You don’t need to be Einstein to have plenty of brain power. You just need to take stock of your lifestyle, writes Beverley Hadgraft
Take a nap
If you’re feeling sleepy mid-afternoon, it’s quite normal. Your brain wants a nap and you’d be well advised to take one. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 per cent. Another study showed that a 45-minute nap produced a similar boost in cognitive performance lasting more than six hours.
No wonder enlightened businesses, including Google, are introducing high-tech ‘nap pods’ into their offices.
Medina is so convinced of the benefits of exercise on the brain that he’s installed a treadmill in his office and takes exercise breaks instead of coffee breaks. He’s even installed a rest for his laptop so he can type while he walks!
Why? Because tests on more than 10,000 British public servants, aged between 35 and 55, found that exercisers outperform couch potatoes in long-term memory, reasoning, attention and problem solving tests. Researchers have also found that a lifetime of exercise can result in astonishing elevations in cognitive performance in the elderly compared to those who have been sedentary.
But even if you don’t exercise, it’s not too late to start. When a group of couch potatoes enrolled in aerobic exercise programs – and that can just mean taking regular walks – all kinds of mental abilities are restored after as little as four months.
Brains just love exercise, Medina asserts. It brings fresh supplies of blood and therefore glucose and oxygen, plus it increases levels of usable brain-derived neurotrophic factor (known as BDNT), a brain ‘fertiliser’ that encourages the formation of new cells.
Ditch the multi-tasking
If you’re trying to write a report about an unfamiliar subject and get distracted and start surfing the net instead, studies indicate you’ll take up to 50 per cent longer to finish that report than someone who gives it their full attention. You’ll also make 50 per cent more errors.
Similarly, if you drive while talking on a mobile phone, you’ll be half a second slower to hit the brakes in an emergency and more wild in your estimation of the distance between you and the vehicle in front. More than 50 per cent of visual cues spotted by attentive drivers are missed by mobile phone users. Eating, fiddling with the radio and putting on make-up are also distractions which will make you more likely to crash.
Multi-taskers often seek praise, but the truth is that they are actually less productive and make more mistakes. So the message is turn off your email and phone and create an interruption-free zone during your day.
For more health tips pick up the February issue of Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.