How many of us know that just like our arm or leg muscles, our brain also requires exercise? In scientific terms, the brain is not a muscle. It is made up of other kinds of matter. But just like different parts of our body need nutrition and exercise to deliver better performance, the brain also requires some brain enhancing supplements and activities to boost performance.
When we talk about exercise and nutrition, our mind wanders to a gym or running in the park. Nutrition brings a vision of eating salads and health-boosting tablets. But taking care of our brain can be a bit different. Let me explain how.
There are many factors, both external and internal, food preferences, and lifestyle habits that affect our brain. I will discuss each of these in detail.
First of all, let us understand what the most commonly found natural brain enhancing supplements are.
Brain Enhancing Supplements
Most nutritionists believe that what we eat defines us. Of course, aspects like exercise and meditation help our body function better. However, it is impossible to be healthy without the right food. There are many types of brain food for memory, intelligence, and relaxation. I have listed down a few here:
Fruits: Avocados and blueberries are natural brain enhancing supplements. Avocados are rich with vitamins B, C, and E, and potassium. These nutrients lower blood pressure and ultimately benefit our brain. Blueberries too contain flavonoids, unique antioxidants that protect our brain from oxidative stress.
Vegetables: Broccoli and green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, and kale are excellent brain food for memory. These veggies are loaded with vitamin K. Vitamin K is required to create sphingolipids, a special kind of fat in our brain cells.
Oils: Coconut oil is one of the best brain memory supplements. Our brain contains 25% of our body’s cholesterol. With a high cholesterol content, coconut oil gives our brain the fuel to run efficiently.
Nuts and spices: One of the easiest ways to pick a food item is by analysing its shape. Many studies show that our food was designed keeping in mind the body part they benefit. Walnuts resemble the brain and are, therefore, a great brain enhancing supplement. They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and ideal for our brain health.
Turmeric has recently gained recognition in western medicine. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory. It also contains curcumin that can enhance our mood and help cope with depression. Curcumin also helps our body to create growth hormones to grow new brain cells.
5. Dark Chocolate: Lastly, apart from appealing to our taste buds, dark chocolate has many advantages for our brain. The flavonoids act as brain food for memory. Moreover, chocolate helps to improve our mood, making us feel better instantly.
6. Eggs & fish: Easy to make and nutritious, eggs are a staple to a major part of the world. Eggs contain vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folic acid that prevent brain shrinkage. Fish like wild salmon and sardines are enriched with omega 3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help our brain create new cells. They can enhance our memory and learning abilities.
Is Water a Brain Enhancing Supplement?
Water is essential for life. Our body is made up of 70% water and 75% of the brain is nothing but water. When we stay hydrated, our brain functions are improved. This means that we can think, act, and understand faster. Another benefit of water is that it helps to flush out toxins from our body. This flushing out does not just take place in our gut. It also takes place in our brain. When the brain is free of toxins, it can deliver more. If the body loses even 1-2% of its water, we can experience memory loss and difficulty to concentrate.
How much water should we drink every day?
There is no fixed answer. Our water intake depends on the weather, our physical activity, and age. This is why we are thirstier in summers but not so much in winters. An easy way to understand our body’s water requirement is by monitoring our urine. If the urine is light in colour with no odour, we have nothing to worry about. But if our urine is dark yellow with an evident odour, it is an indication to drink more water.
How should we drink water?
Ideally, drinking plain water is the best brain food for memory and concentration. But we can get our water from many sources. We should eat more fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, watermelons, mangoes, etc. as these are primarily made up of water. Careful with coffee: more than 500mg of caffeine per day gives diuretic effects. Diuretic effects mean production of urines, which leads to loss of water and sodium. This is why it is suggested to drink less than four cups of coffee per day.
Now that we know the importance of food and water, let’s explore if there’s anything else that can impact our brain.
What are the Internal and External Factors that can Affect our Cognitive Abilities?
Brain enhancing supplements are important for life. However, there are many other aspects of our environment that can influence our health. Broadly speaking, we can categorise these into two components – internal and external. What goes on inside our brain are internal factors. This can be our thoughts, worries, stress, etc. While, our friends, family, and peers are external factors that can alter our mood and concentration.
How do Internal Factors Affect our Brain?
Time and again, we are told to be happy. A happy mind ensures better physical and mental health. But it is easier said than done. With stresses and tensions increasing in the world, we can often find ourselves overwhelmed with emotions. Some studies show that adults can have up to an estimated 80,000 thoughts in a day. Most of these thoughts are negative. This implies that we focus on our worries throughout the day. This phenomenon is also known as automatic negative thoughts or ANT.
