I am the queen of memory glitches lately. The other day I was running late, furiously searching everywhere for my iPhone ... when it rang in my handbag ... which was on my shoulder ... and my iPhone was right on top. It wasn’t buried under a mountain of crap for once. It was right there. I looked at it, dripping with sweat and frustration, and laughed. I convinced myself my toddler must have stolen it or, in one of my weaker moments, that it was conspiring against me to get me fired. It was surely anywhere but where it was supposed to be.
To take charge of my raging case of mommy brain, I rounded up experts who are much smarter than I am for some excellent advice to boost brain power and function. Now all I have to do is remember these tips:
“The biggest thing you can do to boost brain power is sleep, which is exactly what moms don’t want to hear,” said Dr. Meg Kirkpatrick, Associate Professor of Psychology and Coordinator of the Neuroscience Program at Wheaton College. “We encounter endless pieces of information during the day. The brain needs time to decide what to keep and what to toss.” On average, seven or eight hours per night is ideal, though there are individual fluctuations for optimal brain function. Some need more and some need less. The key is to try to get the amount of sleep your body craves any way you can.
2. Get Moving
Turns out regular exercise doesn’t just deliver a bikini-ready body; it’s vital for brain health and cognition. Studies show hitting the gym has a significant impact on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing. “Fitness appears to protect against atrophy of the hippocampus as we age, and aerobic exercise has been shown to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor),” said Dr. Bonnie Hersh, Chief of Neurology, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. “There is some literature that suggests that exercise can even increase the volume of the hippocampus in aging adults.” Whether we like it or not, we are all aging adults. Get moving!
3. Think Positive
Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and stop new neurons from being created. It’s draining on your mind and on your body (I am a stress bomb who has to tell her inner negative Nelly to shut up every single day). Do your best to replace negative thoughts with positive ones to speed up the creation of brain cells and boost your outlook on life at the same time.
4. “Chunk” Information
Have you ever remembered you need paper towels as you’re pulling in your driveway after buying $200 worth of groceries? (I swear at myself all the time because I do this on a weekly basis). Lists are your friends. Make them … and remember to take them. Our brains can only recall about seven things we need at the store unless you put them together in a logical way. “We remember things when we put them in workable chunks,” said Kirkpatrick. “Your brain works best when you put five things together, plus or minus two.” For example, if you don’t have time to write a list, try to group items together for optimal recall. “Chunk” the five items in produce, the five things in dairy, the five things in the pasta aisle you need together, etc. You have a better chance of retaining the information that way.
5. Eat Brain Food
If you want to keep the little things in mind -- your sunglasses are on top of your head! -- dig in to some powerful nutrients to help your brain function. According to Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN, a nutritionist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and author of the Craving Something Healthy blog, the following foods will do your brain good:
Wild Blueberries (the tiny ones that you usually find frozen) have more total antioxidant capacity than most other fruits and vegetables. “Many studies have shown a link between wild blueberry consumption and improved memory function, preventing and reversing memory decline, and overall improved brain health,”
Salmon is a good source of omega-3, which is concentrated in the brain and it seems to play an important role in brain memory and performance.
Nuts are high in selenium, which is an essential trace mineral and antioxidant. Walnuts pack a one-two punch as they are an excellent source of selenium and omega-3 fats.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which is not only great for your heart, but a recent study out of Boston showed that women who eat more monounsaturated fat had higher cognition scores and “brains that were about 6 or 7 years younger” than those who ate more saturated or polyunsaturated fat. I knew all of my guacamole eating was for a good cause!
6. Try Something New!
Detox from all the devices that make your brain mushy. Ditch the GPS and read a map. Figure out the math in your head instead of using the calculator. Read a book that exposes you to new ideas instead of watching your favorite sitcom. Go out with some friends and do something different (I recently went to Paint Nite and it was so fun!). You get the idea. Make a conscious effort to challenge and exercise your brain regularly and it will reward you with less mommy moments. Promise.
What’s your favorite way to boost brain power?
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