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Intelligence doesn’t count if you can’t use it.

Over the past few years, it’s been a goal of mine to be clear of brain fog and have great mental energy most of the time. Don’t know about you, but being at peak mental focus more than 90% of the time is a hard goal to accomplish. 

I think I’ve gotten the hang of it though. Here are the keys I found:

  • Minimize inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Optimize your sleep
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Stay active (especially for afternoon slumps)

Minimize inflammation and oxidative stress

Over time, inflammation and oxidative stress can cause cancer, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, blindness, cancer, diabetes, autism, depression, mental illness, Alzheimer’s, as well as cell and DNA damage. (R, R)

What we do to our body and what we feed our body are the main culprits of inflammation and oxidative stress. Poor sleep, vegetable oils, stress, and a generally poor diet can all contribute.

Most of the time, we can detect symptoms of these conditions: Brain fog, mental fatigue, and physical fatigue.

The solution:

  • A diet rich in whole foods, vegetables, fruits, and natural meats (and less junk food)
  • Restful sleep (which we will talk about in another section)
  • Green, black, and white tea
  • Hydration (dehydration can be a simple cause of your body not getting the nutrients it needs to fight inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Meditation (stress and anxiety can impair our body’s ability to fight off these conditions)

Nutrients that fight inflammation and oxidative stress

The foods and nutrients that I have found to work best include omega 3’s, green tea, berries, turmeric (with pepper and fats for absorption), greens like kale and spinach, extra virgin olive oil, nuts (like pistachios, walnuts, and almonds), and dark chocolate. (R)

In particular, I have found the Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy and Raspberry Passion Perfect Energy by Yogi to be incredibly effective for mental energy. Just one, sometimes two, bags of this tea is all I need to eliminate brain fog and be more mentally sharp. It’s pretty incredible!

Optimize your sleep

Sleep is quite possibly the most important driver of excellent mental energy and focus. There are a few essential ingredients for great sleep:

  • A comfortable pillow and mattress
  • A dark room (light triggers hormones in your body to change to a “waking” state)
  • A cool room temperature
  • Minimal alcohol (alcohol has devastating effects on your REM and deep sleep)
  • No caffeine after noon (or you could be too antsy to fall asleep)
  • Focus on your big toe (stick with me on this!)
  • Minimize anxiety (we will talk about this more in the next section)

Ok so the big toe thing. It works, I promise. I think I read this on Quora. When you’re going to sleep, focus on your big toe. Any toe would work, I’m sure. But just focus on the big one. You will fall asleep really, really quickly.

It’s a form of meditation. By focusing on one physical thing (your big toe), you’re eliminating everything else from your mind – worries, anxieties – the things usually keeping you awake at night. You’re welcome!

Reduce stress & anxiety

Stress can cause long-term health complications, hurt your relationships (by making you more snippy, impatient, or rude than usual), and hurt your sleep quality (which in turn can create more stress and anxiety in your life).

There are a few easy ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life:

Minimize social media

Social media can get us addicted to craving likes, give us fear of missing out (FOMO), cause stress from online arguments and information overload, and give us feelings on inadequacy by comparing ourselves to others. Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. (R)

Meditate

Meditation and prayer are great ways to train your mind not to entertain every thought that tries to enter your mind.

Reduce alcohol & caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine are like lighter fluid for anxiety in an already-overwhelming world.

Gratitude & giving

It’s amazing how much lighter we will feel when we’re more content with who we are, what we have, and focus on giving outside of ourselves.

Stay active

Last and final key to improving your mental energy and focus – stay active! Regular exercise is an effective way to increase your energy levels on a daily basis.

Have problems with afternoon slumps? Go for a walk! Especially for those of us who sit at a desk for a living, hitting an afternoon slump is actually quite a normal and natural thing. That much sitting makes our body believe sooner in the day that it’s time to sleep, and triggers melatonin (a naturally-produced sleep hormone). By going for a walk or otherwise getting the blood flowing, your afternoon slump should get a little less…slumpy.

What about you? What challenges or insights have you discovered about your mental energy?

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