We are living in the age of “Digital Dementia”. With the heavy reliance on technology these days, are we are passing off too much of our memory over to our smart devices? I think back on the days when I could remember a friend’s 10 digit phone number, now I’m lucky if I remember mine. So are our devices screwing up our memory, or do they allow us to focus on more important things?
There’s no question, the brain is a muscle, the more you use it the bigger it gets. In this ‘Digital Age’, with so much to distract us, how do we manage to stay focused? To keep our cognitive abilities in optimal performance.
Biohacking has taken the concept of cognitive self-improvement to a new level. It has a way to track and quantify how a certain biohack can improve a particular brain function. A way to experiment with various tweaks that will work best for you to optimise your memory and concentration.
Here are some techniques that have shown potential in improving the brain’s cognitive functions.
Optimise your diet
Your diet, calorie intake, eating intervals and mealtimes all affect your mental clarity and focus throughout the day. For example, a heavy lunch is sure to leave you feeling sluggish and slow in the afternoon.
Experiment with various diets, they will not only get you in better shape, they’ll boost your brainpower as well. For a hint, studies have shown that the best diet for a longer life is the Mediterranean diet.
- Food pyramid diet
- Vegetarian diet
- Paleo diet
- Mediterranean diet
- Optimise your own
At any rate, incorporating certain superfoods into your diet can help keep your brain alert and functioning at peak performance for hours.
- Nuts and seeds:
- Walnuts and Almonds are high in properties that improve memory and prevent memory decline in old age.
- Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acid:
- this is a super powerful brain nutrient. Ideally, look to eat fish at least twice a week.
- they contain high concentrations of antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and promote oxygenation.
- Adequate water:
- staying hydrated prevents fatigue and helps transport nutrients to the brain for optimal function.
Hormone boosting supplements.
Having a healthy hormonal system can directly impact one’s focus and concentration. Taking supplements to strengthen your immune system not only improves your overall health, it can improve your focus and clarity.
Wouldn’t it be good to get sick less and have more energy? As with any supplement, there can be side effects if taking too much. Plus you may be able to get these nutrients naturally in the foods you eat. Check with a doctor to see if you are deficient in any of these:
- Zinc – regulates how neurons communicate, affecting how we learn.
- Arginine – improved spatial learning. has anti-aging properties.
- D-Aspartic acid – can enhance cognitive capabilities.
- Vitamin D – low levels increase memory loss
- Vitamin K – shown to sharpen memory and stave off dementia
Stop eating for a while, this may seem counter-intuitive, as the body requires food for survival. However, you can actually survive without food for a few weeks. I don’t recommend going for that long, a popular fasting timeframe is for 16 hours.
Regular fasting significantly improves mental clarity and promotes HGH (Human Growth Hormone). Fasting can seem daunting to some people but it’s not as strenuous as you think, and the benefits are well worth it!
Fasting triggers a process called ‘autophagy’, this is a biological process that removes the body’s accumulated toxins, and recycles damaged cell components. This process has been shown to play a role in enhancing the resistance of the brain to stress. neuroplasticity, learning and memory.
Balance the circadian rhythm
This simply means having a regular sleeping and waking routine. Follow the same hours for your rest, ideally keeping it with sunrise. An imbalanced circadian rhythm can wreak havoc on your ability to think straight, much less focus.
Putting structure into your sleep-wake cycle helps with getting better a quality night’s rest. This is essential as during sleep the brain consolidates a memory, allowing us to recall it in the future.
So as you can see, lack of sleep impairs your ability to focus and learn efficiently. If you find that you are struggling with your sleep routine, try these tips on how to improve your sleep.
This hack involves stimulating the brain with audio and visual triggers to impact the brain’s electrical activity. Among other things, it assists to increase communication between the right and left hemispheres as well as target specific areas.
There are a variety of online programs that offer brain training games. Though you can also train your cognitive abilities through crossword and jigsaw puzzles.
Our environment, negative thoughts and even past experiences influence our brain and its ability to perform with clarity and power. With numerous ways to rewire our brain, creating new and positive neural pathways can be an exciting journey.
- Creative activities
- Good peer group
- Positive affirmations
- Confronting debilitating beliefs
- Motivational therapy
Learn a new skill
It was previously thought that our brains were hardwired at birth, that as adults it is difficult to learn new things. In reality, our brains are malleable and can remodel itself based on new experiences. As it turns out – not only can you can teach an old dog new tricks, you can restructure your brain.
While it may seem difficult at first, the more you create new experiences for the mind, the easier it becomes. You are the architect of your own brain, by exercising the mind, it becomes stronger.
Consistent practice makes progress, makes it permanent. Forming good habits are important in building healthier routines. Grey matter increases when you learn a new skill.
- Learn a new language
- Play a new instrument
- Take cooking classes
- Study a new subject
- Travel a different route to work
This is a biofeedback method that uses real-time displays of your brain activity. It measures your brainwaves to see how it functions in various situations. It’s beneficial because it allows you to detect problem areas and puts you in control of improving them.
In the past, it’s mainly been utilised through expensive equipment done with a specialised health professional. However, with new technology coming to the market, you can get the benefits all by yourself.
EEG devices like the Muse Headband monitor your brain activity while you meditate, giving you feedback in the way of different weather sounds. Another way is to control games on a screen by focusing your mind, by doing this the aim is to improve your concentration levels.
Listen to music
They say music is food for the soul, and it’s also one of the best ways to nurture the brain. Taking a short break to de-stress and relax an overworked brain is a great way to stay focused and alert on hectic days.
Listening to music can boost your mood, and we have a tendency to learn better when we are in a happy state. Test different music styles to see which one gives you the best result.
Research suggests that classical music with 60 – 70 beats per minute may be best for learning. On the flip side, while your favourite songs will put you into a positive state, songs with lyrics may impair your learning experience while studying.
Supercharge your brain
These are just some of the great biohacks to assist in supercharging your brain functionality. Implementing these will get you on the right track to improve your memory, focus and overall cognitive capabilities. Because when you are in the right mindset, you can achieve anything.
Remember though, learning is not a spectator sport, while these methods will help you with paying attention more it is still up to you to put in the work to improve.
There are various strategies that help in improving your memory retention. From Memory Palaces and visualisation to assigning number and words substitutions.