Almost all of us are trying to cope with a significant number of personal and work-related challenges every single day. The never-ending task of being successful in all areas of our lives can sap our strength and optimism.
But luckily for us, there are a number of simple things we can do each day that improve our brainpower, our mental and physical performance, and, in turn, our quality of life. Here are seven ideas to try before going to work each morning.
Read a book
One of the best ways to stimulate your mind is by reading — a chapter of a book, a newspaper, an online article. Enriching your brain with new information is vital for your physical and mental health and is encouraged by neurosurgeons. Reading a little in the morning will also help you to calm down and reset your priorities for the coming day by focusing on something other than life’s daily grind. For the same reason, reading a book or a newspaper may lead you to view a routine task through a different lens.
Get some exercise
It’s well known that exercise plays an important role in keeping us physically and psychologically healthy. But engaging in a quick workout before work is also a great way to boost your brain. Exercise actually alters brain chemistry and has even been likened to the effect of taking antidepressants. It signals the release of several key neurotransmitters, many of which play a vital role in keeping our brain sharp as we age. Most importantly, exercise helps pump blood and oxygen to the brain, allowing our gray matter to work to its highest capacity. This leads to better and sharper decision making, judgment, and memory.
Research increasingly shows that meditation can help improve attention, concentration, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve our overall psychological makeup. Studies have found that the amygdala — the part of the brain that is the source of our fearful and anxious emotions — decreases in brain cell volume as a result of meditation. People who meditate can also recall information more quickly, suggesting that the ability to quickly ‘screen out’ mental noise allows the working memory to search and find information needed more quickly and efficiently.
Play classical music
The gentle, peaceful music of Mozart and Beethoven has long been considered to be beneficial to the brain and to productivity in general. One famous study refers to the so-called ’Mozart effect,’ whereby listening to classical music can enhance a person’s ability to think long-term and abstractly. Listening to classical music while getting dressed in the morning or during exercise has been shown to significantly improve verbal fluency, cognitive functioning, and overall focus and concentration.
Play a quick logic-based game
Constantly trying to teach yourself something new and uncovering fresh knowledge promotes brain health and creates new neural connections. Tasks that are not only challenging but are varied and novel, such as Sudoku or memory-recall games, can really enhance your brainpower and help build cognitive reserves. It’s important to keep brain-boosting activities constantly changing with increasing complexity and to try ones that use different parts of the brain. Many of these techniques can be done in just a few minutes every day, with different skills tested on different days.
Make a gratitude list
It may sound implausible, but it’s scientifically proven that when you bring your attention to the things in your life for which you’re grateful, your brain actually works better. Brain imaging studies have shown that practicing gratitude literally helps you have a brain to be grateful for. To do this, just write down five things you’re grateful for every day — it could be absolutely anything. In one experiment, when people did this exercise, they noticed a significant positive difference in their level of happiness in just three weeks. People who express gratitude on a regular basis are healthier, more optimistic, make more progress towards their goals, have a greater sense of well-being, and are more helpful to others.
Get some proper sleep
Sleep has been proven in countless studies to help our ability to recall. This directly affects our capability to control both our behavior and learning. A lack of sleep can result in a mental performance comparable to being drunk. The best way to prime your body for a killer work performance the following day is to stick to a sleep schedule that doesn’t change all that much on the weekends and to practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like reading a book. Make sure your room is dark and cool, at a temperature of around 65 degrees.