The nine-to-five has a habit of taking its toll on our bodies. If you often find you’re sat down all day and feel brain-fried when it’s only Tuesday, it’s time to change your behavior.
I spoke to nutritional therapist Naomi Mead about how to make a difference to your brain health through simple everyday steps.
So, here are some ways you can boost your brainpower on your well-earned lunch break. Take a look at her top tips and let us know if you have any of your own.
Go for a Walk
Enjoying a brisk walk on your lunch break is pretty easy to accomplish, it’s free and all you have to do is step outside and move your legs around. Walking’s good for your mental and physical health, too. Regular exercise has been proven to:
- Reduce stress
- Decrease feelings of anxiety and depression
- Aid concentration
- Improve memory and cognitive function
- Aid sleep
So structuring your day around regular activity will help to keep you happy and healthy. This infographic by gaming experts Wink Bingo shows that 150 minutes of exercise each week (so just half-an-hour every weekday) can have a major impact on your brain, boosting your:
- Verbal memory
The research also shows that exercise can boost your creativity by as much as 60 percent, so you may find yourself rushing back to the office, flush with new ideas. “Physical activity can be thought of like a fertilizer for the brain, nourishing it to work more efficiently,” said Mead. “Just half an hour of brisk walking can help to provide these benefits.”
Learn Something New
Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? If it’s something like getting to grips with a new language, brushing up on the history of Western philosophy or doing an online course, you could probably fit in a little time into your working day to focus on it. Learning something new is a form of mental exercise and is believed to maintain brain cells and stimulate communication between them. So, take up a hobby or embrace a new skill, and get those synapses firing.
If your lunch-of-choice is a supermarket meal deal, think again. It’s much easier than you’d expect to switch to something better. Consider cooking up some bespoke brain food the night before, or take a look at the healthy treats you can discover locally. Our brains need to be kept healthy, just like our lungs, muscles and everything else, so keep your cranium tip-top with some healthy lunches. The following foods are thought to be important in boosting brainpower:
- Tomatoes - the fruit contains lycopene, which is thought to protect against damage to brain cells.
- Broccoli - the green vegetable is packed full of vitamin K, which can improve brainpower and cognition.
- Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines - these contain omega 3 fats, known to be good for the brain and memory.
A Mediterranean menu is commonly regarded as being excellent for both the body and the brain. “The traditional Mediterranean diet is high in olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains, with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, and low amounts of red meat, processed foods and sugar,” outlines Mead.
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Finding ways to snack and graze on these smarter food groups throughout the day can keep hunger at bay and keep you fuelled for efficiency. And this diet option is something that can be harnessed positively as part of your office culture.
“The Mediterranean diet is considered a whole lifestyle approach,” says Naomi, “with an emphasis also on the importance of the social side and enjoyment of eating.” Bringing your team together for a Mediterranean lunch now and again will boost productivity and contribute to a happier work environment.
Do a Sudoku
The number puzzle game is extremely popular and easy to do. You can play for free online, or pick up one of those cheap Sudoku books you see in your local bookstore. But can Sudoku and other popular puzzle games really boost your brain during your cherished work downtime?
They’re certainly known to be good for problem-solving and are probably more enriching than reading Mail Online, “Evidence is accumulating that these activities not only improve the skills they are designed to help but are likely to have some long-lasting benefits on cognition too,” says Mead.
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Use your lunch break to take a trip to a local park, green space or specialist studio for a spot of meditation. Yoga, and the wider practice of mindfulness are simple enough to learn and, according to this infographic, increase memory and improve attention, as well as increasing overall wellbeing. The benefits are significant to both your working and personal life.
As Naomi suggests, “meditating regularly can actually change the structure of the brain, and specifically has been shown to increase the amount of gray matter in the brain.” Gray matter is the tissue associated with dealing with stress, emotional stability and intelligence, and studies have shown that it can take as little as eight weeks for meditation to have an impact.