are great options. If you like eating any veggies raw (such as celery) then those are even better. Get chomping!
Get a little exercise
Frequent exercise is another healthy, easy way of supporting cognition according to a metastudy from UCLA. A brief workout will help your mood, cognition and your overall physical health, as well as stimulating your brain and helping it produce new brain cells. Something as simple as a few sit-ups, push-ups or jogging on the spot can help. In fact, any exercise that boosts your heart rate for 8-10 minutes, undertaken daily, will work towards helping both body and mind.
Meditation and Mindfulness
There are some super quick and easy mindfulness techniques you can try out, which will help to relax and energise your mind. Our favourite one goes as follows: Close your eyes, breathe nice and slowly and count towards the number 10. Inhale, and as you inhale, count ‘1’. Then exhale. Inhale, count to 2, then exhale. Repeat this, and focus on your breathing. Make sure it’s slow and measured for the best effect. As you reach breaths 5 or 6 your breaths should be nice and slow, giving you something really concrete to focus on. This will help to clear your mind. Concentrating on your breathing while counting (and not thinking about other things!) goes a long way towards banishing disquiet thoughts and helping to refresh your brain. There’s plenty more techniques out there – but it’s suggested that even short periods of meditation can help cognition markedly.
Apps or Games to Train Your Brain
In recent years, there’s been an explosion in the number of brain training apps, games and programmes that you can carry with you. As smartphones have become ubiquitous, it’s easy to spend an hour a day playing around with your phone to procrastinate. Why not replace your usual game with a brain training app, which might help to strengthen your mind while playing? In addition to that, if you’re a fan of puzzles, why not try sudoku or a crossword? You could time yourself to see how much you improve week by week!
We really hope that this article helped! There’s plenty of ways out there to improve your mental performance, these are just some of the quickest and easiest we could find. If you keep at these techniques consistently, you’ll definitely see an improvement in your cognition and performance.
1 = Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman, 2013. ‘The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities.’ Comprehensive Physiology, January 2013. 3(1), pp. 403-428. Accessed online: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4555146/
2 = Beilharz et al, 2015. ‘Diet-Induced Cognitive Deficits: The Role of Fat and Sugar, Potential Mechanisms and Nutritional Interventions.’ Nutrients, August 2015. 7(8), pp. 6719-6738. Accessed online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/