Andrew May provides tips on how you can perform at your "mental peak"
Would you like to discover a proven way to get more done, to turbo charge brain function and to keep performing at a high level without hitting the wall? We know exercise and nutrition fuel our physical performance, but most people don’t realise that they are among the six levers that also fuel our mental performance. If we want to perform at our mental peak, and ensure we are healthy not just physically, but psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, we need to consider how we:
- MOVE: Physical activity is essential to overall wellbeing and influences how you feel, improves energy levels, reduces risk of disease, improves brain function and mental health.
- FUEL: You are what you eat. Nutrition and hydration underpin cellular function, metabolism, energy levels and brain function.
- RECHARGE: Relaxation and switching off (physically and psychologically) are key to sustaining energy levels, reducing fatigue, nurturing creativity and enhancing emotional intelligence. Restorative sleep is vital to recovery, hormone balance and brain function.
- CONNECT: A clear purpose, flourishing relationships, sense of community and regular exposure to nature are fundamental to pleasure, meaning and fulfillment in life.
- THINK: The ability to learn, change and grow is essential to thrive in the modern world. A flexible and positive mindset is important for relationships, wellbeing and mental health.
- PLAY: Play and regular doses of fun keep us healthy and young at heart. Recreational play generates optimism, is the gateway to vitality, enhances relationships and boosts learning.
Let’s look at three specific examples of how activating these levers improves day-to-day performance.
1. Physical activity makes you smarter
Fact: regular exercise helps you grow more brain cells. Recent research shows exercise helps prevent age-related decrease in brain matter, enhances cognitive flexibility and reduces the risk of developing dementia. Once you have those extra neurons firing, you need to make them nimble. This is where exercise helps again, improving the connection of the neurons by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). Most brain changes have occurred from cardiovascular exercise, like walking or running, but all forms of physical activity provide benefits. So whether you’re training for a marathon or walking to the shops, the message is clear: getting moving will improve your brainpower.
2. Regular movement boosts energy levels
Fact: exercise builds more mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy in the body. When you feel foggy and fatigued at work, the last thing you feel like doing is exercise. However, even a small burst of activity, as little as 20 minutes, will dramatically boost your energy levels. A University of Georgia study reported that sedentary people who normally complained of chronic lethargy increased their energy by 20 per cent and decreased fatigue by as much as 65 per cent by participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.
3. Food fuels productivity
Fact: foods high in dopamine mixed with plenty of veggies help boost alertness, creativity, learning and concentration.
Nuts and foods high in protein fuel the body with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps with alertness, creativity, learning and concentration. Foods don’t actually contain dopamine. Our body creates it by breaking down the amino acid Tyrosine. Dopamine is linked to brain processes that control movement and emotional responses. Eating nutrient dense foods like nuts also increases the satiety index (feeling of fullness) which results in more control over potential hunger cravings.
A 2014 study in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day isn’t simply just good for the body and the waistline, it is also great for the brain. Study participants reported their food intake, mood and behaviours over a period of 13 days and were more creative, felt happier and were more engaged the more fruit and vegetables they ate.
It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, male or female, extremely unfit or running marathons, a complete stress-head or a chilled-out monk, pulling these six levers will improve the way you feel and allow you to thrive personally and professionally, physically and mentally.
Andrew May is recognised as one of the world’s leading strategists on workplace performance and wellbeing. He presents inspiring keynotes around the globe and is the author of the newly released book, MatchFit. Andrew is coach and confidante to a number of Australia’s leading CEO’s and executives, elite athletes and performing artists.