They are simple yet effective.
I was staring at my blank computer screen for what felt like hours when I finally decided to take a quick glance at the clock. Five minutes had passed. Five whole minutes, and I was still staring at the blank white document I had open on my computer screen.
I had reached a mental block, and my frustration was mounting. So, I did what I always do when I’m angry or stressed — I went for a run. 30 minutes of slow, blissful jogging always helps me clear my mind. It allows me to find my flow, and tap into my creative thought.
For years, I assumed that my ability to think better after performing simple, monotonous tasks (like running) was a mere coincidence. But it turns out, that’s actually not the case.
In fact, there are a number of specific methods you can use to target your brain and boost your cognitive performance. Thus, here are five simple yet effective ways to stimulate your mind and help you reach your full potential.
1. Do this form of exercise.
Running has actually been shown to boost your brain in a number of meaningful ways. I’ve experience the powerful cognitive benefits of running countless times myself, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
“Going for a run was found to improve reasoning ability.”
In addition to that,
“a study at National Taiwan Sport University has pinpointed 30 minutes of moderate exercise as the ideal duration and intensity to optimize cognitive performance immediately afterwards.”
Interestingly enough, one of my favorite times to write, which I also find to be the most productive, is directly after my daily 30 minute run.
So, if you’re looking for ways to tap into your own creative thought, try working out for 30 minutes a day. Not only will it give your brain a boost, but it will also help you stay physically healthy.
2. Sleep at least this long.
Sufficient research has shown that getting enough sleep is key to optimizing your cognitive abilities. Unfortunately, a poor night’s sleep affects both your ability to process information from the previous day as well as the following day.
According to Psychology Today:
“The brain does not shut off when we are asleep. There is a lot of work going on while you sleep — and much of it involves consolidating the learning that took place during the day…On the other hand, if you do not sleep properly, you can lose the benefit of your learning experiences. You also will not learn as well the following day. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to benefit fully and perform at their cognitive peak each day.”
Therefore, if you want your brain to function optimally, try to get on a consistent schedule that allows you to get at least seven hours of sleep every single night.
3. Drink this tasty beverage.
Instead of reaching for a glass of water before getting started on your morning work, consider drinking a cup of coffee. The caffeine in it has been shown to boost your energy and your brain power.
Harvard Health states:
“Not only is caffeine a brain stimulant, but it also blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which normally prevents the release of excitatory brain chemicals. With adenosine out of the way, these brain-sparking chemicals can flow more freely — giving you a surge of energy and potentially improving mental performance and slowing age-related mental decline.”
I start every work day off with a cup of coffee myself, and I do find that my mornings are the most productive part of every single day.
So, if you have a hard task that you need to tackle, try doing it with a fresh mind and a warm cup of joe in hand.
4. Take frequent work breaks.
You might be tempted to plow through endless hours of work. However, this can actually hurt your overall productivity.
Psychology Today notes that:
Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. “Aha moments” came more often to those who took breaks.
Up until I went to college, I was always the type of person who couldn’t quit until all my work was finished. But in my first semester of college, I realized that my homework took me two to three times as long to complete when I didn’t take frequent breaks.
Nowadays, I take a break just about every hour to clear my head. A few minutes is all I need to feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. So, if you’re feeling mentally burned out, frustrated, or unproductive, a short break might be all you need to re-focus and generate some new ideas.
5. Eat these foods.
While eating a minimally processed diet in general is crucial for your overall health and well being, there are specific foods that have the potential to give your brain a boost.
According to Harvard Health, the foods that make up the Mediterranean diet:
“show promise for preserving memory and preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.”
Some of the top foods that make up the diet include:
- Nuts (walnuts are great!)
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
So, if you didn’t already have reason enough to eat your fruits and vegetables, preserving your memory as you age is yet another great motivator.
The mind is a powerful tool that can be used to propel you to new heights and greater success in life. It is made to be pushed, challenged, and strengthened.
By prioritizing key practices like sleeping plenty, exercising daily, and eating brain boosting foods, I’ve been able to stretch my own mind and think more deeply.
I urge you to do the same. In the end, you will not only improve your thinking, but also your overall mental and physical health.