You’ve probably heard the standard advice about staying mentally sharp: try new things, eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.
All of that is great advice for long-term brain health, but what if you need a brain boost today? Here are a few immediate fixes to get you through some of the demands your day might throw at you.
I’ve got a job interview! How can I be at the top of my game?
You’re going to want to think on your feet and remember all that great information you researched about your dream job, right? A great way to light up the information processing and memory functions of your brain is to get some aerobic exercise. Anything that gets your heart pounding will boost your brain too. Just keep it under 60 minutes, and drink enough water, or exhaustion and dehydration will work against you.
Trying to understand this information is killing me.
Whether you’re studying for a test or muddling through a report from work, sometimes it can feel like slogging through mud to learn something new. We all know that a good night’s sleep helps us to be at our mental best, but that doesn’t always happen in the real world. The good news is that a nap can have the same benefits as a good night’s sleep. 45 minutes of shut-eye can actually save you time in the long run when you come back to the task ready to learn.
How can I do my best on this test (or presentation)?
Here’s a weird but true fact: spending some time thinking about your genetic origin will increase your intellectual performance on a task. Scientists think that remembering your ancestors gives you a positive emotional boost that will help you expect to do your best and actually perform better. Thanks, Mom!
I have to finish this work, but I’m out of ideas.
It’s a terrible feeling to have a looming deadline and no genius thoughts to get you there. What you need is a unique mental state that’s achieved by letting your mind wander. Spending some time staring out the window and zoning out of what’s going on around you is actually really important brain work. It simultaneously activates executive and network brain functions. What’s unusual about this is that these two parts of the brain don’t usually work together. Executive function helps you prioritize work and stay on task, while network brain function is where creativity comes from. So a few minutes gazing into the middle distance can actually marshal the parts of your brain that will help you come up with great ideas and see them through to completion.
How can I remember details?
Whether you’re going to the grocery store for just a few things, or you want to remember the names of the people you just met, you’ll have a better chance of remembering things if you say them out loud. Got a call from your spouse just as you were about to drive home, asking you to pick up a few things? Quietly chanting to yourself “Tomatoes, mozzarella, toilet paper, and gum” in the car on the way to the store will help you keep the items in your brain long enough to get them in your cart. And when you meet someone new, just inserting their name in the conversation will help you remember it the next time you meet. You have to say the things you want to remember out loud, though; silently repeating them in your head doesn’t work nearly as well.
If you’re looking to keep your brain sharp in the long run, you should absolutely incorporate lifestyle changes that will help. But no matter what else is going on in your life, it can’t hurt to keep a few tricks up your sleeve to help you bring your best brain to whatever you’re facing today.