It’s that time of year again, when young and old alike search for wisdom as they crack open those books and buckle down. Whether it’s your kids backpack that you are packing or your own, we have some unique, practical, and proven ways to enhance cognition. So, let’s boost some brainpower the Five to Thrive® way!
Within each of these core strategies we provide critical action steps that have been scientifically shown to enhance brain function.
Research involving the Mediterranean diet continues to expand and now it’s moving way beyond heart health. Several new studies are making the connection between eating a Mediterranean diet and mental health and brain function.
A 2013 literature review published in Epidemiology concluded that eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
Another 2013 study published in BMJ Open featuring nearly 25,000 Italians demonstrated that eating a Mediterranean diet was associated with better health related quality of life, specifically mental health.
Two of our favorite supplement ingredients are Cognizin® (citicoline) and Suntheanine® (L-theanine from green tea). And both of these nutrients have been shown to enhance brain function in clinical studies.
In 2012, a study published in Food and Nutrition showed that citicoline significantly improved attention in healthy women compared to placebo. In 2013, a study in Clinical Interventions in Aging featuring elderly adults showed that citicoline protected brain function in cases of mild vascular cognitive impairment (issues with blood flow and oxygen). L-theanine is especially helpful if concentration issues are associated with anxiety, which can sometimes be the case when schoolwork is involved.
A 2010 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience demonstrated that L-theanine significantly improved task accuracy and alertness in young adults. A 2011 study featured in the Alternative Medicine Review demonstrated that L-theanine improved sleep quality when compared to placebo in young boys who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
We know that movement has powerful health benefits including enhancing bone health, increasing immunity, reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and much more.
But did you know that exercise can also boost brainpower? A 2014 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine featuring kids age 11, 13, and 16 showed that physical activity at moderate to vigorous intensity (working up a sweat!) significantly improved academic performance compared to kids who were inactive. The researchers concluded that exercise improves brain function and concentration, and even helps with behavioral issues.
One of our favorite ways to boost brainpower is getting out in nature. A 2012 study in PLOS ONE featured young adults who were immersed in nature for four days. The group in nature was also disconnected from all technology. When compared to the group who was not experiencing nature, the researchers found that the nature lovers had a 50% increase in creativity and problem solving skills.
According to the researchers, nature evokes a “gentle, soft fascination” that engages the “default mode” of the brain which is active during restful introspection that is connected with task performance.
This next study may seem a bit obvious but we feel it’s certainly worth a reminder. This is an older study from 2009 published in the Journal of Personality featuring 345 university students. This researcher found that students who reported more hope had higher grade expectations and students who had both hopeful and optimistic attitudes had significantly higher academic performance. The key is to find ways to instill a realistic sense of hope and optimism in our kids and ourselves. We can do this with positive reinforcement, as well as simply recognizing and talking about these brain-boosting traits.
The brain is not a stagnant organ—it is extremely malleable and amenable to change. We have far more influence than we may realize. There are lots of ways to help your brain THRIVE!