In her book Future Brain, Dr Jenny Brockis says you can expand your mind’s capability to think well under stress, stay focused and get more out of your day. Using the latest neuro-scientific principles, she looks at key areas and offers these tips to help you achieve a high-performance brain.
NUTRITION. What you eat can influence your memory, mood, mental health and ability to perform well, so it’s important to feed your brain healthy food. Go for fresh, minimally processed foods and choose leafy greens, whole grains, berries, oily fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, dark chocolate and two or three cups of coffee a day.
EXERCISE can give your brain a boost, from enhancing blood flow to improving cognition, learning and memory as well as helping your mood. Do something you enjoy but that gets your heart rate up – such as at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Including some stretching and strength sessions can also help your mental health and function.
SLEEP. Getting enough sleep provides us with many benefits. It results in greater physical and mental wellbeing, regulates our mood and helps repair and maintain the neurons in our brain. We make fewer mistakes when we sleep properly.
FLEX YOUR MIND. The more we use our brain, the better it gets. Being curious is how we stretch our mind. The more curious we are about our world, the more open we are to learning other things. Start by learning a musical instrument or doing a daily crossword.
FOCUS. Pace your day in chunks of focused thinking time – but factor in breaks for your brain so you have breathing space. Take a break from technology, where you spend time connecting with what’s going on around you. Aim to do one thing at a time, give it your full and undivided attention and do it well.
HEALTHY STRESS. It’s not the amount or severity of stress that harms us, it’s our belief in whether or not we will be harmed by the stress. If you want to live longer and more healthily, change how you view stress. The first rule of stress management is to worry about things that are under your control, not the things that aren’t. Practising a relaxation technique can also help to build resilience and ways of coping with stress.
MINDFULNESS. Practising mindfulness can help you become more productive, creative, focused, calm, alert and energised. This art of noticing more – especially new things – and immersing yourself in the present can give your brain a boost. Mindfulness can help improve our accuracy in recording or remembering important details such as appointments or dates. Using prompts and checklists can help too. So much of our behaviour is automatic that we stop noticing what we’re doing.
It’s easy to neglect our brain health. We occupy ourselves with just exercising our body. But a healthy brain means a sound body–active, alert, smart, productive. How we boost brain fitness can be a habit-changing activity with a lifetime positive effect.