I am writing this post largely in response to the New York Times story on abuse of psychostimulant drugs like Adderall & Ritalin, which are used to treat ADHD and ADD learning disabilities. In recent years, however, college students and others under pressure to perform at work and meet deadlines, have leaned towards taking psychostimulant drugs to stimulate cognitive performance, overcome tiredness, and avoid brain drain. The problem is, as many have learned, is that what goes up, must come down. And now there are reports of many young college students and workers becoming “addicted” to psychstimulant drugs.
If you ask my opinion, I think the answer to optimum cognitive performance and brain health, is proper rest, proper nutrition, and learning how to engage your brain while undertaking various activities. Unfortunately the latter, is a lifelong adventure of many different types of learning methods, philosophies, and trial and error to see which ones serve you best. For me, the most effective ones were those that challenged my belief system and learning biases. Obviously, these fans below at the Ohio State foolball game were highly engaged, though likely also with the aid of alcohol (that helps get you out of your shell).
Rest is a must for optimal brain performance. Remember what your mother told you? Get some exercise, work hard, and you’ll fall right asleep in the evening. But today, there are a myriad of supplements like melatonin to help you sleep without prescription drugs. Exercise is critical because it improves blood flow in the brain, and helps lower stress. And a glass of (preferably red) wine and a boring TV program, or nice book, will help you get to sleep at bedtime.
On nutrition, I say don’t overeat. Don’t eat junk food. Don’t drink too much alcohol. And don’t smoke! Drink plenty of fluids. Spend some money on good vitamins, maybe $30-50/month. There are many designer brain vitamins today too such as fish oils. And don’t think you’re going to find a solution in one or two vitamins. You have to try different supplements, and possibly find one or several that really works for you.
Next, exercise is key in managing stress, boosting blood flow in the brain, and workplace wellness. And sex is very good for you too. If need be, find an XX budy or two to serve those needs, unless you are strong willed and spiritually minded enough to overcome these human drives. Aerobic exercises with “rhythmic” movement core are the best for bringing oxygen into the brain, and for relieving stress. “Rhythmic” activities like walking, running, swimming, tennis, DRUMMING – help to balance the forebrain & hindbrain brain waves, and reduce stress.
Now, what I can tell you from my experiences with engagement and learning, is that it is a skill that must be learned. Some people develop this at a very early age, and can excell in school. For me, it started in junior high and developed slowly thru high school and college. But, it wasn’t really until I was about age 30, when I reached a point, where I could read something once, and completely absorb it. I somehow learned how to learn efficiently. It’s like anything you do, it’s in the “technique.” For you, you will have to figure out your own course and best methods. There are workshops and courses to improve learning. I’d go for established workshops and courses that challenge your “belief system” and the manner in which you learn, espicially if you are struggling with learning. You need a change in your beliefs & biases.
For me, after my 1992 brain injury and development of hydrocephalus, life and learning took on an entirely different meaning, especially in navigating through all my various shunt malfunctions and changes in cognitive performance. I think mostly it was my new learning methods utilizing my intuitive reasoning, and then analytical reasoning, that eneabled me to overcome my learning challenges. Analytical thinking allows you to reason and recall based on the “probabilities” of the most likely answer. To access your intuitive reasoning, do this by not pressing for an answer, rather, calmly ask your brain for an answer, a give it little time. You can get some amazing results when you learn to use your intuitive reasoning.
As for stimulants, I took “No Doz” in college. And as an adult, I’ve used coffee, vitamin stimulants, and potions they sell at check out of most stores. One of my favorite stimulants I’ve come to like in recent years, has been Green Tea capsules by Jarrow. You just need to find the number of, and time frame, for the capsules to optimize your brain state.
And lastly, you must learn how to “jump start” your brain avoid “brain drain” while studying at home, or busy at work. The answer is a combination of optimum learning methods and employee engagement, where you “engage” your brain in activities that put you in the optimum “brain wave state” for performing your task at hand. There are several brain wave sensors available today that you can couple to your computer or mobile phone. But I’m not going to promote these here.
As for brain wave states and brain wave entrainment, there are certain times of the day, and specific activities, where certain states of beta vs. alpha brain waves are going to the most optimal for your task. You can actually alter your brain wave patterns thru music, drumming, rest/meditation, exercise, or any activity that allows you to synchronize your body movements and tempo to a given signal. The goal is to find the optimum brain wave state that will make you the most productive for any given task. And it also is denpendant upon time of day, and your state of mind/rest at that time. Brain wave readers can be helpful in letting you know your state. But you can also sort of sense this if you do it as an everyday practice. My concern with brain wave readers, is that you could end up getting neurotic over controling your brain waves. There is no simple solution. Companies must be more attentive today in workplace wellness, employee engagement, and any abuse of psychostimulants. The natural course of best learning methods, and learning to better use intuitive reasoning, and analytical reasoning, in solving complex challenges at work.
If you haven’t already done so, you should take a look at what I’ve written on the brain science of “basketball,” specifically relating to mindfulness. I have a good 7 years now utilizing basketball in this fashion, and I can attest it provides a tremendous buzz in mindfulness and stress relief.
The solution is to do ALL of the above, and develop a system for yourself and within your company that works best for you.
Below, is the New York Times article that appeared on April 18, 2015: