It’s a normal Tuesday afternoon. You’re immersed in a work project and hear the chime of an email notification. You click the email icon and find a newsletter from your favorite website. Immediately intrigued, you click through to read–but then your phone dings with a text. You check your texts and suddenly a Slack DM comes through—and your work project is long forgotten. Sound familiar?
After 30 minutes of unrelenting distractions and a lack of productivity, we will all begin to feel the effects of digital overwhelm. A knot may form in your belly, your head might begin to ache, anxiety sets in, cortisol levels rise, decreasing your energy
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Practicing brain fitness offers many benefits: reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and helping you be more present. In the same way, physical fitness gives you the ability to respond to physical demands, brain fitness helps you respond to mental challenges. Maintaining a fit brain gives you resilience in emotional situations and gives you tools to handle stressful situations, which lessens the chances of sustaining emotional injuries.
For example, think about what happens when you’re in an argument. If your brain can’t cope with those negative emotions, you may feel the physical effects in the form of stomach upset, headaches, and more. When your brain is fit, you can learn to deal effectively with conflict, which benefits you and the hundreds of interactions you have with others in your regular life.
How can you increase your brain fitness? Here are some tips.
Studies show that spending time outdoors can decrease anxiety, improve mood, and improve memory. Nature calms your nervous system while stimulating your brain through a frequency following response. This is your brain’s ability to sync to external auditory stimuli. An example is when a musician starts a metronome to stay on the beat or when the ocean waves lull you into a relaxed state. The beach, mountains, oceans, and cities all have their own frequencies, and your brain syncs to the environment you find yourself in. A calm environment leads to a steady and strong brain. Aim for 15-20 minutes outside every day.
We breathe an average of 20,000 times a day. But how you breathe affects every part of your body, including your brain. Notice how you’re breathing right now. If you’re stressed and anxious, your breath is probably shallow, and you feel anything but relaxed. This type of breathing throws off your balance and causes anxiety and physical and emotional stress. Breathing deeply, on the other hand, relaxes the body and calms the mind. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to reduce stress and tension and promote brain fitness. When you’re calm and relaxed, your brain produces alpha brainwaves, a state associated with creativity.
One very effective breathing exercise is box breathing. It’s easy to do and can help you relax and settle into sleep on days that have been challenged by life.
- Step one: Inhale to the mental count of four.
- Step two: Hold your breath to the count of four.
- Step three: Slowly exhale to the count of four.
- Step four: Repeat until you feel calm and centered.
Some other examples of breathing exercises are belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, or mindful breathing.
Having a social network is vital to brain health because it provides mental stimulation, reduces stress, and supports you. People who have strong social interactions also have less cognitive decline as they age. Navigating social situations exercises your brain and improves cognitive function.
We’ve all been told to drink our water, but do you know why? Drinking water hydrates every cell in your body so they function at their peak and give your brain energy. Adding Celtic Sea salt to your water at least once a day is also an excellent brain hack. These salts contain minerals that the body needs, such as high concentrations of magnesium and 34 other trace minerals that balance electrolytes and help your body stay hydrated.
Sleep is a vital part of brain health. Lack of good quality sleep affects every system in the body. It’s as essential as food and water to the brain. Studies have shown that slow-wave sleep, the most profound wave of sleep, is key to detoxing the brain. During slow-wave sleep, your brain performs a wash and rinse cycle, which clears out damaging toxins and refreshes the brain for the next day. This process is vital for strengthening the brain and warding off conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
You can’t do planks or crunches with your brain but it’s still important to keep your brain fit so it can continue to serve you throughout your life. The result is a calm body and a resilient and focused brain that can withstand the effects of our digital lifestyles.
Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D., is an award-winning author and speaker who has devoted his career to neuroscience and brainwave entrainment. As the creator of BrainTap®, Dr. Porter has emerged as a leader in the digital health and wellness field. BrainTap’s digital tools and mind development apps use creative visualization and relaxation, biohacking techniques that have made tremendous advances in helping mental, physical, and emotional health issues.
Written By Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D.