In modern day society, we have developed common habits which are negatively affecting our mental performance. Fortunately we have also discovered ways to further advance our mental performance. Learning how to improve your mental performance allows us to efficiently and effectively study, work, enjoy hobbies and build relationships to a greater capacity. We must improve our ability to process and comprehend all the information we are given from our senses and memory.
Hydration & Water
Despite its well-established importance, water is often forgotten in dietary recommendations. It has been shown that even a slight level of dehydration is related to poorer attention and memory. Oppositely, a drink of just 300ml when thirsty has also been shown to increase visual attention and working memory. Amazingly, 85% of school kids turn up to school in a state of mild dehydration decreasing their ability to take in auditory information. Without water our brain’s ability to work is decreased. On average, a sedentary adult loses 2–3 l of water per day. When exercising in a hot environment, the sweating rate can reach as much as 1–2 l of water loss per hour. Adding to the complexity, during rehydration, thirst can disappear before water balance is reached.
In my experience, water is invaluable at increasing focus, energy levels and speeding up recovery. Good water consumption also keeps the liver and kidneys functioning optimally, which allows the optimum excretion of toxins and excess hormones from the body. The key to solidifying the habit of drinking more water is to ensure you purchase a large 1l water bottle of water which you carry with you at all times. Drink a minimum of 2l to 3l, a simple an easy way to improve your mental performance. For my elite level athletes we are a little more specific and start by drinking 35ml per kg in bodyweight.
Carry a water bottle with you at all times.
Drink 500ml when you wake up
Drink 500ml before every meal
Drink 500ml when you go to bed
Drink before you feel thirsty.
Drink 35ml per kg of bodyweight
Breath & Oxygen
The brain is very sensitive to a change in oxygen levels. If it drops too low, we cannot survive or we won’t function optimally. Oppositely, if we can increase the amount of oxygen to the brain through increased circulation and better breathing it can dramatically increase its functioning, growth and healing. To put it into perspective, the brain uses around 3 times as much oxygen as the muscles do.
To increase circulation and oxygen levels we can adopt many different breathing techniques. The main premise is that you should breathe through your nose deep into your belly. This is otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing whereby you try to breath from your belly rather than your chest. The most amount blood vessels lie around the deepest parts of the lungs so we need to breathe as deep as possible to be as efficient as possible. If we don’t learn to breathe naturally with our diaphragm muscle, we do not get the proper amount of oxygen into our blood to be carried to our brain and body parts. Meditation and mindfulness are a great way to consciously improve our breathing so that it becomes natural in our everyday lives and we naturally improve your mental performance
The breathe is such a powerful thing that one pioneer, named Wim Hoff, managed to climb Mount Everest topless and in shorts. Although scientists are still examining his technique and the bodes response. I believe he completed this through his breathing and created such a high state of oxygen and blood flow through his body that he was protected from drops in body temperature.
Meditatative breathing – focus on 5s in, 6s hold and 7s out.
Long belly breaths.
Try the Wim Hoff Method
Exercise / movement
Exercise but more generally movement, is a natural medicine for both our body and mind. Our sedentary modern lifestyle has caused a massive decrease in our everyday movement and subsequently caused many modern day mental health diseases to rise. Raising the heart rate through aerobic exercise has been proven to actually increase the size of the brain involved with verbal memory. The body also adapts to exercise by increasing new blood vessels that can supply more oxygen to our brain and helps in reducing inflammation. Indirectly, exercise can improve mood and quality of sleep whilst reducing anxiety and stress. These factors, including positive endorphins released as a result of an exercise, improve your mental performance. This further proven in a study asking people to rate their mood after exercise whereby participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to periods of inactivity.
In my opinion, the direct impact that I can feel through exercise is a great relief in tension and stress. It allows me to settle down and think clearly. Without exercise I would have too much energy. Exercise and sport provides me with a form of meditation, a complete focus on one task, clearing my mind and allowing me think only of important things in my life. This combined with the physiological benefits and positive hormones makes movement a critical component to improve your mental performance.
Exercise 30 minutes x 5 times per week
Try a variety of intensities but aerobic and HIIT have been proven to have improve mental performance more than static exercises.
Find activities which are social and that you enjoy to increase consistency
See more information on our rules to movement.
Nutrition and Energy
It is very common that with poor nutritional intake we experience fluctuating high and low periods of energy. When you have a healthy diet full of good nutritious food your energy level tends to be very stable and fluctuate very minimally. So what are the main culprits of this? Well, fast releasing carbohydrates and foods that cause inflammation. Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, sugary drinks, sugary snacks and chocolate cause too much energy to enter the bloodstream at once. The body then reacts by storing this excess energy but overcompensates causing us to go into a low sugar, low energy state. Here our concentration, mood and focus would subsequently be very low. Many people take this rollercoaster ride of energy every day through poor nutritional choices.
We can improve this by getting rid of the fast releasing carbs from our diet and replacing them with slow energy releasing carbohydrates such as sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat. Here the energy is released slowly throughout the day and the body does not need to overcompensate. Your energy is therefore stable throughout the day allowing you to remain focused and highly productive to improve your mental performance.
Eat slow releasing carbohydrates such as sweet potato and quinoa.
Avoid sugary snacks and drinks
Drink more water to avoid snacking
See our rules to nutrition