The brain, weighing just 3 pounds, is the master controller of our actions. It plays a vital role in every aspect of our lives, from deciding which gifts to exchange during holidays to regulating our breathing. Despite its crucial importance, we often neglect the well-being of our brains, focusing more on improving other parts of our bodies while disregarding the needs of this remarkable organ.
Taking good care of your brain can have an immensely positive impact on your overall well-being, happiness, and productivity. Similar to any other organ, creating optimal conditions for your brain to function at its best can result in a year filled with creativity, success, and life-changing experiences.
By committing to these simple changes, you can enjoy the benefits of improved brain function throughout the year:
Prioritize sufficient sleep.
Numerous studies indicate that insufficient sleep impairs brain function. Prolonged sleep deprivation can even alter your brain’s DNA, increasing vulnerability to depression. In the short term, lack of sleep disrupts neural pathways. Therefore, make it a priority to establish a sleep schedule that allows for ample rest, even if it means adjusting your travel plans or avoiding late-night activities. Additionally, incorporate short 10-minute naps during the day to enhance brain function temporarily, although they do not compensate for sleep deprivation.
Nourish your brain with the right foods.
Certain foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids have been proven to enhance brain function. Incorporate walnuts, eggs, leafy greens, coffee, berries, and dark chocolate into your diet to benefit from these nutrients. Additionally, manage stress levels and maintain optimal brain function by consuming several small meals throughout the day, starting in the morning and spacing them at intervals of no more than four hours. Avoid high-fat, high-sugar, and heavily processed foods that can cause blood sugar spikes or overwhelm your system. Opt for natural, whole foods such as fruits, nuts, whole grains, and yogurt. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also beneficial for brain function and overall well-being. Keep a water bottle and a bag of nuts near your desk as a reminder to prioritize these choices.
Engage in moderate exercise.
Similar to consuming the right foods, regular exercise not only improves brain function but also benefits the rest of your body. You don’t need to engage in lengthy daily workouts; regular, moderate exercise such as walking two miles a day is sufficient to boost brain function and mood. Additionally, you can utilize short exercise sessions to help during specific moments throughout the day. For instance, if you feel upset, spend 60 seconds running up a flight of stairs or engaging in simple exercises in your office. This brief burst of exercise will help fulfill the flight-or-fight response that our brains evolved to produce. Similarly, before giving a presentation, spend a few minutes on moderate exercise, such as running in place, to energize yourself. Tony Robbins, for example, jumps on a trampoline to enhance his energy before presentations.
Allocate time to clear your mind.
Research indicates that regular meditation not only improves brain function but also increases happiness. Even five minutes of meditation during your workday can make a significant difference. However, if meditation isn’t feasible for you, taking time to clear your mind regularly can still provide similar benefits. Pause to breathe deeply, gaze out the window (which itself has brain benefits), take a walk, or engage in any activity that allows your mind to unwind. Walking can serve as a form of meditation while providing moderate exercise and exposing you to daylight, further enhancing brain function.
Learn something new.
If you’ve always desired to learn how to surf, study Sanskrit, or explore improvisation, seize the opportunity in the coming year. Learning something new, whether it’s a language or a performance technique, creates new neural pathways in the brain. If possible, dedicate an hour each day to your new hobby for maximum brain improvement, particularly when you focus on the learning process. Nonetheless, every time you learn anything new, you contribute to the brain’s flexibility.
Take breaks from work.
Similar to sleep, your brain requires time away from work. Allocate at least one day out of every seven to rest. If you’re accustomed to working every day, don’t fear falling behind. An experiment showed that a work team instructed to take a day off each week actually accomplished more and felt prouder about their achievements. This example highlights how improving brain function significantly impacts productivity. However, don’t limit yourself to just a weekly break. Regular vacations are essential for brain function, and it’s no coincidence that many individuals experience their most creative thinking while on vacation. Furthermore, taking at least two one-week vacations annually can even contribute to a longer lifespan.
These recommendations provide a recipe for enhancing brain function in the upcoming year. Will you commit to making these small changes? Your brain will undoubtedly appreciate it if you do.