Negative associations: 90% of all thoughts are repetitive. We tend to cling on to things and obsess over them. When we have constant ANTs, our brain draws pattern and association with these thoughts. The more time we spend on them, the stronger is the connection. These associations and emotions linked to a certain memory make it hard for us to forget or ignore them.
Positive associations: The good news is that just like the negative thoughts, we can also use memory to create a healthy chain of thoughts. We can control our brain by feeding it with positivity. Reminding ourselves of our strengths can help our brain connect to the wonderful aspects of our life. If 90% of our thoughts are repetitive, wouldn’t it be nice to start the day on an uplifting note?
Scientists believe that ANTs can alter the production of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor in our brain. This protein is responsible for creating new brain cells. So, ANTs are not just a psychological phenomenon but also a scientific event. It is essential for us to understand the importance of self-love. Before we head on to external factors, we should be able to control our internal thoughts.
Controlling the mind: There are two ways to control our mind. One is to feed it with happy thoughts. The more often we remind ourselves of our positives, the easier it is for our brain to create a memory. This helps us believe in a concept. But sometimes, our brain can also draw a contrasting association. This is similar to when a parent asks a child not to eat ice cream. In this case, all the child wants is ice-cream!
The idea is to eliminate all our negativity. When creating positive affirmations, they cannot be made of non-negative sentences, but instead, of positive sentences. So, instead of telling ourselves that ‘we are not worthless’, we need to tell ourselves that, ‘we are worthy.’
Can External Factors Affect us more than Internal Factors?
It is true that as long as we have our mind in control, we have little to worry about. But external factors have a way of getting to us. This is because it can be hard for us to ignore a negative presence for too long. This is why we need to surround ourselves with people who inspire us. Friends and family members who stand by us and encourage us to be happy can have a positive effect on our thinking. We should include people we can be around without judgments.
When we control our internal factors, we can also choose how external factors affect us. This inner strength can help us choose who influences us and who does not. We can then easily block the negative energy from external sources. It’s time to say good bye to the rest.
The last thing I want to talk about is sleep. While we eat healthily and keep our mind and a life free from negativity, we also need to ensure that we get optimal sleep.
How Important is Sleep for the Brain?
Sleep can be a useful brain memory supplement.It is one of the most effective remedies to reduce stress. A healthy mind is a mind without worries. Sleep lets us heal our mind by giving it the rest it deserves and needs. It also improves our brain function. Many scientific discoveries were made while sleeping. Dmitri Mendeleev, who discovered the periodic table, said, “In a dream I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required. After waking up, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper.”
Sleep is a natural mechanism of our body. But in the current day and age, even sleep has become a luxury. It could be difficult to put our mind to rest with so many thoughts crossing our attention all the time. Deep sleep seems like an illusion. However, there are some things that can be done to improve our sleep.
How to Improve the Quality of our Sleep?
- Separate work and sleep: We need tokeep our work and sleep as far apart as possible. We should not bring work into our bedrooms. Our mind needs to connect this space with relaxation and not stress or productivity. For example, try to avoid working with your laptop while in your bed!
- Do physical exercise: Regular exercise has many benefits. It strengthens our body and mind. But the time to exercise is crucial. Exercise is helpful in waking up the body. Some studies indicate that exercising close to bedtime can interfere with our sleep. We need to understand what works best for us and then pick an ideal time.
- Do mental exercise: Meditation, chanting, and breathing exercises can calm the mind. The ultimate motive of meditation is to rid the mind of all thoughts. This brings in peace and clarity.
- Optimise room temperature: Optimising the room temperature around us also helps. The ideal temperature is 20/21° Celsius or 68/70 Fahrenheit.
- Block sources of bright light: Keeping the room dark can ensure better sleep. The photoreceptors in our body prevent us from falling asleep if we see light. But some of us may fear the dark. In this case, a night light or table lamp can help us ease our fears. In this case, make sure the light does not go directly to your face/eyes – even indirectly.
- Avoid screens. Choose books or calming music: Lastly, in the age of technology, we are all victims of our screens. The blue light in mobile screens, TVs, and laptops stop the production of melatonin in our brain. The notifications from messages and emails capture our attention. It helps to use the night mode. But we should aim to eliminate the use of these devices a few hours before sleeping.
How Many Hours Should we Sleep for?
This can differ as per our age and chronotype. Children and teens require more sleep and can sleep up to 10-14 hours. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep while older people should aim for at least 6-7 hours.
Maintaining brain health is a combination of good dietary habits and lifestyle changes. We must try to concentrate on all these factors. Just eating brain memory supplements but ignoring mental health will only deliver half results. But the right amount of sleep, meditation, food, and positivity can help us become the BEST VERSION OF OURSELVES.
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