The brain is by far our most precious organ–others are good, too, but they all pale in comparison to the mighty brain. Because the brain works so hard around the clock (even while we’re sleeping), it uses an extraordinary amount of energy, and requires a certain amount of nutritional support to keep it going. It’s high-maintenance, in other words. But there may be misconceptions about what keeps a brain healthy–for instance, there’s little evidence that omega-3 supplements or green smoothies would do anything above and beyond generally good nutrition. So what does science actually tell us can help our brains? Here’s what we know as of now.
Physical activity is pretty clearly linked to brain health and cognitive function. People who exercise appear to have greater brain volume, better thinking and memory skills, and even reduced risk of dementia. A recent study in the journal Neurology found that older people who vigorously exercise have cognitive test scores that place them at the equivalent of 10 years younger. It’s not totally clear why this is, but it’s likely due to the increased blood flow to the brain that comes from physical activity. Exercise is also thought to help generate new neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area where learning and memory “live,” and which is known to lose volume with age, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The one stark exception to the exercise rule is impact sports like football, which has been shown again and again to be linked to brain damage and dementia, since even low-level impacts can accrue over time. The same is true for soccer headers.
Starting an exercise routine earlier in life is likely the best way to go, and the effects more pronounced the younger one begins. More research will be needed, but in the meantime, enough research has shown exercise to be beneficial to the brain that it’s pretty hard not to at least acknowledge it (even if we don’t do it as much as we should).
Foods and Spices
The brain is a massive energy suck–it uses glucose way out of proportion to the rest of the body. In fact, it requires about 20% of the body’s energy resources, even though its volume is just a tiny percentage. This is justifiable since thinking, learning, remembering and controlling the body are all huge jobs. But the source and quantity of the sugar matter: Eating highly processed carbs, which break down very quickly, leads to the famous spike-and-crash of blood sugar (which your brain certainly feels). But eating whole, unprocessed foods leads to a slow, steady rise, and a more constant source of energy–and it makes the brain much happier.
Beyond giving energy, dietary sugar (especially too much of it) also appears to affect how plastic the brain is, or how capable of change. A study last year, for instance, found that rats fed fructose water after brain injury had seriously impaired recovery. “Our findings suggest that fructose disrupts plasticity—the creation of fresh pathways between brain cells that occurs when we learn or experience something new,” said study author UCLA study author Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, whose work has also shown that sugar impairs cognitive function in healthy animals. Interestingly, omega-3 fatty acids appear to reverse some of this damage. And in humans, fatty fish has been linked to cognition, presumably because the fats in it make the cells of the brain more permeable. Omega-3 capsules, however, have not been shown to do much good.
There’s mixed evidence that plant-derived antioxidants can improve cognitive function, at least in isolation. While some studies haven’t found an effect, others have suggested that compounds in foods like cocoa and blueberries may do some good. (Not surprisingly, Mars Inc. has funded a lot of research in this area, and even markets a high-potency cocoa mix, CocoaVia, for cognitive health.) And finally, turmeric, a key component of curry, if used regularly, has been linked to reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, presumably for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In general though, researchers are split on whether eating just one thing will cut it–for instance, adding blueberries to an otherwise mediocre diet probably won’t do much. But a diet low in sugar and high in whole foods, healthy fats and as many colorful fruits and veggies as you can take in is cumulatively one of the best things you can do for your brain.
Vitamins and Minerals
Though there’s little evidence that multi-vitamins do us much good, there are certain vitamins that the brain needs to function. Vitamin B12 is one of the ones critical for the function of the central nervous system, and whose deficiency can lead to cognitive symptoms like memory loss. Vitamin D is also critical for brain health–and while there’s no causal link, low levels have been linked to cognitive decline. Iron is another that the brain needs to function well (especially for women who are menstruating) since it carries oxygen. But as always, although supplements are certainly necessary for certain people, getting your nutrients from food appears to be the most efficient way to take them in and absorb them.
