Make the Most of Your Mind by Improving Your Mental Clarity

Photo courtesy of Daigo Tanaka

Today’s post is the first in our series entitled Mindful Mondays, where we will focus on improving mental clarity, memory and mood.

The older I get, the more I struggle with maintaining a clear head. It seems that thoughts swirl around in my brain, causing a whirlwind of mental activity that ultimately leads to overload. Things I really need to remember get caught up in the storm of my subconscious and end up lost.

Although there is a widespread myth that we only use 10% of our brains, that has since been dispelled. In fact, we use most parts of our brain every day, but the key is how we use it.

The problem with how most of us think is that we simply over work the part of the brain that is responsible for memory - the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The reason that part of our brains gets so over worked is because it is also responsible for planning, organization, regulation of intellectual functions and lying. Because so many of us spend our days planning and organizing projects that involve intellect, memory ends up taking a back seat.

I wrote earlier about improving memory, but have since learned even more on the subject. While it’s extremely possible to boost our ability to remember, the first thing we need to address is our mental clarity. Over the years, our brains have taken in a lot of useful information. Along with it came a lot of mental “junk” that we don’t need. We are constantly bombarded by information in this technologically advanced age. As the first step toward improving memory, we must first improve how that area of the brain is functioning. We have to oil the cogs and blow out the cobwebs.

Here are some of my first steps to improving mental clarity:

  • Becoming a meditation master This has made the biggest difference so far.
  • Spending time each and every day in nature – This offers me a respite from information overload and also boosts my vitamin D.
  • Limiting my television viewing time – The less I bombard my brain with, the better it will handle its business.
  • Eliminating alcohol and aspartame – These have both been shown to inhibit overall brain function.
  • Preventing blood sugar extremes – When I have a low blood sugar event, cohesive thought is next to impossible. I am trying to prevent this by eating a bunch of small meals throughout the day.
  • Avoiding situations that stress me out – Emotional stress really sends our brains into a tailspin. When I say that I’m living my life drama-free, I mean it.
  • Getting 8 hours of sleep each night – For me, this involves a sleep aid. Some would argue that the sleep aid inhibits memory, but I find it more beneficial to get adequate sleep than to be completely drug free.

As I move closer to the level of mental clarity I am comfortable with, I will begin incorporating more memory boosting activities. Please share with us in the comments or via email if you have any suggestions for improving brain function, and stay tuned for next week’s Mindful Monday.



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    • Laurie

      Thanks for the link to the books and tapes!  These steps are simple, but may not be easy if we don’t PLAN to include such activities.  I find that if I don’t actually schedule the time as I do any other meeting time, by placing it in my Outlook calendar, the meditations and walks just do not happen for me.  I actually set up reminder timers to eat the snacks that I prepare the day before and drink water, too.  When I let these things slip, that is when I am not on my best game.

      I work with people in all US timezones and used to resent the meetings that fell at noon Eastern; however, now, I truly appreciate them because I don’t take a full hour to eat, so I do not overeat and since my ‘lunchtime’ typically falls at a non-traditional time, I use that uninterrupted hour to walk outside when I can.

      For the beginner, it might be difficult to jump into meditation via a CD and/or book on how to do it.  It was for me!  It took me attending a group session to actually put the materials to use as they never did call to me nor did they jump down from the desk where they sat for a year and coerce me into listening to them!  Besides the offshoots of classes tied to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the navigation towards my ‘Journey into Wholeness’ began with the Esposito Institute and I highly recommend any event at the varied locations as well as personal coaching (most of which occurs over the phone with me…).

      • Adrienne McGuire

        Good suggestions, Laurie! Sometimes I forget that I originally learned to meditate in a class also. It is true that most people need to be taught how to get their mind to the point of meditation and cannot do it successfully alone.

        I also schedule my daily meditation into my work schedule or I would miss it some days. On weekends if I don’t write a schedule (if I’m not working) I will suddenly realize “I forgot to meditate!” and I will go upstairs and do it immediately. Meditating every day for 1 hour+ has made a HUGE difference in my life. It sounds like a big time investment, but for people like me who are dealing with a chronic illness and therefore working in a non-traditional way (i.e. from home), it is possible and NECESSARY to keep my mind clear and my body relaxed.

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