8 Ways To Protect Your Brain’s Cognitive Functions With Ayurveda
Have you ever gone into a room and forgotten what you were looking for? Or found yourself in the middle of a conversation, unable to find the right words? It goes something like this: “You know, the guy — the guy with the brown hair, what’s his name?” Word search, forgetfulness, or unfocused. Let’s protect ourselves against cognitive changes.
These experiences can be disconcerting, but they’re more common than you might realize. More than 600 million people worldwide suffer from forgetfulness, and if you’re among the millions, don’t worry. Decreased focus, word search, difficulty remembering, and inability to think clearly are highly treatable — so long as you’re willing to be proactive about your health and well-being!
According to Medical News Today, about 40% of adults ages 65 and older experience memory loss.
In this article, we’ll explore the root causes of these concerning experiences and how to boost your brainpower naturally with Ayurveda.
SEE ALSO: Effects Of Lack Of Sleep
What are cognitive changes?
Cognitive changes are typically characterized by poor concentration, decreased focus, issues with memory, alertness, and frequent, uncomfortable word retrieval challenges. Essentially, it means your brain and mind are not functioning at an optimal level, typically due to some underlying factors such as stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, and food habits.
“By age 60, more than half of adults have concerns about their memory. However, minor memory lapses that occur with age are not usually signs of a serious problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but rather the result of normal changes in the structure and function of the brain.” Read more from Harvard University Medical School.
What causes cognitive changes?
Various issues can cause cognitive changes, such as diet, stress, poor sleep, medications, anxiety, stress, and depression. If impaired memory or forgetfulness becomes a chronic condition, consult with a professional who can help you get to the root cause of your symptoms.
Harvard University School of Medicine: “Normal aging leads to gradual changes in many skills associated with thinking and memory. For example, you might find it harder to focus your attention and absorb information quickly.”
How to Protect Your Brain’s Cognitive Functions with Ayurveda
The vast majority of the brain and mind-related changes we face are related to our lifestyle choices. In this section, we’ll cover proactive ways you can boost your brain power with Ayurveda and ultimately improve your memory, focus, and brain health. What steps can you take now to reduce your risk of dementia and cognitive changes?
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #1: Stay away from processed foods
In Ayurveda, food is a medicine used to nourish the mind and body. Unfortunately, much of modern society doesn’t share this same perspective. As a result, ultra-processed foods such as microwaveable meals, instant soup, candy, chips, sweetened cereal, white bread, fast food, and heavily processed meats (bacon, sausage, hotdogs) have become a staple in many households. These options are touted as more convenient because they’re quick and easy to make — but they lack nutritional value and negatively affect your health and well-being over time.
According to a Harvard study on 100,000 adults, people who consume a diet containing 10% or more of ultra-processed foods have an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disorders. Furthermore, these foods deprive your brain of important nutrients needed to function properly.
“Eat food as nature made them. Simple and whole.” – Veena | Saumya Ayurveda
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #2: Eat antioxidant-rich foods.
One of the best ways to nourish your brain and protect yourself from chronic stress and depression is by eating antioxidant-rich foods. Wholesome fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants keep your brain cells healthy and help them avoid oxidative stress – a rusting of the cells that leads to depression. Knowing how to eat correctly for YOU, your stage of life, the season, your location, and your symptoms makes a world of difference. It sounds complicated, but it’s not, with the help of an experienced Certified Ayurveda Practitioner.
The best antioxidant foods for your brain will depend on your dominant dosha.
- Pitta dosha: Antioxidant-rich foods for the Pitta dosha include cooked and appropriately spiced broccoli, spinach, and carrots.
- Kapha dosha: Antioxidant-rich foods for the Kapha dosha include apples, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, pomegranate, artichoke, asparagus, and green beans.
- Vata dosha: Antioxidant-rich foods for the Vata dosha include well-cooked, well-spiced beetroot, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and winter squashes.
These antioxidant-rich foods will help your body fight free radicals, thereby protecting your brain from damage.
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #3: Use herbal remedies to enhance mental cognition
Herbs are plant nutrition targeted to a specific tissue, channel, organ, or issue. If you’re looking for ways to improve your intellect, enhance your memory, and increase your creativity, Medhya Rasayana Ayurvedic herbs can help.
The term Medhya Rasayana comes from two Ayurvedic words:
‘Medhya’ meaning intellect or cognitive power
‘Rasayana’ meaning rejuvenative ability
Medhya Rasayana herbs are nootropic, meaning they enhance cognitive functioning. These herbs are often used to improve memory, intelligence, creativity, consciousness, retention, and so forth. They work by supplying your brain with essential nutrients needed to function properly.
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #4: Use our free and popular guided practices daily
Read Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. Breathing links us both to the mind and the body. And the more we pay attention to breathing by way of a gentle awareness, the more we can relax and find our mind concentrated. That’s where diaphragmatic breathing exercises come in.
Change my breath, and it changes my life? It may seem an overly dramatic claim, yet it is not. Without breath, where is life? There are many sayings in English about breath, we lost our breath, we catch it, we hold it, we take a deep breath–yet the breath of life–meaning something one depends on, is among the most profound. Breath is not something we tend to connect with consciously, yet it is foundational in Ayurveda and to life itself.
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #5: Improve focus and concentration by giving up the illusion of multitasking.