This is a funny one. Many coffee lovers know instinctively that coffee does something very good for their brains in the morning, and indeed our cognition seems a little fuzzy without it. But coffee does appear to effect some real change: Not only does it keeps us alert, by blocking adenosine receptors, but coffee consumption has also been linked to reduced risk of depression, and even of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This is partly because, like cocoa, compounds in coffee improve vascular health, and may also help repair cellular damage by acting as antioxidants.
This connection is fascinating, because although there are thousands of years of anecdotal evidence that meditation can help a person psychologically, and perhaps neurologically, the scientific evidence for meditation’s effects on the brain has really just exploded in the last five or 10 years. Meditation has been linked to increased brain volume in certain areas of the cerebral cortex, along with less volume in the brain’s amygdala, which controls fear and anxiety. It’s also been linked to reduced activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is active when our minds are wandering about from thought to thought, which are typically negative and distressing. Meditation also seems to lead to changes to the white matter tracks connecting different regions of the brain, and to improved attention and concentration.
Staying mentally active over the course of a lifetime, starting with education, is tied to cognitive health–which explains why crosswords and Sudoku are thought to help cognition. Mental activity may or may not keep a brain from developing disease (like Alzheimer’s), but it certainly seems to be linked to fewer symptoms, since it fortifies us with what’s known as cognitive reserves. “It is not that the cognitive activity stops amyloid beta production or neurofibrillary tangle development or spread,” David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic told me recently, “but rather that higher cognitive activity endows the brain with a greater ability to endure the effects of brain pathologies compared to a person with lower cognitive engagement throughout life.”
The brain does an awful lot of work while we’re sleeping–in fact, it really never sleeps. It’s always consolidating memories and pruning unnecessary connections. Sleep deprivation, and just a little of it, takes a toll on our cognitive health. It’s linked to worse cognitive function, and poorer attention, learning and creative thinking. The more sleep debt you accrue, the longer it takes to undo it. Sleeping for about seven hours per night seems to be a good target to aim for.
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The bottom line is that doing as many of these things as you can is good for your brain; but if you can’t do them all every day, don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t do any, just integrating a couple will very likely help. And your brain may appreciate it more than you think.
Originally on Forbes by Alice G Walton
The freedom entrepreneurship can provide is priceless. Being able to set your schedule and earn an income based off of the value you provide is appealing. There are many enjoyable parts of an entrepreneur’s life, but life isn’t a movie, and there are challenges and struggles every entrepreneur will face. These challenges are especially strong when you’re starting a business.
Fear kept me stuck in a business I hated because the money was good and pretty much guaranteed. I had a full plate of customers, but the work felt like it was draining my soul. My dream was to create a lifestyle business that allowed me to write, speak and consult. I had to beat these five fears to make that dream a reality.
Fear isn’t a negative thing if you understand it. Starting or growing a business is a hard enough task on its own. When you add in fear, it can feel impossible. Here are five fears you may need to overcome to build your business.
1. Losing my steady paycheck.
Knowing how much money you have coming in, and having it come steadily, makes you feel secure. The income from a business is sporadic at times if you don’t have systems in place. I was terrified of leaving that consistent check from the same customers I had dealt with for years. This idea of making money online didn’t feel safe at first.
I conquered this fear by realizing that there is no such thing as a steady paycheck. Job security is a thing of the past. We see that played out every day. You can create more reliable income in your business with a plan. You should have a plan for promotions and how you will make money each month. You then schedule your content around what you’re
2. What will I do with more free time?
When I chased this dream on the side, I used every minute wisely. I would get home from my business and work for three uninterrupted hours every day. This helped me build my online business to profitability in a year. No time was wasted, and the side business grew as a result.
This idea of having all this free time brought on fear. I worried I would watch more Netflix than work. For the first two months in my lifestyle business, that was the case. Don’t fear having free time, fear not having a plan for that free time. If you set a realistic schedule for yourself, you can be even more productive than when you were in a day job.
