Prepping Your Brain for the New School Year

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Have you ever felt like a zombie, going from class to class, dragging yourself through the day but not grasping any new knowledge? We all know that it can be a bit of a struggle getting back into study mode after the holidays. Our brains already work hard, managing millions of body processes every day. Here is how we can help it get into gear for the new academic year.

Feed Me, Seymour

Your brain is the most complex organ in your body. It operates non-stop, even when you are asleep, so it needs a constant source of fuel. This fuel is a type of sugar called glucose. Your body converts the food you eat into glucose and delivers it to your brain via the bloodstream. As the brain does not have a ‘gas tank’ to store this fuel, we must have regular meals and nutritious food.

We have all heard the adage “you are what you eat”. Obviously, you are not going to morph into a pizza anytime soon, but what you put on that pizza does have a marked effect on your brain and body. Luckily, there are many ways we can consume a brain-boosting diet to support this very important organ.

A diet that is high in monounsaturated fats is linked to better brain function. Dietary monounsaturated fats have been proven to increase the protection of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which improves your learning and memory. Almonds, peanuts, avocados, and olive oil are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fats. Pass the guacamole!

Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are essential for the building and repair of brain cells. Studies have shown that high levels of omega-3s increased blood circulation in the brain, resulting in better cognitive function. Great sources of omega-3s include oily fish, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and algal oil supplements.

Oxidative stress is a natural body function that occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants within the body. However, long-term excessive oxidative stress can damage the structures inside brain cells. Thus, we must consume food high in antioxidants such as berries, leafy greens, pecans, green tea, andwait for itdark chocolate.

In addition to healthy snacks and regular meals, herbal supplements can also help prepare your brain for the stress of study. Supplements such as ginkgo biloba, ginseng, L-arginine powder, and vitamin B capsules can help to support brain function, increase focus, and reduce anxiety.

Last but not least, drink water! The brain is basically Jell-O made of 73 percent water. Remember that awful tight, shrinking feeling in your head when you get dehydrated? That is your brain’s cry for help. Make sure you get lots of fluids to keep your brain and body hydrated and happy.

A Walk in the Park

For a grey gelatinous mass, our brain behaves very much like a muscle. It needs new stimulation and stretching in order to grow. Novel experiences for the brain activate its neuroplasticity, essentially creating fresh connections and remapping neural pathways.

Ways to stimulate your brain could include learning to play a musical instrument, visiting an art gallery, traveling somewhere out-of-town, or being creative through painting or cooking. Studies have shown that even slightly changing your daily routine can help keep your brain engaged and improve your ability to absorb information when you study.

Immersing yourself in nature is another wonderful and enjoyable way to spend some quality time with your brain. Spending time in nature has been proven to have benefits for your mood, well-being, and mental health. Interacting with nature also brings cognitive benefits such as improved short-term attention span and retention. Not to mention the fresh air is good for your body!

Another excellent way to keep your brain active is to exercise. Exercise not only keeps our bodies fit but also helps the brain work out. Through coordinating our physical responses as we hit a ball or move our limbs in different directions, the brain strengthens connections between neurons and stays switched on.

Exercise not only stimulates the brain through physical synchronization but also trains the brain in focus and mindfulness. You can further improve this by practicing yoga or meditation, which also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Through training your brain, you will be rewarded with better memory and learning performance.

And here is the easiest way to keep the impulses firing in your brainsocializing. Hanging out with your friends and simply having a ten-minute conversation with someone can wake your brain up, allowing you to absorb more from your lectures.

The final part of brain-boosting is letting your brain take time off from managing your body. Science has established a connection between sufficient sleep and improved learning ability. During physical rest, the brain is allowed vital ‘downtime’ to process events of the day, be refreshed, and come up with creative solutions to problems.

As we return to school, remember that self-care is paramount. Your body is the vessel that protects your miraculous brain. Through a wholesome diet, a well-balanced and enriching lifestyle, and adequate rest, you will have a brain that is equipped to crush your study schedule.

 

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