It seems like we are doing more than one thing at a time, but the truth is–we’re not. We may be doing several things quickly, but pause for a moment and pay attention meditatively. When we think we are multi-tasking, we are merely sped up, less aware, and going from one micro-experience to the next rapidly. The fact is, at any given moment, we can, and thankfully so, only be doing one thing.
If you’re looking at your phone while in the car, at the moment, you’re focused on the phone-your a
Here’s the message, and please hear the message–please slow down. The world may spin faster than we can keep up, but we need to reclaim and maintain our center, our focus to boost our concentration and take good care of our body, brain, and mind.
- Really focus on one thing at a time and this supports healthy memory and mood. When someone talks to you, look at them, and put your phone down when your child, partner, co-worker, or dog comes to you for attention. Connect. Really feel it and be present.
- We’re all familiar with active listening skills. This also helps increase mental focus. Say back what you heard, so your understanding is clear, so the other person feels heard, and to reinforce the information into integration.
- If you’re an introvert, have social anxiety, or get distracted in busy environments, switch it up. Meet at someone’s house, or sit outside at the coffee shop at a table situated away from the commotion and ear-splitting espresso machines.
These simple tips improve focus and concentration and produce the positive side effect of feeling less stressed and increased calm. We live in a world that expects us to be, or at least look busy all the time, to be a top-performing multi-tasker. Start boosting your brain power with Ayurveda using our 2-minute meditations and guided practices, and you’ll see you’re really doing one thing at a time–be present to that one thing in that moment, and then the next thing that arises in the next moment–this is meditation in action. Attention is not on the task of driving. We’ve all had the experience.
Give yourself and your brain a break and let go of the illusion of multi-tasking–slow down, and be present. It doesn’t mean we have the luxury of always setting the pace, but we do have the choice to connect to each moment. Remember the relief of stress you feel when things slow down–as though every cell in your being sighs, “ahhh….” or, as a child, being one with whatever we were doing. If we were drawing, we were aware of the feel of the crayon, the smell, the colors, and the movement of our hand. Most of us recall these states of the union (yoga) as a distant memory of the past, but it is time for that to change for us.
“Even if we need to operate quickly externally, by remaining aware of one moment at a time, our inner experience is one of stillness not matter how fast the world seems to be spinning” – Veena | Saumya Ayurveda
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #6: Manage your stress
Stress and anxiety, especially if they become chronic conditions, can wreak havoc on your well-being and brain health. Studies show chronic stress impairs brain function, causes brain cells to die, and can even shrink the size of your brain!
Most of us are chronically pushed too hard. Whether it’s our boss or ourselves, we are burning out and burning up. To learn more please read Pitta | Burning Out and Quiet Quitting.
“It’s time we reclaim our calm. If not now, when? If not us, who? Let’s do it now.” -Veena | Saumya Ayurveda
Here are a handful of ways to manage the stress in your life:
- Be mindful of your environment: Are you surrounded by chaos and clutter, or does your environment feel orderly and clean? Your environment has a huge impact on your stress levels. By keeping your house organized, you’ll reduce environment-induced stress and overwhelm. (If you are interested in our Vastu consultations – the ancient guide to creating positive home and work spaces, click here.)
- Take inventory of your relationships: Are there certain people causing you undue stress? Consider which relationships are serving your highest good, and which are hindering you from feeling at peace.
- Maintain a consistent routine: Known as dinacharya in Ayurveda, a routine specific to you, helps to balance your doshas and work in harmony with your biological clock. Dinacharya creates ease in you and for you as you move through your day. You are less stressed, enjoying more, and increasing your sense of satisfaction.
- Develop a regular meditation practice: Consistent meditation reduces stress and anxiety. Give yourself eleven minutes in the morning and 11 at night to make use of free guided practices.
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #7: Get quality restorative sleep
What’s restorative sleep? When you wake up and tell the first people you see, “I slept so great last night, I feel like a new person.” When your body is sleep deprived, it makes it harder for your brain to function — as a result, you may experience decreased memory and impaired decision-making abilities, and increased anxiety and stress. What’s more, lack of sleep also impairs how your immune system functions, thereby making you more susceptible to illness.
Make it a mental and physical health priority to get quality sleep at night. This means following a supportive morning and evening routine, unplugging from the world before dinner time, reclaiming your after-work time as “away from it all,” shutting off the screens, playing a board game with the family, reading an inspiring book, doing your 11 minute guided practice. You get the picture. When you get quality sleep, your body will rejuvenate itself, and your brain will function better.
Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions for achieving quality sleep:
- Aim to be in bed before 10 pm every night
- Stay away from screens (TV, phone, iPad, etc.) after dinner
- Finish your daily meals 2 to 3 hours before bed
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after 1 pm
- Enjoy Saumya Sweet Latte and Calming Night Milk
- Pair #5 with our free guided practices.
- Enjoy our article on Ayurvedic Sleep Remedies to Help You Rest Easy
Ayurvedic brain cognition boosting tip #8: Dinacharya, following the natural rhythms of the day
When we flow with the natural energies present and dominate in the universe at different times of the day, we’re working with nature and not against it. Read our two articles and create a simple morning and evening routine that will provide you the calm, focused energy you want and need.
“It’s time we reclaim our calm. Call it “quiet quitting’ and social media fasting, what we’re talking about is the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. It’s time we save ourselves. If not us, who? If not now, when? Ayurveda provides the needed perspective and tools to reclaim and rebalance. Are you ready to get your life back?” – Veena|Saumya Ayurveda
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