We all have times when we need a way to quickly increase brain power. For instance, when we need to solve a problem, come up with a new idea, or finish a mentally demanding task.
Increasing brain power essentially comes down to providing enough oxygen to the brain for energy and optimizing brain-cell communication.
In this post, we'll cover 5 ways to quickly increase brain power.
1) Drink a Cup of Coffee
I've written several posts previously on the many benefits of coffee.
So, it's no surprise that I would recommend it here for the purpose of quickly increasing brain power.
Our brains operate on chemical and electrical signals between brain cells.
One such chemical is adenosine, which acts as a central nervous system depressant. When we need to increase our brain power, we definitely don't want our nervous system in a depressed state.
When caffeine is consumed, it temporarily blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. This results in boosting our brain power functions such as cognition, learning, and memory.
If you want to improve the brain boosting benefits of coffee, add some coconut oil. The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are a great source of fuel for the brain.
Be careful how late in the day you drink coffee. The half-life of caffeine is 4 to 6 hours which means that it takes that long for its concentration in your bloodstream to reduce by half. So make sure you don't drink coffee too late in the day or it may interrupt your sleep.
You could also try decaf coffee if it's late in the day. Decaf contains on average about 1/10th the amount of caffeine of a regular cup of coffee. You could also drink a smaller amount, like say a 1/4 cup, of regular coffee for a quick boost.
2) Take Some Deep Breaths
The brain uses about three times the amount of oxygen as our muscles do for energy.
Brain cells (neurons) need a continual supply of fresh oxygen and without it they die off with-in minutes.
Studies have shown that during times of high mental demand, oxygen levels in the brain drop.
One way to quickly boost brain power during high mental demand is by getting more oxygen into the brain by deep breathing.
Breathing deep into your belly (diaphragm breathing), forcing air into the bottom of your lungs, will assist in getting the most oxygen into your bloodstream. It is deep in your lungs where the exchange of carbon dioxide (waste product) and oxygen in your blood takes place.
Besides providing your brain with more oxygen, additional benefits of deep breathing include:
- Helping to flush toxins out of the brain by improving cerebrospinal fluid flow
- Lowering your stress levels which helps to focus better and think more clearly
- Releasing dopamine which aides creativity
There are many deep breathing techniques. The one I've found that both calms and energizes you is the Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) breath.
Quite simply,Ujjayi breathing involves slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing with equal in and out counts and a slight pause in-between. To control and slow the breaths, you constrict you throat a little and sound like Darth Vader. For more information, visit the detailed instruction post over at chopra.com.
3) Engage in Physical Movement
As human beings, we are meant to be moving. However, in todays society we're often sitting for long periods of time.This lack of movement lowers blood and oxygen flow to our brain and hastens cognitive decline.
The solution, get up and move!
When we move, we engage the brain which helps us think better. It gets blood pumping and oxygen sent up to our brain to be used for energy.
Ever heard of the saying, "I think better on my feet"? Ever wonder why someone paces when deep in thought trying to solve a problem?
Many people find that while going on a walk they're often able to solve vexing problems or come up with new ideas.
A recent study at Stanford found that walking increases a persons creativity.
The reason for this, according to the book, A User's Guide To The Brain by John Ratey M.D., is that the primary parts of the brain that coordinate physical movement also coordinate the order of thoughts needed for thinking.
Fundamental movements, like walking, trigger deeply ingrained neural firing patterns in the brain. This helps us think better.
If you don't have time for a walk, consider other physical movements that you can do quickly to stimulate blood and oxygen flow in your body and up to your brain.
A couple of my favorites for quickly improving blood flow are:
When performing each of the above activities, I've found it helpful to engage in slow diaphragmatic breathing. This will help improve the brain boosting effect of the exercise.
4) Tap Into Your 5 Senses
Some have estimated that we have roughly 50,000 thoughts a day – that's 35 thoughts a minute.
This seems like a lot of thoughts, but just while sitting here writing this sentence, many thoughts are running through my head! For instance, will this sentence make sense, should I preface this sentence with another, are my facts right, I wonder what the reader will think of this, what comes next, etc.
Our thoughts often go down rabbit trails, so to speak.
We may be concentrating on a certain task at hand, but all of a sudden we start thinking about some vexing problem, issue, or concern. We think about what's going to happen tomorrow, that crappy thing that happened yesterday, what's for lunch, how am I going deal with that person later today, etc. We get distracted.
When our mind gets distracted, we lose our focus on the task at hand. Our brain power gets diffused.
One way to come back into focus is to tap into our 5 senses.
I wrote a post recently titled "How To Reduce Stress – and Save Your Brain" in which I covered this in detail.
Essentially, what you want to do first is take some deep diaphragmatic breaths as noted earlier. This calms your mind and gets oxygen up to your brain.
Then, while continuing to breath deeply, spend time getting in touch with each of your 5 senses, one at a time.
Getting in touch with our 5 senses while breathing slowly and deeply is akin to mindfulness meditation. It calms your mind and brings more clarity. This allows you to focus all your brain power on the task at hand. It also aids in the release of dopamine, that feel good hormone, which helps aide creativity.
Throughout the day, especially when you feel stressed or need a quick boost of brain power, take some time to breath deeply and get in touch with one or more of your 5 senses.
5) Chew Something
A study performed at St. Lawrence University found that chewing gum improved memory and overall cognitive functioning. This improvement lasted for about 15 to 20 min.
It is believed that the chewing action increases heart rate, blood pressure, and cerebral blood flow. Each of these help get oxygen up to the brain to be used as energy, thus improving your brain power.
I would not advise chewing gum, however. The reason is that gum nowadays is sugarless which means it contains artificial sweeteners.
Most sugarless gum contains phenylalanine or aspartame. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and it's component phenylalanine have been shown to cause numerous health issues.
Anything containing aspartame or any of it's derivatives (nutrasweet, equal or phenylalinine) will make my brain foggy within 15 min of it entering my mouth followed by a headache that lasts 30min.
For me, it's a clear choice to avoid anything containing aspartame and any of it's derivatives.
To benefit from the brain power improvement associated with chewing, I would recommend chewing on some organic beef jerky. It's kind of tough, which means you'll chew on it for awhile. It's also a good source of protein. All you need is a piece of two and your good.
To be most effective, the jerky needs be chewed just prior to when the brain boost is needed as the brain boost effects last for only about 15 to 20 min.
Putting It All Together
The 5 ways to quickly improve brain power discussed in this post deal primarily with increasing blood flow and getting oxygen to the brain as well as optimizing brain-cell communication. They can be used separately or in parallel.
For instance, you could go for a walk and engage in diaphragmatic breathing at the same time. You can also engage in deep breathing while you tap into one or more of you five senses.
Combining each of these activities either in series or in parallel will only help to quickly improve your brain power.