More and more of my high-performing clients and friends are focused on brain performance. And for good reason.
Optimizing brain performance is essential for living an extraordinary life with less stress, increased creativity, more focus and improved performance at work and home.
Even if you're overwhelmed and forgetting your car keys or important meetings, science now proves that we can heal and improve our brains at every age. Thank goodness!
I recently attended a day of lectures at the Brain Performance Institute in Dallas, Texas. Each presentation provided nuggets of information to help us live healthier lives and gain an edge.
All actions have been recommended by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. Their tools and research have helped everyone from middle school children to corporate executives, warriors and athletes and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
5 Actions to Improve Your Brain Performance
1. Take 5 and then 5 and then...
Have you ever told yourself, “I’ll take a break after I get this done”? Three hours later you’re still burning the midnight oil, feeling exhausted and drained …
Deadlines and high-pressure moments are often unavoidable in today’s world. However, here’s your edge to getting more done in a short amount of time:
Take 5 minute breaks 5 times a day.
Important: During each 5 minute break, you are not to engage with anything else. Yes, that means you’re not checking your phone, reading an article or speaking to someone.
This 5 minute break is time for you to slow your brain down. Meditating, practicing mindfulness, breathing deeply or looking out the window are also great options for your 5 minute break.
2. Two for the Win!
Somewhere along the way, I got the message that my brain needs to retain as much information as possible. While in school, I even thought I had to know everything in a textbook to ace exams, and later in life try to remember everything a boss or client shares.
However, research proves that this line of thinking is wrong and may even cause a decline in mental agility. Yikes!
Because we are constantly bombarded with content, messaging and videos almost 24/7, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and experience brain-overload. Both are no-good for us.
Instead, focus on the top two take-aways or lessons learned. Filter out everything else.
If this action scares you a bit, then take copious notes and refer back to them. But give your brain a break by remembering just the top two take-aways.
3. Stop Multi-tasking
How many websites or tabs do you have open on your laptop or phone right this very moment? Three, five or more?
Even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the best multi-tasker on the planet, you can accomplish even MORE with sequential tasking versus multi-tasking.
Research proves that individuals are more error prone when they multi-task and become more easily distracted. We also engage in shallow thinking. When you switch tasks, it can take up to 20 minutes to re-engage into higher quality thoughts.
Sequential tasking is working on one thing until it is completed before consciously moving onto another task. For example, set a timer to engage in one task for 15-45 minutes. Turn off all distractions on your laptop or phone. You may even need to close your office door or put a sign up letting people know you’re unavailable. Your performance will improve.
4. Stay Present
Focusing on this very moment (not lamenting about the past or worrying about the future) is key to maintaining mental sharpness.
The Center for Brain Institute offered numerous break-out sessions on mindfulness and meditation. They were really driving home the research that both mindfulness and meditation can positively alter the brain.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” - Mindful Magazine
Need more motivation to be present? When you’re engaged in the present you’re able to move quickly from the flight or fright part of your brain (the amygdala) to your frontal lobe that controls problem solving, language and judgment. In other words, you can think more quickly, reduce your stress and experience less anger.
5. Move, Eat & Sleep For Your Brain
Your physical well-being directly impacts your brain health.
Exercise: Exercise stimulates neurogenesis - the growth and development of neurons in the brain. Neurogenesis helps with learning, memory and a decrease in stress, depression, and other conditions. The Center for Brain Health recommends resistance training 2-3 times a week as well as cardio exercise.
Eat: The Center for Brain Health recommends the MIND diet. It’s a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. You can have your glass of wine!
Sleep: Do you grab for coffee in the morning to wake yourself up? Try your best to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. The ideal sleeping conditions include a dark room, a temperature between 60-67 degrees and a regular routine that winds your mind down.
Since my time at the Brain Performance Institute, I’ve upped my brain game and I can already tell a difference at work and home.
Which of the 5 actions will you try out this week? Share in the comments below.
Here’s to great brain health at every age!
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Thanks for sharing! With wanting to be more in the flow of life, I'm putting more effort into being present each day. It's so easy to be pulled out of the present moment, feel like we need to do a zillion things at once and feel anything but ease in our bodies.
Great article Jennifer! What a great set of lectures to attend. I am really surprised to see that cheese has a negative impact on the brain - but then again our bodies do process it the same as heroin! Thanks for keeping us healthy!