7 Simple Ways to Boost Brainpower
Whether you’re studying for finals, or starting a new internship, brain function is crucial to success in college. Check out these great ways to boost brainpower for a less-stressful, more-engaged school year.
Sleep More and Take Naps
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: sleep is crucial to your cognitive function. You should definitely try to get enough regular sleep so that when finals roll around, your body will be fully charged.
One bad night of sleep can damage your cognitive function, but since the brain is so resilient, it will normally bounce back within a few hours. However, several nights of reduced sleep can significantly reduce brain function, and 24 hours of sleep deprivation is the ”cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk.”
If you can’t seem to get enough sleep, try to make room for a nap. Just 10-20 minutes is enough to improve alertness and give you an extra jolt of energy without the groggy side effect you often get from longer naps.
Drink a Little Caffeine
Caffeine isn’t great for a long-term brain boost, but it can give your brain the extra nudge it needs for a short period of time. Effects are different for everyone, but caffeine allows more neurons to fire in the brain, while also affecting major neurotransmitters (adenosine and dopamine), and can give you that extra push you need to complete a paper or understand a concept.
If you’re feeling a little sluggish in your studies, grab a cup of coffee or tea and see what happens.
It’s always a good idea to make time for a morning run, or a long afternoon walk. (Even thirty minutes at the gym can make a difference.) Being sedentary significantly reduces brainpower, and studies have shown that test subjects perform worse after bed rest. It is believed that there is a direct relationship between poor cognitive function and a lack of aerobic activity.
So take a break from the library to hit the gym for 30 minutes or ride your bike to class. You can also incorporate exercise in your studying: Go for a 2-hour walk while studying notecards and listening to an audiobook for class or the audio of your foreign language vocabulary.
Editor’s Note: Listening to an audiobook while exercising is also a great way to have longer workout sessions, and may help you remember more.
Listen to Classical Music
Some schools are considering playing Bach and Beethoven in the classroom to help students learn and remember information, and playing classical background music while you study might help you as well. Relatively recent research suggests emotion might play a role in learning, which is one of the reasons why this might be effective.
Music can alter or enhance your emotional state, making it easier to recall information. In fact, think back to a highly emotional state and you might remember random details you wouldn’t normally recall. So turn on that Tchaikovsky or Mozart Spotify playlist while you read and study.
Eat Less Sugar
Carbohydrates are fine — especially those found in whole grain products, vegetables, and fruit. But it’s the highly-refined sugar that has a bad effect on your body and mind. If you want to boost your brainpower for a long-term period, such as a semester, significantly reduce your sugar intake.
Change Your Stress Response
Some people say they really work best under pressure, but most studies say that if the pressure is stress-related, that’s just not true. We already know that stress can lead to poor health, but it can literally change the way your brain functions as well.
Your stress response doesn’t naturally respond to modern stressors – it’s only mean to engage your fight or flight response in life-threatening situations. In the modern world, we “think” something is stressful, and it’s the thought that causes a stress response.
In fact, a situation that might completely stress you out might not cause any stress response for a friend. It’s really all in your head, and the best thing you can do is train yourself to adjust your stress response. One easy way to do this is to use meditation skills when you’re starting to feel stressed.
Practicing meditation puts you in better control of your thought processes, and when it comes to stress and brainpower, this is a huge help.
The connection between meditation and brain function is widely researched right now, and more results should surface soon. But, we do know that mindfulness can reduce stress and cause other sections of the brain to grow. It can also increase your mood and selflessness for the long term, causing you to be more content and less stressed in general.
Image: Aurimas Adomavicius