1. Drink Water. While most of us are aware that dehydration can lead to medical complications , a few have noticed the well established research that indicates that even mild dehydration (defined as little as 1.5% loss in normal water volume in the body) could have a negative impact in mood, energy levels, and cognitive performance . Unfortunately, people often use exclusively thirst as an indicator to drink water, when dehydration has already taken place, and hence its negative consequences in the mind & body.
Not all is bad news. Current findings suggest that particular cognitive abilities and mood states are positively influenced by water consumption . Brain structure changes were observed in adolescent and adult brains following appropriate hydration: executive functions including planning and visuospatial proceeding were positively affected
Special populations such as diabetics, the elderly, and children should be especially concerned with an adequate water intake, since the impact of dehydration on cognition and mood is predictable higher for those with poor fluid regulation.
You can check your hydration status by monitoring the colour of your urine. Ideally, it should be a very pale yellow.
2. Exercise. Everybody knows they should probably exercise more. Now not only because you will look and feel better, but think better. Scientific literature has established reliable research that assures that an efficient memory, sharp problem solving abilities, and reduced risk for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease need active physical activity.
Exercise holds immediate benefits for affect and cognition in younger and older adults . A single bout of moderate exercise (such as simple walk of 30 min) is associated with increased levels of focus, motivation and determination in diverse cognitive tasks following the physical activity. Furthermore, the calm states that follow exercise seem to be the “natural medicine” for diverse mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety , acting as “fast-acting antidepressants”. Regular exercise reduce stress and enhances self-concept.
The cognitive benefits of physical exercise also last for decades, making it a nootropic with long-term benefits . Aerobic exercise, especially, is positively correlated with academic achievement, behavior, and psychosocial functioning outcomes. It is believed that physical activity exert neuroprotective benefits that stall cell death, hence its importance to an overall good health.
Health experts often remark that if exercise came in pill form it would be the most successful supplement drug on the market. However, as we all know, too much of a single drug might be eventually counterproductive. The findings from the above-mentioned clinical trials definitely prove that moderate exercise correlates well with an enhanced cognitive performance, yet the same has not been proven with acute physical exercise.
For a very concise but precise overview of the relationship of exercise and cognition from a neuroscientific perspective (with nice graphs!), check http://www.bodbot.com/Cognitive_Health.html.
3. Sleep Well.This might be repetitive for most of us, but we cannot emphasize enough how important is sleeping for memory consolidation, attention, decision-making, vigilance, and working memory . It does not really matter how much you read during the day if you do not take the time to consolidate it during the night by sleeping.
Sleep is essential for body restitution, energy conservation, thermoregulation, and tissue recovery . It is like recharging your “cognitive batteries” depleted during the day. Contrary to our common sense, sleeping time is not something you can recover during the weekend. As you may have noticed, even though you are sleep deprived for one day, the next day you will not sleep 16 hours, but just a little bit more than the regular 8 ones. The brain time has been lost, and with it, all the information gathered that day in particular (in addition to the apparent long-term consequences of sleep deprivation). From this perspective, stealing some time from our sleeping time does not seem a good deal.
Much has been said about sleep deprivation, yet sleeping too much is also linked to faster decline in brain function. The findings suggest that women and men who begin sleeping more or less
than 6 to 8 hours per night are subject to an accelerated cognitive decline that is equivalent to 4 to 7 years of aging. Indeed, it is interesting to notice that aging appears to be indeed accompanied by a decrease in duration of good quality nocturnal sleep and an increase in sleeplessness and sleep disturbances.