3. What will family and friends think?
Our society has been trained to believe in this idea of the “American Dream.” This dream is that you graduate high school, go to college and get a degree. You can then get a “good job” and buy a house with a white picket fence. While the idea of the American Dream has changed, the overall premise remains strong.
A lot of your family and friends won’t understand your desire to be an entrepreneur. The narrative is still in their mind. There’s always a fear of what they will say and how they’ll react. Realize this is your life and you have to live it how you best see fit. Accept that some people won’t get it and that’s okay.
4. Past failures.
Failure doesn’t have to be something that holds you back, and it’s not a fear that should keep you from becoming an entrepreneur. Use any failure as a life lesson to help you avoid the same mistakes. If you have failed at starting or growing a business in the past, dust yourself off and go back to the drawing board.
5. Self-limiting beliefs.
Doubt, fear and listening to people who don’t get entrepreneurship will feed into your self-limiting beliefs. These beliefs can amplify your fear and convince you to settle for a life you don’t want to live.
After overcoming my fear, I sold the business I hated. I now write, speak, and consult. I wake up every day knowing I’ll be spending my time on the things I love. I still have fear, but it isn’t about the same things and I understand what it means.
I don’t know what fears will hold you back from achieving success in your business. I only know you can beat them when you get honest about them, and address the reason fear manifested itself. Don’t let fear keep you from all the great things you can accomplish in your business.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Kimanzi Constable
As entrepreneurs, we strive to do our best every day. Our goal is simple: Show up, be authentic, and get the most out of the time we have. We call this being productive.
Living this way isn’t about just doing more and going faster. Instead, what is important, is the mindset and habits it takes to achieve the success we desire.
In this post, I detail three tactics to improve your productivity. As you read each one, consider how it will also benefit the people around you – your employees, co-workers, friends and family — people who may mimic your behaviors.
Here’s the secret to pacing yourself: Think, reflect, manage, then do.
As you think, ask yourself what you want to be known for. Keeping this question at the forefront of your mind at all times will give you the momentum you need to dig deep, and ultimately reach your goals while staying in tune with the kind of person you desire to be.
The next step is to reflect. This is a time of waiting and discerning the specifics. Make sure you know where you are headed. Have you put your plan on paper? Are your goals manageable and realistic?
As you begin to process all the steps ahead, don’t be afraid to break them up into smaller more manageable projects. By creating sub-projects with your end goal in mind, you are setting yourself up to enjoy the small victories along the way. These moments sustain your momentum as you continue moving forward.
Don’t burn yourself out by overwhelming yourself from the start. Give yourself the gift of taking your time to patiently walk, step-by-step, toward you goals.
Mentorship is one of the most important aspects of professional and personal development. Another way to think about a mentor is to think of them as your own personal productivity partner.
Make a list of three to five people in your life who have positively influenced you. What was it about them that you admired? Would you be willing to reach out to one of these people, and invite them into your life as a mentor or as your own productivity partner?
Productivity partners can help us build resilience, offer us time management and productivity tips, encourage us as we build our networks, and lead us into a new chapter of our lives. Identifying these people and nurturing these relationships will not only increase your productivity but it will also set you up for success in a way you never thought possible.
Project your future.
It is important to not only know what you are doing but also where you are headed. While you work toward your goals, never stop learning and growing. Research local conferences. Reach out to speakers coming to your area. Or sign up for a webinar. Not only will this expand your knowledge but it will also widen your network, and keep you at your best.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day. No more. No less. How we choose to use those 1,440 minutes directly affects our productivity. Keep your projected future in mind, and use those minutes to create the best version of yourself possible.
By incorporating these productivity practices into your everyday life, you will be amazed by the difference they will make. Take each day for the gift that it is. Remember to pace yourself, build your network, and always keep your future in mind. And that’s how you’ll get the most out of those 1,440 minutes.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Jason Womack
There are two things all small business owners would like more of: time and money. The latest crop of business technology tools can help you run your business more efficiently and for less money.
