Brain fog — characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating — can be debilitating, to say the least. But treatment doesn’t have to be in the far-off future. Our experts share the easy tweaks to your daily routine proven to dramatically boost your brain power and sharpen your memory at any age.
Boost recall by chatting.
When it comes to stimulating your brain, there simply is no substitute for the superpower that is your social sphere, notes neuroscientist Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD. “Connecting with others stimulates every area of your brain, enhancing clarity of thinking.”
Indeed, just chatting with a friend for 10 minutes triggers the release of feel-good dopamine, shown to fuel recall. “Harnessing your social network improves your neural network, making your brain more resilient.”
Tap the power of less.
A deceptively powerful way to boost memory and clear your brain fog? Curb multitasking, encourages Chapman. “The more information we try to take in, the shallower our thinking, leading to errors, anxiety, and forgetfulness,” she says, advising that we focus on no more than three big tasks a day. “And take five 5-minute-long ‘brain breaks’ a day to, say, gaze out the window or sip tea. This is the power of doing less — warding off brain shrinkage linked to multitasking.”
Enjoy a stroll.
“One of the best ways to enhance brain function is aerobic exercise,” confirms neurologist David Perlmutter, MD. And it doesn’t take a Jane Fonda workout to do the trick: Just 15 minutes of mild exercise a day — from walking to yoga — triggers activity in the brain’s hippocampus, the center of memory.
Wash away brain fog.
The brain is 80 percent water, says neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, PhD. “That’s why keeping hydrated has big benefits — in fact, studies show drinking a tall glass of water before taking a test involving recall increases reaction times by 15 percent.” Since you already take in H2O from many of the foods you eat, especially fruits and veggies, adding one or two more glasses of water to your daily regimen will enhance recall in no time.
Turn back the clock.
“When you compare the brains of people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet (full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes) to those of the same age on a typical Western diet (with more processed foods), the brains of those on the Medi-style menu look five years younger,” reveals Mosconi.
No need to overhaul your whole diet! Just adding one or two servings of colorful fruits, berries, or veggies will have a big impact.
Revitalize by drifting off.
Nourishing your brain is as much about your pillow as it is your plate. “During restorative sleep, the brain activates pathways that rid it of toxins,” says Dr. Perlmutter. Simply soaking up some sunshine, ideally in the morning, for a few minutes daily will get your sleep/wake cycle on track, he notes. That will help you drift off at night.
The ultimate takeaway? “We do have powerful tools to sharpen our brain and brighten our outlook.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.