The most important thing you can do to increase your brain power and memory is to be mindful.
This is basically paying attention on purpose. Being mindful is scientifically proven to increase the gray matter in your brain. Gray matter allows you to think clearer and remember more. The reason I don’t have mindfulness as one of my points is because you have to be mindful to do any of these things!
1. Maximize Your Sleep Cycle
We sleep 1/3 of our life, or at least we are supposed to. When we sleep, we go through a cycle which include 3 stages. Each stage is 30 minutes (90 minutes per cycle), and the cycle repeats itself throughout the night. The first stage is light sleep, the first 30 minutes, and this occurs when we first fall asleep. The next stage is deep sleep, between 30-60 minutes, and in deep sleep our body heals itself. It does this by releasing the hormone HGH which repairs what the body needs repairing. If you are sore from working out, this is the stage that makes you not sore in the morning.
The final stage, or Stage 3, is the famous REM stage which occurs between 60-90 minutes. This is the stage that repairs our brains. REM is known as the dreaming stage, but is also the stage where it categorizing your thoughts and memories. During the night the cycles treat different stages with different priorities.
Your body is the first thing to heal and then it moves to the brain. This is why they say it is crucially Important to get 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night. The average American gets 6.8 and lives in a sleep debt most of their life.
Implementing – Do your best to get 7.5 hours of sleep and if you need to take a nap, take one! If you are one of those people that think sleep is weak and you run just fine on your 6 hours, try getting 7.5 and see how efficient you are, how much better you feel, and notice how good your mood is throughout the day!
2. Maximize Your Food Intake
You get out what you put in! If you want your car to perform at its best, you put in high octane fuel. If you want your body and brain to perform at its best, you put in high octane food. Begin by cutting down on the amount of food you consume at one time. If you normally eat three larger meals, cut those down to six smaller meals throughout the day. Our brain works best with 25 grams of glucose at one time…that is basically a banana. There are also plenty of foods that release hormones like dopamine that make us feel good. Some say two handfuls of cashews equals an antidepressant pill. Although they may be a stretch, why are you not snacking on cashews all day?
Implementing – First, cut down on the size of the meals you are eating! Next, simply think about what you are putting in your body. Everything you put in makes your feel differently, so put in the good stuff! Finally, if you are not sure, look it up. Google is at your fingertips, so use it… your body and brain will thank you!
3. Write it Down
When you physically write things down your brain looks at it differently than if you type it into your phone or computer. When you actually write it down, it cements it into your brain. When I was in high school I wasn’t a very good student and when it came time to take tests, I always made cheat sheets.
The fascinating thing was I never used them. About an hour before the test, I would look at the possible questions and write down the answers on a small piece of paper. I would then put the paper in my pocket and plan on pulling it out when it was time to retrieve the answer. The thing was, when I would read a question, the answer would come right to me because I had just written it down. I could visualize how I wrote it, and where I wrote it down on the cheat sheet.
Implementing – There are several ways to start doing this. My favorite is write down tomorrow’s activities/responsibilities the night before. What this does is release any worry about what you have to do the next day and you will sleep like a baby! It also allows you to wake up the next day and just follow a schedule…no-brainer! Even though it is better to write things down by hand, have an app on your phone where you can always jot things down when they come to mind. We have so many great ideas that come and go, if you don’t capture them, you may lose it forever!
4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, or putting yourself “out there” has an effect on the way your brain sees things. Your brain reacts differently in new environments than when you stay in the same place. When your brain sees the same things all the time, it goes into auto-pilot. It has seen it before so it doesn’t have to work to understand. When you change your scenery, your brain starts to see new things and perceive things differently. It does this because it has to “pay attention.” This is where the magic happens.
What I mean by that, is there are things we all have in our heads which we have no answer for. We may be working on a project or just something you know you are missing and when we introduce our brain to new environments those missing pieces sometimes come to the surface…it’s amazing!
Implementing – This can be done so many different way, but the easiest answer is switching up a routine a bit. A few examples are driving home and working out. Instead of driving home the exact same way, even if it takes you another 5 minutes, take an alternative route to shake up the brain. If you exercise, that’s next; you should change up your routine a bit. Instead of running the same route or the same time and miles per hour on the treadmill, shake it up a bit. You can also add in a new form of exercise to do the same.
Besides being great for our body, exercising is amazing for our brain. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins that make us feel good. It also decreases our stress which eliminates the bad hormone cortisol, which I like to call the “dumb” hormone. Cortisol clouds our thinking and decreases our cognitive ability. So, to feel better and think clearer, jump on that treadmill, lift those weights, get to that yoga class or whatever form of exercise you choose is right for you.
Implementing – If you don’t already, start exercising! You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, there are plenty of workouts you can perform in the privacy of your own home. Beyond that, make conscious decisions to be more active. Take the stairs not the elevator, park away from the building instead of hunting for the best spot, and get up and take a walk every now and again…your body and brain will thank you!
6. Slow Down
Slowing down may sound like something a lazy person would tell you, but in fact here is why it helps. Being “busy” or “multitasking” are two of the least productive things you can do. When you slow down and mindfully concentrate on one task at a time, you give it 100%. When you multitask two things, you do each at 50% and when you do three, it is 33%, you get the picture. Besides doing the job better and more efficiently, you become less stressed which, yes, eliminates the cortisol in your brain. As we know this allows you to think clearer which will produce less errors. So, in fact, when you slow down you actually increase your productivity.
Implementing – This one is pretty simple, but for some reason one of the hardest. We are so “trained” to go fast, and get things done, but it is that mentality that creates the mess! So, write down the things your are going to do in the next hour/day and mindfully do them one at a time. You will find that you feel better as you get each one done and more relaxed. Slow down and enjoy life!
Start implementing these six habits and you will not only see your brain power and memory increase, you will see your mood lift like never before. So be mindful, put these to work and I’ll see you at the top!