If you've seen the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper, you've probably experienced the same thoughts I had: "I wonder if that pill actually exists?" As of right now, it doesn't seem like there is a wonder pill, although new types of supplements called nootropics could be changing all that. My next thought was, "What if there are ways to do that without pills?"
As I have self-experimented and researched, I've come to my final conclusion: yes and no. No, these next five steps won't turn you into a genius who can speak five languages and turn Wall Street on its head. What it can do, however, is improve your memory, focus, mood, concentration, and performance without any of the crazy side effects that you see in the movie.
1. Breathe correctly.
We breathe every minute of every day, yet many of us don't get the benefit of breathing well. Most of us are chest breathers, meaning we only use the upper portion our lungs, which also happens to be the smallest section. This means we are getting less oxygen per breath than we really should.
Try this. Place one hand on your sternum and the other on your belly button, then take a breath. If you notice that your top hand moves first when you inhale, then you are a chest breather. Practice breathing "into your belly." Place your hand over your belly and taking a deep breath in filling your lower abdomen first before you fill the rest of your lungs.
During any time of intense stress or when you need to be on your game, take a five-second inhale followed by five-second exhale, getting full and deep belly breaths. Do this 10 times to calm your nervous system and flood your brain with oxygen.
2. Move your body.
Physical depictions of sweat, six-packs, and selfie transformations seem to flood social media, but did you know that working out properly can make your brain fit? Movement—particularly full-body or high-intensity movements—stimulate your body to produce a hormone called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a natural brain booster.
BDNF has been linked to increased focus, concentration, memory, and provides anti-aging benefits as well. One of the most potent ways to promote the production of BDNF into the body is through exercise, specifically short bouts of high-intensity activity.
If you simply spent 20 minutes exercising, you could give your brain a massive jump-start to be able to crush the day.
3. Embrace the chill.
Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, has recently been making a big splash in the wellness space thanks to people like Wim Hoff. Used in short durations (about 10 minutes), cold therapy has been shown to provide massive benefits to the body such as lowering inflammation and calming the autonomic nervous system. This increases feelings of well-being and improves focus, memory, and concentration.
Start by taking cold showers in the morning. While it's not the most comfortable or relaxing method, it will have your brain feeling invigorated.
4. Try intermittent fasting.
I think we can all acknowledge a healthy diet can help the brain, but what about when to eat? This is where fasting comes into the picture.
So, not eating can make my brain perform better? That's right. Intermittent fasting has become much more popular in recent years and is showing tremendous results not just in fat loss but brain performance as well. Some of the most mentioned benefits are the production of growth hormone, powerful anti-aging benefits, as well the activation of BDNF production. Many have reported improved mental performance during the fasting period.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet—it's a protocol. This is done by limiting the window in which you can eat to only eight hours a day, thus leaving you with a 16-hour fasting window. This can be done periodically or up to seven days per week.
I recommend starting five days (or less) a week and start by simply skipping breakfast, because it's much harder to skip dinner. If you stop eating at 7 p.m., you would be able to break your fast at 11 a.m. You can still have your morning cup of coffee if you'd like and it won't ruin your fast. Just make sure you don't add any sweetener or creamer to it. Of course, always consult your doctor before trying a new diet, especially if you have blood pressure or sugar issues.
5. Stimulate your spine.
Nobel Prize winner Dr. Roger Sperry discovered in his research on neurology and brain function that a large majority of stimulation to the brain comes from signals sent from the spine.
Chiropractic work is often misinterpreted as the back-pain specialty. The reality is that chiropractic work is much more focused on enhancing neurology than stuck joints in the back. At its core philosophy, it aims to remove stress from the central nervous system created by torsion and tension in the spine. This activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight mode), to allow the brain and central nervous system to regain balance and efficiency, thus allowing the body to express full health.
Dr. Brady's Biography:
Dr. Brady Salcido is a health catalyzer, chiropractor, speaker, and energetic host of the Health Is Wealth podcast. Dr. Brady is on a mission to engage with the best and brightest in natural health and well-being to bring clarity, inspiration, and tools to empower people to create unstoppable health so that they can live out their life's purpose with passion.