Modern lifestyle can really drain your brainpower—you’re juggling work, home and family, social events, and trying to keep up with responsibilities.
Yet some people excel at remembering names and dates, always have a story or joke ready to tell, or they’re quick witted and funny.
Imagine if you could boost your brainpower in 14 days, making it easier to keep your train of thought and remember all the little things you need to do each day.
Well, you can! A UCLA research study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that people can improve their cognitive function and brain efficiency just by making 4 lifestyle changes.
These changes are:
The lead investigator for the study, Dr. Gary Small, professor of Psychiatry and Bio Behavioral Sciences, said science has proven that diet and exercise can help people maintain their physical health and live longer. He stressed that maintaining mental health is just as important.
The UCLA study shows the impact of using memory exercises, stress reduction, a healthy diet, and physical exercise all together to improve brain and cognitive function.
It didn’t take long for these 4 aspects to affect changes.
After just 14 days of following the healthy lifestyle strategies, the study participants' brain metabolism decreased in working memory regions, suggesting an increased efficiency.
Translated into easy terms: the brain didn't have to work as hard to accomplish tasks.
To achieve these results, participants incorporated the following into their daily routine:
For 2 weeks, participants used memory exercises such as crossword puzzles and brainteasers throughout the day to stimulate the brain.
They took daily walks to improve physical fitness.
Participants ate five small meals a day to improve their diet. The small meals prevent drops in blood glucose levels, which is the main energy source for the brain.
The meals were balanced, full of omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and low‑glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains.
Finally, to manage stress, participants performed daily relaxation exercises.
Cutting down on stress, and therefore cortisol levels, helps the brain because cortisol impairs memory and damages brain memory cells.
People who followed the 4 steps performed better in verbal fluency.
You can improve your overall health and brain function with these lifestyle changes.
It might be easier to incorporate these changes with a plan in mind.
One way to do that is to get a small planner book, preferably one that shows the week together.
Write your 4 daily goals (that reflect the 4 steps we’ve discussed) at the top, and mark them off each day when you do them.
Each day, get activity, brain teasers or puzzles, healthy food, and do something that’s fun, relaxing, or stress reducing.
At the end of each week, find a way to challenge yourself mentally.
This checks how well you’re doing, if you’ve made progress, and it works to further improve your brain function.
The following is a sample day, and things you can do throughout the day to improve your brainpower and function in just 14 days.
When you wake up, get in a few minutes of stretching and movement to get your blood flowing.
(Alternatively, consider going for a early morning walk. You can get your exercise now, later, or get in several sessions in one day.)
Coffee is one of the most stimulating scents to the brain, according to findings from the Kyorin University School of Medicine in Japan.
A French study found that women ages 65 or older who drank more than 3 small cups a day were 33% less likely to experience a decline in verbal fluency.
*Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day with water. Being slightly dehydrated is enough to affect your mental clarity and energy level.
For breakfast, fill up on brain food. Protein is always a good way to start your day, either from eggs or yogurt. Just look for healthy yogurt and add your own fruit.
Blueberries have antioxidant properties and they increase blood flow to the brain, further improving your neuronal function.
During breakfast, play a game like Sudoku or do a crossword puzzle.
Look for memory games to challenge yourself. You can use cards or even find apps that have memory games.
Mental challenge: try to remember what your co-workers or family members were wearing the day before.
At first, you’ll be a complete blank.
As you improve your memory, you’ll find yourself taking notice of what people are wearing and then you’ll be able to recall it the next day.
This trick can be applied to many other tasks too. For example, when you meet new people, notice their eye color.
This helps you make eye contact, seem more engaged, and remember their face.
The next time you meet someone, shake their hand and look at their eyes.
Say, “So nice to meet you, Bob.”
In your mind, add to yourself: Bob has greenish blue eyes.
Now you’ve linked their name and eye color, and taking the extra few seconds to notice these things will imprint them in your brain better.
Sometime in your morning routine: spend 5 minutes meditating. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on deep breathing.
You might think “in” and “out” as you breathe, or picture a wave, so that your mind can focus on that.
You’ll find your mind wanders, but that’s okay too. As soon as you notice, go back to counting or repeating your words to refocus.
These little breaks give your mind a chance to reset. It really reduces stress, and the effect of stress on you.
Driving to work: turn off your GPS. Relying on a computer to direct you prevents you from using the parts of your brain involved in spatial navigation.
You also don’t use your hippocampus, which controls memory and orientation.
So try driving a different route to somewhere during the day, without your GPS.
Mid-morning: get your exercise. Take a break for a walk, or go to the gym.
(Another option: park half a mile from work so you get a full mile of walking every day in addition to any walking at work.)
You might be able to find a few coworkers who would like to walk during lunch. You get exercise, sunlight, and social interaction that way.
During the day: get enough sunlight and “natural” light. Use full-spectrum bulbs to stimulate alertness and enhance critical brain functions, such as memory, as well as influence mood.
For fun: during the day, incorporate a game or fun mental challenge. Use it as a break when you don’t think about work or any other responsibilities or worries.
This will refresh your brain and help your clarity when you go back to work.
For Lunch: focus on healthy foods and more protein. For your vegetables, carrots, celery, and green bell peppers are packed with luteolin, which may contribute to reducing the risk of dementia.
Driving home: try a different route. Breaking routines is a great way to keep your brain healthy and able to adapt.
If you have a commute, you can use that time to listen to audiobooks or even learn a new language.
If you really like music, try listening to a new type of music for a day, such as classical, country, or rock. Just try to find something that’s new to you.
For dinner, make a meal rich in omega-3s. Eat salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring for better nonverbal reasoning and vocabulary.
A plant based diet is proven to lengthen your lifespan, and it’ll provide a variety of nutrients for better brain health as well.
When possible, eat with family or friends. Regular social interaction keeps your brain strong.
A 2008 study at Johns Hopkins showed that an engaged lifestyle can modify genetic risk of dementia.
Evening: stimulate the brain. Learn a second language. People who are bilingual are better multitaskers. (Although it’s better to do one thing at a time, sometimes we have to multitask.)
You can also learn a new instrument, a new song, a new game, or something else that pushes you to learn.
Before bed: Unplug for two hours, one at the least.
Give yourself time when you don’t check email or play video games.
Rest is a huge part of your mental health, and having some down time before bed will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Incorporating meditation and exercise in your daily routine will also improve energy and help you sleep at night.
One last thing that greatly improves focus and productivity is focusing on one task at a time.
We’re not built to multitask, even though it’s often seen as a good quality.
People who block out time for one task get much more done, with better quality.
After a few days of using the 4 brain-boosting steps, you’ll start to notice a difference in your mental clarity and memory.
Our brains love to learn. When we include some mental challenge in our life, like games that we enjoy, we can build new pathways in the brain.
Week after week, you’ll see more improvement in memory and mental function.
Learn more about improving your health and feeling great here!