Health

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You need to be healthy, whether you're trying to focus on reading and understanding theory, enduring the conditions of a protest, or in general. Proper health includes maintaining various good habits and eating right, which benefits not only physical but also cognitive health and performance. Cognition and its subject functions, such as attentiveness, memory, creativity, motivation, and mood, true to the materialist worldview, are actually greatly affected by physiological factors. Therefore it is of tremendous benefit to achieve proper health given the accumulated scientific knowledge that has enabled such a conscious orientation; in that you now will be aware of which particular habits and foods to keep in mind in order to achieve optimal health, which is now if not before made a concrete goal.

General tips

Drink water

You don't have to drink eight 8-ounce glasses as per the common misconception, about a liter and a half will do for most people but of course depends on things like physical size and activity level. Drinking adequate amounts of water will aid in physical performance, significantly affect energy levels, mood, and other brain functions. It may also help prevent and treat headaches, constipation, kidney stones, hangovers, and even aids in weight loss.[1]

Stretch

Do this after you wake up and also throughout the day, every now and then. This increases blood flow and wakes up the muscles, on top of improving flexibility and helping to avoid injury and stress. This is also good for the lower back and leads to fewer aches and pains overall. Stretching will also help to improve your posture,[2] on top of mood and cognitive function.[3]

Eyesight

If you spend a lot of time focused on a screen or other very close objects, then follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds, which is about the amount of time needed for the eyes to relax completely. This alleviates eye strain and its symptoms like dry, irritated, or tired eyes; headaches, and trouble concentrating. You can use a timer to help, and if you are not in a big room, look outside or take a short walk. At least do this every hour, when you can also go take a short break and untense yourself from your tasks.
Other ergonomic tips for avoiding eye strain:

  • Keep your screen at least two feet, or about an arm's length, away.
  • Arrange your monitor so that you're slightly looking downward at it.
  • Have your screen be about as bright as the surrounding area. This can be done by adjusting room lighting or the screen brightness/color; there is software like Redshift and Dark Reader that does this.
  • Keep your screens clean and legible.
  • Consider using an anti-glare screen filter.[4] Some of these also improve privacy as passersby won't be able to see what's on the screen without directly looking at it. Anti-glare screens however have particular cleaning instructions.

Breathe

Template:YouTubeThumb There are certain breathing techniques that can lead to several benefits. One of these is the Wim Hof Method, used by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof to withstand freezing temperatures in his stunts. The process for this is:

  1. Sit or lie down and get comfortable so that you would be able to expand your lungs freely and without feeling any constriction.
  2. Close your eyes and try to clear your mind, then inhale deeply through the nose or mouth; from the belly, up to the chest, and exhale unforced through the mouth. Repeat this 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts. You may feel light-headedness and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet, which are side effects that are completely harmless.
  3. After the last exhalation, inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. Then let the air out and stop breathing. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again.
  4. When you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your lungs, so that you feel your belly and chest expanding. When you are at full capacity, hold the breath for around 15 seconds, and then let go. Repeat this 3-4 times without interval. After this, you should feel calm, and in this state you can meditate.

Benefits of the Wim Hof Method include stress reduction, faster recovery from physical exertion, better sleep, improved physical performance and creativity, as well as better mood, focus, and mental clarity.[5]

Get proper sleep

Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every day, and quality sleep, on a regular schedule, matters. Proper sleep does all kinds of things: helping to ward off sickness, keep a healthy weight, lower the risk for serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease, reduce stress and improve mood, and improve mental clarity. Sleep should be done at the same time of day, every day, so as to be consistent with one's circadian rhythm. Make sure you get busy during the day with productive things so that you will be tired out in time for sleep — exercise also helps to achieve this effect. The sleep environment should be comfortable as well — make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, and that the temperature is cool. Also try to get a good, quality mattress — it's a major investment that pays off when you wake up every day; essentially determining your level of wakefulness to a large extent.[6] You should also use software that adjusts the computer's display color temperature depending on the time of day, so that at night the screens automatically become darker and redder (the color blue stimulates wakefulness). Some applications that do this include Redshift and f.lux. If sleeping right is a major challenge, try taking melatonin supplements to form good habits, though try not to use it that much because it may decrease the pineal gland's natural ability to produce it. Use it as an aid along with other methods to get proper sleep on your own eventually.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes a day

This way, you get adequate vitamin D from sunlight, fresh air, as well as exercise. This helps to improve your mood, and what you could even do is setup your computer in an outside area, using an extension cord to reach a power outlet or using a power bank to be able to remain outside for long.

Attention training

If your attention span is poor and you struggle to do things like reading for sustained periods of time, then practicing reading a small amount at first (e.g. 5 pages or a section) helps train your attention. You could use an audiobook while reading as well, or you could just try paying attention to the audiobook on its own. Another habit to consider is watching at least the first 5 minutes of a video you start feeling disinterested in, attentively noting why the video is disinteresting instead of impulsively switching off because it didn't catch your attention right away.

Nutrition

Make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need, while avoiding things like added sugars and harmful additives. You can get a blood test to check for vitamin deficiencies.

Food

This includes nootropics, which are substances that improve cognitive abilities. You can find these online however some are readily available in some form at a local grocery store. Try using a small dose at first, and look to something else if you have an adverse reaction. In the vast majority of cases there won't be any however, and it is definitely worth to try these.

Lion's mane mushroom

There is some research and plenty of testimony as to the benefits of lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus), which include relieving mild depression and anxiety, speeding up recovery from nervous system injuries,[7] and improving memory.[8]

Tumeric

Tumeric is a spice whose main active ingredient is curcumin, a compound that besides fighting inflammation and providing antioxidants also increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a growth hormone that promotes neurogenesis (the creation and development of neurons). This in effect fights depression and Alzheimer's disease, on top of improving memory, as well as delaying or even reversing many brain diseases. However, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, and there is evidence that consuming black pepper, which contains piperine, enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2,000% (a ratio of 100:1 of curcumin to piperine is recommended, so you just need a bit of black pepper). There are other benefits to tumeric, like lowering the risk of heart disease and preventing, and possibly even treating, cancer and arthritis.[9]

L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid that's found naturally in green and black tea. On its own, it can promote relaxation while increasing mental focus and arousal.[10] The combination of 2 parts L-theanine with 1 part caffeine further improves cognitive performance and alertness.[11] You can also add theobromine, a compound found in dark chocolate, to the mix, which has a calming effect on its own as well.[12][13]

Maca root

Maca root is highly nutritious on its own, while providing other benefits such as anxiety and depression reduction as well as helping to gain muscle, increase strength, boost energy and improve physical performance, and in this improving physical endurance. It also improves learning and memory, among other things.[14]

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCTs)

MCTs are fatty acids that have 6-12 carbon acids, being shorter than longer-chain fatty acids. Since they're so short, MCTs bypass the digestive system and go straight to the liver, where they are turned into energy immediately or converted into ketones, which unlike most fatty acids can cross the blood-brain barrier. This increases cognitive performance by providing the brain with another source of energy where glucose is not available.[15]

Choline

Choline is required to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood and intelligence, improving processing ability as well.[16]

Omega-3 fatty acids

Anthropological evidence suggests that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that humans evolved to eat was somewhere around 1:1, while the ratio commonly consumed today is about 16:1.[17] Proper intake of omega-3 fatty acids fights conditions like depression and anxiety, may reduce the intensity of mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, fights age-related mental decline and Alzheimer's disease, and may improve sleep.[18] DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid which improves brain signaling systems, memory, learning, focus, and attention.[19]

References