Do you ever feel like your head is stuck in a fog and you can’t concentrate or think clearly? It’s happened to all of us. Brain fog is no joke. When you can’t string two thoughts together enough to focus on important tasks or remember important details (like why you walked into a room), it’s frustrating – and exhausting! But the good news is that brain fog doesn’t have to be part of your daily life. There are steps you can take to not only improve your overall brain health, but also sharpen your focus and feel like you can think again.
Let’s explore five simple ways you can improve your brain health and fight off brain fog.
Get Enough Sleep
It's no big secret that a good night's sleep is essential for optimal health. When we sleep, our brains are working hard to process, store, and consolidate memories that occurred during the day and remove any excess toxins. When we stay up too late or wake up too early, our brains aren’t able to do their job efficiently leaving us feeling groggy, forgetful, and unable to focus clearly.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and try to establish a consistent sleep schedule. Best to avoid using any electronic devices before bed – the blue light can cause your brain to think it’s still daylight, interfering with melatonin production. Instead, try to create a sense of “dusk” about 30 minutes before you go to bed by dimming the lights, turning off all blue screens, and allowing your body to wind down with a relaxing activity, like reading a book or taking a warm bath.
Consume More Brain Food
Our brains require certain nutrients to maintain peak performance and perform complex functions including memory, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making. In order for these actions to take place, the brain needs a steady supply of nutrients such as glucose, obtained from the food we eat.
Another important nutrient obtained from dietary proteins are essential amino acids. These are used to produce important neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that allow our brain cells to talk to each other. In addition, our brains require adequate B vitamins, Vitamin E, and iron to support nerve cell development, energy metabolism, and antioxidant defense.
As you might assume, a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy trans fats can lead to brain fog, unclear thinking, and even fatigue. Other negative consequences from these types of food can include accelerated inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
So, what kinds of foods are the best to optimize brain health? I’m glad you asked.
Foods that are good for brain health include:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants to nourish and protect your brain.
- High-quality plant and animal proteins which are rich in amino acids.
- Sufficient water to maintain optimal hydration – shoot for ½ your body weight in ounces every day.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mercury-free tuna, and sardines which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are excellent sources of DHA and EPA.
- Berries also contain high amounts of antioxidants along with flavonoids which have been shown to improve cognitive function.
- The mushroom, Lion’s Mane is the king when it comes to improving cognitive function and optimizing brain health.
- Walnuts and pumpkin seeds are rich in Vitamin E, fiber, and protein.
- Eggs are a good source of choline, a superfood when it comes to brain development and cognitive function.
- Dark chocolate not only contains caffeine but also contains a generous amount of flavonoids which also protect brain health.
Without a steady supply of these nutrients, our brains can't function at their best. A deficiency of these important nutrients can lead to cognitive impairment, memory problems, and mood disorders. Over time, a diet that is missing these foods can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. By consuming a balanced diet rich in whole foods, we can ensure that our brains have the nutrients they need to function at their best.
Get Your Body Moving
Regular physical exercise isn't just good for your body – it's essential for maintaining a healthy and happy brain. Not only can exercise deliver important nutrients to the brain through improved blood flow, but when you move, your body produces important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which improve your mood – and your memory.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to exercise is to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-4 days each week. This can include brisk walking, cycling, pickleball, or other activities you enjoy. You can also try incorporating more movement into your daily routine, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk during your lunch break.
Manage Your Stress
The negative impact of chronic stress on our overall health can’t be overemphasized enough.
When we're under chronic stress, our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone that can impair brain function and lead to symptoms like brain fog, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating. Simple activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can boost your cognitive function and reduce stress all at the same time.
Learning how to manage your stress can help reduce the impact it has on your brain and improve your overall cognitive function.
Just like our bodies need exercise to stay as healthy as possible, our brains need exercise too.
Engaging in activities that challenge your brain, like learning a new language or playing a challenging game, can help improve cognitive function and reduce the symptoms of brain fog.
Even learning a new skill, solving crossword puzzles, or playing a game that involves some kind of strategy will put your brain into action, forcing it to stay active and remain sharp. Other brain-building activities include taking a cooking class, learning how to paint, or tango! Just get out there and do something fun that you enjoy!
Brain Health and Sharper Focus is Within Reach
Brain fog can be a frustrating and debilitating symptom, but it doesn't have to control your life. By taking a more holistic approach to your brain health, you can improve your cognitive function, sharpen your focus, and reduce the symptoms of brain fog. Try to incorporate at least two of these tips into your daily routine, and watch as your brain becomes clearer, sharper, and more resilient.