One of the best features of the modern age of information, is that it has elevated the human standard of living and health to a new level. The concept of physical fitness and a healthy diet were virtually unheard of even less than 100 years ago. Now there are countless gyms, yoga studios, and health food stores all across the globe. As science incurred more sophisticated technological advances, the domain of human health and performance has likewise experienced invaluable gains. The ability to extract more nuanced information about the mechanisms of human biology and psychology, has given the public a much more refined understanding of why the maintenance of health is so central to every individual.
In the area of brain health, and brain training with neurofeedback, it is important to keep in mind that the power and clinical success rate of its application, has also shown consistently better results for individuals that maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is because the brain performs better neurologically, in accordance to the quality of its biology. Like the rest of the body, the brain is a biological organ which has its own unique requirements, that allow it to function well. The brain is a highly vascularized, and resource demanding organ, that depends on the function of other systems and organs. Healthy respiration, circulation, digestion, and circadian rhythms, are just some of the functions that provide the brian with a sufficient supply of oxygen and nutrition, while also supporting the natural cleaning and repairing function of brain cells. Observing these principles will help you manage inflammation and allow your brain to function better, which will also optimize the effects of neurofeedback training.
Even though it is now indisputable that to have a longer and happier life, taking care of the body is indispensable, what has been left out of the conversation is the role of the brain. There is an old saying in neurology “everything psychological is simultaneously biological” which communicates a very deep and profound fact, that conscious experience can be voluntarily steered by human will. It illustrates that there is no separation between mind and body, and that they coexist on the same continuum of health and function.
Currently, fitness and health is not just a lifestyle option that is adhered to by the ranks of professional athletes, but has become one of the primary priorities of the public at large. Due to the technologically accelerated spread of information and knowledge, the average individual today has become much more interested in personal health and wellness, than at any other time in recorded history. The ability to function well in one’s personal and professional life, including the ability to ward off various dysfunctions and diseases, has become one of the most commonly shared goals of people from all strata of society. As the nexus of one’s lived experience, the enrichment of the human body has been reprioritized as that which affords what everyone prizes–quality of life.
However continuous the health of the brain is with the rest of the body, there are still some unique ways that a person can leverage better brain function with the following lifestyle template. This is not an exhaustive and complete outline of everything that is possible, but it contains the easiest and most economical techniques that have universal application:
Morning routine (starting the day)
1. As restorative and essential as sleep is, it is the longest period of the day that an individual goes through without hydration. Even though an individual may be asleep, the brain and the visceral functions of the body are very much not. Sleep is a 7-9 hour period of the day that still requires metabolic function in order to repair and restore the body and brain. This means that everyone wakes up dehydrated. Making the first and foremost priority upon waking, to drink and replenish the loss of water that occurred during the course of sleep. On average, an adult of 130 pounds or more should drink about 25-30 ounces of purified (room temperature) water after waking up. This will not only restore the water loss that occurs at night, but will stimulate peristalsis and catalyze the first and most important bowel movement of the day.
2. Once hydration has taken place, the next step should be to get some light-moderate intensity exercise. This need not take longer than about 20-30min, and could take the form of a brisk walk or jog, Yogic sun salutations, or basic calisthenics. This is important to do on an empty stomach, and will help stimulate digestion and an appetite for the first meal of the day. The main effect is to help avoid blood sugar spikes, which are by nature inflammatory. The biological mechanisms that are being tapped into is the natural rise in cortisol that wakes a person up in the morning, are already raising blood sugar levels, and exercise helps burn off that glucose, which in turn lowers cortisol, and prepares the body for the first meal of the day. The additional contribution of starting the day with exercise is it will help elevate respiratory rate and increase oxygenation that is so essential to the brain. Absence of oxygen actually causes damage of neural tissue, familiarly referred to as cerebral hypoxia.
Diet and Nutrition
1. The brain is a very resource demanding organ of the body, with glucose being the main fuel source it relies upon. The healthy provision of glucose entails a diet that has the right balance of macronutrients. Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats, are best taken in at specific ratios that allow the brain to extract the necessary fuel it needs. Proteins and Fats should make up anywhere between 25-35%, and complex Carbohydrates should make up between 35-45% of one’s daily intake. The spread of these ratios should be understood in context of whether someone is trying to lose weight (lower end of the %) or gain muscle (higher end of the %)
2. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, also have an indispensable function in how the brain performs. Vitamins like B12, D3, and Omega-3 fatty acids support brain, nervous system, and hormone function. These nutrients are found in various whole food sources, but may also be obtained through supplementation. B12 supplements have clinical legitimacy and are easy, cheap, and very effective. Vitamin D is technically classified as a hormone, and is best obtained from sunlight (UVB rays) as it is synthesized in the skin after exposure. Omega-3 fatty acids are also equally obtained through wholefood and supplementation form.
Night routine (ending the day)
Sleep has received a lot of mainstream attention, as a fundamental source of brain health. Sleep quality is still the best metric of all around brain performance, used even among clinicians.
1. The average adult should get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and kids and teens biologically require 9hours minimum.
2. One of the most important habits to keep to ensure good sleep hygiene is to make sure that there is at least a 30-60min wind down window of time that will maximize the body’s ability to relax and fall asleep. The prevalence and use of digital devices that people are exposed to, has degraded the duration and quality of sleep, that the general public is reporting. The impact on sleep is due to the spectrum of light that these devices emit, which neurologically disrupts the circadian sleep cycle. Keeping the sleeping environment as dark as possible, is a very effective, and often even pleasant. In order to avoid the intrusions of light into one’s sleep routine, simple measures can make a big difference. This may require blackout curtains or eye masks, as well as keeping any digital light clocks out of sight so that they do not illuminate the environment while asleep. Keeping the lights lowered and overhead lights off if possible, even a couple of hours before bed, and if necessary to use screens, use it with a nighttime mode. If waking up in the middle of night, making sure to avoid seeing any digital facing clock/screen of any kind.