Some of the more common things that get asked about are being able to learn faster, become mentally stronger, being able to focus more, being able to react quicker in conversations, and being able to have more control over one’s actions.
Now all of these have one thing in common and it’s that your ability to do any of these things well and is determined by how fit your brain is.
We focus a lot of time and energy on physical fitness, but almost no one ever talks about mental fitness, which is why in this article I want to show you the 5 most important things you should be doing every day in order to optimize your brain health and become mentally stronger.
So make sure you read the article till the very end. Let’s jump right into it!
Top 5 Ways to become mentally stronger
1. Sleep well if you want to become mentally stronger
Scientists have known for years that sleep is extremely important for our brain health. As we currently understand sleep plays a crucial role in memory formation.
A study conducted in 2012 found that simply getting a good night’s sleep improved declarative memory also known as the ability to recall facts by a whopping 20%.
More recently scientists have started to theorize that sleep also plays a housekeeping role in your brain. There is an interesting protein released by the neurons in our brain when we are awake called tau.
When we get a good night’s sleep our brain will naturally clear away about half of this protein.
On the other hand, studies have found that when we don’t sleep enough instead of being halved our tau levels double. Now, what’s so bad about having like four times higher levels of tau floating around in our brain all the time.
Well, a study conducted in 2019 found that too much tau is strongly correlated with the loss of synapses in the brain and also neurological and even motor dysfunction.
Higher baseline levels of tau have also been linked to two very scary diseases Alzheimer’s and dementia. So try your best to get enough high-quality sleep every single night.
2. You should focus on your Diet
The saying goes you are what you eat and that’s not only true for your body but for your brain and mind as well. Quick disclaimer I am NOT a certified nutritionist or healthcare professional you shouldn’t make any serious dietary or lifestyle changes without consulting with your family doctor first.
But I think it’s safe to say that there is one food out there that just about everyone should try their best to limit or if possible avoid completely especially if you want to become mentally stronger and improve your mental health and that is added sugars.
Now sugar inherently isn’t a bad thing. Our brains do run on glucose which is basically sugar but this is usually ingested in the form of grains, carbs, and fruits.
The problem is added sugars. Sugars are added on top of the sugar that already exists in the foods we eat.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the average American now consumes 70 grams of added sugars every single day and the research suggests that eating that much extra sugar is a terrible terrible thing for your brain.
A study conducted in 2016 found that high sugar diets can reduce memory formation in rats by affecting the hippocampus which plays an important role in short and long-term memory formation.
Another study conducted in 2002 found that excess sugar consumption reduced the production of a special protein called BDNF. Research strongly suggests that low levels of BDNF can lead to memory problems, depression, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s.
The more of the story, try your best to stay away from added sugars, which fun fact is most commonly consumed in the form of sugary drinks.
3. Start learning new things
For quite some time people were under the impression that our brain stopped developing in our mid-20s. But it turns out that your brain can create new neurons and connections until the day you die, that is if you continue to learn.
A study conducted in 2013 looked at elders from the age of 60 to 90 years old and found that those who attest to learn a completely new skill like digital photography or quilting saw a huge improvement in their overall memory.
The more unfamiliar and mentally challenging the task is the better the cognitive benefits will be. So that means the best types of things to learn are things that you currently have no idea how to do. This is why one of the best things to consider learning is a new language.
A study in 2014 conducted by a dr. Thomas Bak found that learning a second language even if you learn it late into adulthood drastically increases your ability to focus and concentrate on tasks. It has also been shown to slow down cognitive decline by up to five years.
4. You should be doing Exercise if you want to become mentally stronger
The fourth thing you should be doing if you want to optimize your brain’s mental health is exercise. Now exercise is one of the more important things on this list because it actually does quite a lot of things that in turn will improve your overall mental health.
It’s long been known that regular exercise improves your sleep quality which as we now know is pretty important. Exercise also causes the release of BDNF which again will help protect you from dementia, Alzheimer’s and has also been shown to slow down the natural deterioration of your brain as you get older.
Not only that but exercise also improves your overall mood. When you exercise regularly your body releases a variety of feel-good endorphins, lowering stress and reducing anxiety.
The better your mood is the easier it is for you to focus and get things done. On top of that recent studies have also started to point to the fact that exercise can affect your actual brain size.
A study conducted in 2017 at the Western Sydney University found that regular exercise led to a significant increase in the size of the hippocampus which plays a crucial role in learning and memory.
Other studies also suggest that exercise can lead to growth in the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe which also play very important roles in long-term memory and interestingly enough self-control which in theory should help you build and break habits easier.
These are only some of the numerous benefits that exercise can bring to the table. The point is if you want to improve your mental health you definitely need to be exercising and it doesn’t have to be intense to our workouts at the gym every single day.
Studies have found that simply doing some light exercise like jogging for 30 minutes a day can provide you with almost all of the benefits I listed above.
5. Do meditation
The one thing that I considered to be the most important in regards to optimizing your mental health and become mentally stronger is meditation.
A study conducted in 2012 used FMRI scans to look at the brains of people while they were learning how to meditate for the first time over a period of eight weeks, they discovered that meditation drastically reduced the amount of activity in the amygdala even randomly throughout the day.
This is the part of your brain that is responsible for negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, and even sadness which means that meditating can drastically improve your ability to control your negative emotions.
Like we discussed before when you are in a good mood it is significantly easier to study and focus and also to stop you from turning to your bad habits and this is only one of the many reasons why meditation is good for your brain health.
Because another study conducted in 2011 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the brains of regular meditation practitioners with the brains of those who are completely new to it.
The focus of this study was on the default mode Network also known as the DMN which is the part of the brain that is most active when you are not focused.
It is the same part of your brain that is responsible for the random thoughts that pop into your head when you’re daydreaming in class or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night.
The study found that those who practice meditation regularly have less activity in their DMN throughout the day and this is actually a good thing because it means that people who practice meditation are more focused on what’s happening in front of them as compared to having their mind wander around.
To top all of this of an interview was conducted in 2015 where Harvard neuroscientist Sarah Lazar stated that regular meditation leads to significant growth in three very important regions of the brain.
- The first being the left hippocampus which again plays a huge role in your learning ability your memory and your ability to control your emotions.
- The second being a region called the temporal Pareto Junction which deals with your ability to empathize with others and something called perspective-taking which is basically being able to perceive hypothetical situations accurately in your mind this is important because it allows you to plan and execute things more effectively.
- The third and final region of your brain that meditation has been shown to grow is called the pons. Which is responsible for some of our major senses such as our ability to taste, hear, motor control, balance, and even our facial expressions
So in a way meditation will improve almost all of your overall senses.
All in all, research suggests that meditation is one of the healthiest things that you can be doing for your mind especially if your main concern is about focus or self-control and these are the five things you should be doing in order to become mentally stronger and optimize your brain’s health: sleep, cutting out sugars, exercising learning and meditation.
Let me know in the comments down below which one of these five you want to start or work on today and besides that guys stay tuned.