Nutrition plays a major role in improving cognitive performance—to get the most out of your brain, you’ve got to keep it well-fed!
But in addition to taking the best nootropic brain supplements daily, here are 7 more things you can do to keep your brain at peak performance:
1—Exercise your brain daily.
Spending hours a day on the coach watching the tube can make your brain turn to mush. To get peak performance out of your brain power, you’ve got to use it or lose it.
The choices are endless. Do whatever stimulates your mind most – reading, doing puzzles, studying, attending lectures, listening to podcasts, solving math problems.
Also good exercise for the brain: changing up your routine and doing old, familiar things in new and unfamiliar ways. Example: Take a different route when coming home from a friend’s house. There’s little risk nowadays, because should you get lost, the GPS can always save you.
When all else fails, here’s something you can do anytime, anywhere: practice memorizing things – for instance, the capitals of all 50 states or the U.S. presidents in the order they held office.
2—Take a breather.
Your brain, more so than almost any other organ with the possible exception of your retinas, needs a constant flow of oxygen for survival. Even a few minutes of oxygen deprivation can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
Therefore, aerobic exercise and in particular deep breathing are likely to be beneficial to your brain function. Deep breathing improves oxygen levels in the brain. But there’s another benefit: it also has a calming effect that can reduce stress levels. That’s valuable, because stress releases the hormone cortisol, which is harmful to brain cells.
3—Sound body, sound mind.
The body is the vessel that carries around the brain and keeps it alive with oxygen, nutrients, and blood flow. Therefore, healthy body, healthier brain.
Physical exercise is good for brain health primarily because it improved brain blood flow. The blood is responsible for carrying both oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.
Get at least a half hour of exercise 5 times a week. For some, the best option is joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer, because without that, they simply won’t exercise.
If you can motivate yourself to move, do things you enjoy: hiking, riding your bicycle, long walks, and swimming are a few favorites. The key is to get your heart rate up, your blood flowing, your lungs pumping.
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that middle-aged adults who are in shape are less likely to develop problems with cognitive function than those who are out of shape.
What do brains have in common with houseplants? Both need to be watered frequently, because dehydration can produce suboptimal cognition.
The solution? Drink plenty of water. The human brain is 70% water. When your brain doesn’t have enough liquid, it can’t operate at peak performance. The Mayo Clinic and other sources recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
5—To sleep perchance to think.
Get enough sleep, which for most of us is around 8 hours a day. Lack of sleep can deplete neurotransmitter levels in the brain. When you’re sleep deprived, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are compromised. Unfortunately, many of us are either too busy to get enough sleep or have trouble sleeping.
Even if you don’t get enough sleep, your brain can still benefit from short periods of down-time. The Center for Brain Health advises, “Step away and disengage for 5 minutes at least 5 times a day; your brain can reboot after a few minutes of rest.”
6—Get out more.
There is some truth to the stereotype of the loner, recluse, or hermit talking constantly to himself to avoid going batty.
We need not just our own company, but the company of other people and an active social life for optimal cognitive function. So be more social. Spend time with friends. Participate in venues that require socialization with others: school, church, clubs, civic groups.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of age-related memory decline. Unfortunately, many older folk especially socialize less, because as we age, our friends drift away or die.
7—Success with less stress.
As noted, stress can release cortisol, a hormone shown to kill brain cells, into the bloodstream. Cortisol also slows nerve cell growth and accelerates age-related cognitive impairment.
If you have a family, a house, car payments, and job, you can’t avoid all stress. But you can practice stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, and Tai chi. Or do other relaxing things you enjoy more like walking in the woods or needlepoint.
8—Deep-six the multitasking
Multitasking as the road to increased productivity is a myth. If you want optimal cognition, focus on one task at a time. If you have multiple tasks, do them sequentially, not simultaneously.
“When you’re trying to accomplish two dissimilar tasks, each one requiring some level of consideration and attention, multitasking falls apart,” writes Douglas Merrill in Forbes (8/17/2012).
According to the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas, a task that would normally take 25 minutes to complete without interruption takes more than two hours when multitasking, in which disruption is inherent.
Also, it is axiomatic that if you are multitasking, neither task is getting your full attention or your best effort.
 http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2007.113654 American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 98, No. 7, pp. 1215-1220, 2007: Effects of Social Integration on Preserving Memory Function in a Nationally Representative US Elderly Population by Karen, A. Ertel, Maria Glymour and Lisa F. Berkman