We interviewed small business owner Lisa Shaughnessy, who specializes in helping small businesses streamline their processes. She also coaches business owners on the art of the follow-up for growing your customer base. Lisa says, “There are so many options for technology, tools, and platforms that will help you grow your business. Once you know what you want to achieve, take the time to research the best option for you and your business.”
For this article, Lisa gave us seven types of business technology tools that can help small business owners save time and money.
1. Task Management Tools
Task management tools are an easy, cost-efficient way for small business owners to save time and money. Any tool that allows you to track a task digitally, rather than manually, is a great boon to busy business owners who want to save time communicating and tracking their own work and the work of their employees.
Online task management tools like Asana and Trello can help you stay on top of your to-do lists, project progress, and calendars. You can set automatic reminders and updates so that you don’t have to spend time checking every single little thing by hand. These also serve as collaborative tools so everyone on your team knows what’s been done, what’s outstanding, and who has been assigned to the task.
2. Email and Social Marketing
Today, many daily “busy work” tasks can be automated so business owners can focus on more cerebral endeavors. Email marketing systems (EMS) such as Aweber and MailChimp allow you to easily keep your email subscribers informed of news about your business and important deals and promotions. Even better, many EMS platforms will also push out your email newsletter to your social networks, so you don’t have to post on your own.
3. Social Media Scheduling Tools
Small business owners know the vital importance of using social media to connect with their prospective clients and customers. Unfortunately, getting on social media too often can be a time drain. Who hasn’t gone to a social media site or app “for just a minute”, only to snap out of it an hour later, way down the social media rabbit hole?
Social media scheduling tools such as Buffer and HootSuite allow you to schedule posts to go out on the desired dates and times, without setting foot on the actual social media sites themselves, avoiding that distraction. You can also write up a week’s or month’s posts in advance, all at once, and then use these scheduling systems to pump out your promotions right when you want them so you can grow your business without spending too much time on social media.
4. Scheduling Meetings
Setting up meetings can mean lots of emailing back and forth to find a mutually agreed upon time. Scheduling tools like Calendly and Acuity can help automate the process of setting up meetings. You can just send the other person your link and they pick from the available times to meet.
5. Obtaining e-Signatures
When you need e-signatures on contracts and agreements, HelloSign or DocuSign can help out. Upload your document, note where signatures are needed, add the right email address, and the system will send it for you! It will even ping the person with reminders the document hasn’t been signed within a certain period. No more hassling people for signatures or hoping the post office is still open so you can get a contract out in a hurry.
6. Finding and Retaining Business Clients
For both gaining and retaining clients, as well as uncovering hidden revenue, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms such as Hubspot, SalesForce, and Insightly are invaluable resources. A CRM helps you keep track of potential, current, and previous customers from the first interaction through your marketing and sales funnels. It can also provide tools to nurture those relationships.
Using a CRM consistently will also help you make solid business decisions based on actual data instead of guessing. You can see how many new customers you’ve added in a certain period. You can view contacts by specific data points such as region or type of product they bought. That way, you’ll know who to target with follow up messages for referrals or repeat business. That’s going to make your marketing dollars go a lot farther.
7. Document Collaboration
When you need to collaborate with others, file sharing systems such as Google Drive and Dropbox are a must. These digital tools ensure that everyone is working from the same version of the same document. It also prevents everyone’s inbox from getting clogged with multiple versions of the same document.
You can work in real time with each other or go in at your leisure to see what work people have added. You could use it internally with your own team or you could even use these sorts of tools with clients and vendors to keep track of what everyone wants and needs.
Let Growth Happen
There are so many options for technology, tools, and platforms that will help you grow your business. Once you know what you want to achieve, take the time to research the best options for you and your business. All of these tools (and others like them) free up your time so you can do more in a day. They may also alleviate the need for extra employees, keeping your overhead costs down. And that means you have the time and cash you need to grow.
Originally posted on us.Accion.org