Tune Up Your Brain
By: Daniele Winston
November 29, 2021
Reflect on the magnificence that is your brain. Creator of worlds unknown, it houses your imagination, thoughts, feelings, language, and so much more. Did you know that the way you shape your day, contributes to the how your brain functions? According to Clarissa Silva, Behavioral Scientist / Founder, C Silva Solutions, “a routine that helps you limit the amount of screen time you are exposed to, can help with neuron regeneration.” Silva suggests reducing dependence on devices, by resisting the urge to check them upon waking and an hour before bed, thus giving your brain the opportunity to repair itself from stimulus overload.
Considering your brain never gets a chance to sleep, giving your mind a workout might be even more important than your body. Try these expert-backed techniques to keep your brain challenged and engaged:
Readjust Your Perspective
Slow down for deeper focus, “Multitasking reduces productivity and contributes to our brain’s constant over stimulation. Focusing on single tasks and taking a break, helps improve the brain’s neuroplasticity,” says Silva.
Plan ahead and view the big picture, “Managing stress by looking at things from a long-term range helps motivate you. Try to not focus on what needs to be accomplished tomorrow, instead, look at what you can accomplish in the year ahead and work backwards. Compartmentalize events into months and feel a sense of accomplishment in each goal achieved,” says Silva.
Harmonize the Right & Left Brain
Author of 3 books, creator of Brain Upgrade and the audio program, Your Secret Brain, and brain-optimization expert, Paula Oleska, offers insights and exercises based on neuroscience.
Oleska says, “Stress disconnects your left brain, which controls words, focus and short-term memory, among other functions. As a result, your emotions take over. It’s hard to think straight.” The good news, according to Oleska, is as long as you don't have “underlying health conditions, these area functional imbalances can be remedied with the right lifestyle, including the right kind of exercise.”
Mindfulness matters. Remember that while movement is essential for the mind, Oleska says, “If it’s repetitive, when your mind is not paying attention, it doesn’t help. To keep your brain active, you need more complex forms of movement where you need to be present, like dancing or martial arts.”
Oleska's instructions for two brain strengthening exercises:
Simply touching your hand to the opposite knee and alternating, immediately restores the connection between your right and left brain hemisphere, leaving you able to think, feel and move at the same time.
Clasp your palms together and slowly draw a horizontal infinity sign around both eyes, several times. This exercise immediately improves focus and concentration, and reduces visual stress of looking at the computer screen.
Dr. Laura DeCesaris IFMCP, DC, MSACN, is a functional medicine strategist and consultant, who specializes in working with high-performing women, optimizing brain health and function. The doctor recommends “the Pomodoro Technique: time-blocking helps you focus and take breaks to cut down on fatigue and feeling overwhelmed.” How does it work? “Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one task until it’s completed. After this 25 minute block, take a five minute break. Then, sit down for a second block - keep working on that task until it’s finished, before you move on to the next! After 3-4 Pomodoro’s, take a longer 20-30 minute break,” explains Dr. Laura, who suggests stacking healthy habits for breaks. “Every 5 minute break, get up, do stretches, drink water, go outside and get some sunlight. On a longer break, sit down and eat away from your work, take vitamins, exercise, etc,” says Dr. Laura.
Dr Laura says, “Healthy fats, like fish and extra virgin olive oil, help to provide the important building blocks of our brain and nervous tissue, like EPA and DHA. Long chain, anti-inflammatory fats help build an optimal structure and drive down inflammation that can negatively impact our brain function and focus.”
Keep lots of “Berries and colorful plant foods, which are rich in antioxidants,” on hand too, adds Dr. Laura, “The brain is fairly susceptible to oxidative stress, so providing nutrients to help reduce that inflammation, and rebalance the metabolism, is essential for healthy brain function.”
Remember to consume protein. “It helps to keep your blood sugar stable (which means consistent energy and no crashes), and has important amino acids for brain function and neurotransmitter formation,” says Dr. Laura.
Along with fueling the body with healthy options, drink plenty of water. “Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your brain,” advises Dr. Laura, “Dehydration impacts the brain fairly quickly, which is why symptoms of dehydration often look like brain-based problems: brain fog, poor memory, diffciulty speaking and dizziness.”
According to Melanie Keller ND, naturopathic doctor and epigenetic intuitive, who often treats/focuses on sleep and brain health, “Brain aging is identified by the interplay between our sleep patterns and changes in the brain’s garbage cleaning abilities. Insufficient sleep leads to an increase of the brain’s garbage concentration, and may explain an underlying mechanism behind healthy or unhealthy brain aging.”
Dr. Keller’s tips for better sleep:
Finish your last meal of the day 3 hours before bedtime. Benefit: Food stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill into your esophagus and cause heartburn, that will disrupt your normal sleep cycle.
Resist drinking water or any other fluids at least two hours before sleeping. Skip the night trips to the bathroom by drinking your water intake during the day, Benefit: Reducing sleep disruption improves sleep quality and quantity.
Blue and green light-blocking lenses, worn 2-3 hours before bedtime. Benefit: Blue and green light (between 400-550nm) is the exact range that has been shown to disrupt melatonin, and negatively impact our sleep in clinical trials.
Make your sleep space dark by blocking as many forms of light as possible. Use an eye mask, curtains, etc. Benefit: Darkness is essential to sleep. The absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest and release the hormone melatonin.