With finals coming up, your fickle brain needs to kick it into high gear. You’ve tried cramming and studying for weeks beforehand, but all that seems to result in mental implosion during the exam. The following list of ways to increase cognitive performance don’t just boost your mental capacity. More than anything, they boost confidence and mental endurance, two tools that are profoundly useful during a study session. With that, let’s get into the ten best ways to increase cognitive performance.
A good night’s sleep allows for an alert brain that is better able to focus, learn, and remember information. Being sleep deprived can affect your mood, motivation, judgement, and perception. This marked cognitive improvement occurs through alterations in the brain that solidify memories. The connections between the cells in your brain are strengthened, facilitating the transfer of information to different parts. If you’re an insomniac like I used to be, however, this information isn’t all that helpful. Try listening to ASMR videos. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. It is described as a calming, tingling sensation occurring mainly on the scalp and down the back that has been shown to cure insomnia. If that doesn’t help, try natural remedies like glycine, melatonin, and lavender.
Active ingredients in certain foods help steady or increase absorption of certain compounds. These compounds can help improve memory. Most notably, blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds that have been shown to improve cognitive performance and reverse age-related mental deterioration. As is the case with most of this article, only a minor improvement in cognitive performance should be expected.
3. Stop Eating Chunk
Poor nutrition, such as high-fat diets stymie healthy processes in the body. This generates an inflammatory response that impairs cognitive ability, leading to memory deficits. Likewise, foods that contain gluten can produce an inflammatory response in those sensitive to the substance. The same goes for dairy rich products. Inflammation is the immune system’s way of protecting itself against potentially harmful chemicals and substances. But this response is exaggerated at times, especially in certain individuals, leading to cognitive impairment. In short, brain health should be of the utmost importance, not your craving for cheese.
4. Make A List
Make a list of items and thirty minutes later try to recall as many items on that list as possible. This is an exercise that strengthens “working memory” or the short-term storage of information in the brain. Through repetition, this information can then be committed to long-term memory. It’s also worth noting that working memory is strongly associated with intelligence, thus, a drastic improvement should never be expected. Still, every bit of improvement counts during the exam.
In contrast, writing is like lifting weights. The more you write, the stronger writer you’ll become. Writing works the left hemisphere of your brain, stimulating verbal skills and challenging your ability to recall vocabulary. A capability to synthesize information in a coherent manner is a uniquely human characteristic and one that must be utilized when writing. What’s more, writing permeates almost all aspects of life and is a utilitarian skill regardless of cognitive improvement.
Exercise leads to minor cognitive improvements and can prevent age-related cognitive decline. In addition, it improves blood flow to the brain, strengthens visuospatial skills, maximizes processing speed, and reduces risk of developing dementia. I’ve found it helpful in reducing the inflammatory response caused by high levels of cortisol. The modern world is stressful, which leads to increasing amounts of cortisol surging throughout the body. One way to combat this is through– in my case– increasing levels of testosterone during exercise. Such a massive spike in testosterone leads to brief irritability, but the anger is worth the mental clarity.
7. Learning A New Skill
Having a thirst for knowledge can benefit you in many areas, and cognitive performance is just one of those. Research has shown that knitting, sewing, painting, gardening, and playing an instrument result in improved cognitive performance. Recently, I’ve been learning how to play the piano. Learning how to play an instrument, the piano especially, calls for the player to readily access information without delay. This quick retrieval is gained through constant repetition. It can be mentally draining but rewarding nonetheless. Additionally, music is a complex art form that requires mental energy. Learning how to play any instrument entails more than just memorization.
8. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has been proven to reduce the adrenal response in individuals prone to anxiety. Like I briefly noted before, adrenaline contains high levels of cortisol, and when cortisol enters the blood brain barrier, it triggers the inflammatory response. Combating the adrenal response can also be achieved through meditation, yoga, and my favorite, ASMR. However, the mitigation is only temporary, and you should always consult your doctor if you’re experiencing chronic stress. In my experience, chamomile has been highly effective in allaying my anxiety.
Studies reveal that listening to Mozart can lead to improved cognitive performance. How is this accomplished? Researchers aren’t at all sure. Other classical composers don’t show a similar correlation, so scientist can really only conjecture. But as long as you’re appreciating the music, listening to Mozart has more than a cognitive benefit. I myself listen to Mozart sometimes before I fall asleep. The music isn’t terribly exciting, but it is calming. The minor cognitive improvement is just an added benefit.
Sudoku is a game in which the objective is to fill each column, row, and subgrid with the single digit numbers one to nine. The same digit cannot appear more than once in a column, row, or subgrid. The game may sound easy, but it’s really not. Sudoku challenges your ability to problem solve, which is fundamental to intelligence.