5 tips to improve mental alertness

5 tips to improve mental alertness

21 Mar 2022

In work and school, it’s important to improve mental alertness for better focus and greater productivity. Read on to learn some useful ways you can keep your focus and attention up.

Quick tips to improve focus and mental alertness

Stay away from distractions

To deal with concentration problems, identify distractions. These could range from underlying conditions such as sleep disorders or effects of certain medications and external factors like social media (19).

How to improve mental alertness

Practice mindfulness

Practising mindfulness, paying attention to the present and cognitive training via games and exercises, are all activities that help develop a stronger span of attention (19).

Exercise regularly

Exercise is also essential in boosting your ability to be alert and to concentrate. Exercise boosts mood and reduces stress (19). The Department of Health recommends getting 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate physical activity in a week. This may include taking a brisk walk or going for a swim. You may also try for 1.25 to 2.5 hours of more intense physical activity, such as joining a team sport, going jogging, or cycling (21).

Get regular sleep

Losing sleep may mean a loss of focus and clarity (22). To get rid of this "brain fog," try getting a better quality of sleep. This includes aiming for seven to eight hours of sleep a night and practicing good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene means setting a routine of when you sleep and when you wake up, to help the body relax (22).

Eat better

A well-balanced diet can keep us more alert, as well as improve concentration and attention (23). Try including complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes into your diet. Lean proteins from chicken and meat, as well as fatty acids from meat, eggs, fish, and nuts, are also brain-healthy foods (²⁴).

How to improve mental alertness

Vitamins to improve mental alertness

In the event that you aren’t able to get all your mental alertness-boosting nutrients from your diet, consider taking supplements. Here are a few that can support mental alertness:

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, a traditional Indian herb, is used to improve cognitive health. It promotes the body's adaptation to stress by imitating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory transmitter that promotes nerve growth. Its extractis shown to enhances support memory and recall (1).

Magnesium

A study done on rats showed that supplementation with magnesium maintains support brain function, specifically learning and cognitive function. It suggested that greater amounts of magnesium in the brain also improved learning and memory. Magnesium supports nervous system function by ensuring proper nerve transmission and preventing over-excitation, an event that could lead to cell death(2).

B complex

B vitamin complex supports brain function and the synthesis of neurotransmitters. It maintains brain function in a number of ways. Thiamin (B1), for instance, regulates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (5), which is associated with memory and concentration (4). A deficiency of B vitamins is also linked to neurological symptoms such as cognitive decline, among others (5).

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 supports brain function, which is further suggested by the positive association between B12  supplementation and cognitive performance in adults (20). This vitamin also helps improve mental alertness.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C supports brain function as proposed by a study done on adults between 20 to 39 years old, in which supplementation with the vitamin was positively linked to attention levels. Participants showed greater work motivation, focus, and better performance in tasks that require concentration (14).

Calcium

Calcium supports nerve conduction via sophisticated calcium pathways through which neurons send signals (7). It is involved in long-term mental processes, like memory, aside from regulating neurotransmitter generation (6).

Iron

Iron is key supplying oxygen to major organs including the brain. Abnormalities in iron levels in the brain have been observed in many neurodegenerative diseases (10).

*Iron should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor.

Astaxanthin

A study showed that consumption of astaxanthin markedly and positively affected the memory of adults who were experiencing memory deterioration (11). Astaxanthin can support general health and wellbeing.

Acetyl L-carnitine

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALC) maintains brain health by protecting nerve cells from damage and allowing nervous tissue growth. It aids in the synthesis of neurotransmitters as its acyl component can be used in the production of acetylcholine, which as earlier mentioned, was linked with memory and concentration (12). Another study suggested that treatment with ALC improved deficits in cognition (13).

Zinc

Meanwhile, intake of zinc is one of the ways you can improve mental alertness as zinc reduce free radicals formed in the body and supports general health and wellbeing. It is found in large amounts in the hippocampus (8) (section of the brain dealing with learning and memory (9). Congenital defects of the nervous system have been observed to be linked to zinc deficiency during pregnancy and lactation. Children with inadequate levels of zinc have also been seen to have lowered learning ability, apathy, and lethargy (8).

Fish oil

Fish oil supports brain function as suggested by a study that showed that intake of this supplement improved blood flow to the brain during mental activity, particularly in adults aged 18 to 35 (15). It maintains general mental wellbeing, as a source cited studies suggesting fatty acids from fish oil as well as veg omega (the vegetarian and vegan option for omega-3) contributed to mental wellness (16).

Ginkgo Brahmi

To improve mental alertness, ginkgo brahmi is another useful supplement. Sustained administration of ginkgo brahmi boosted selective attention and mental processes like long-term memory (17). It improves brain function by activating pathways in the brain that help with memory and learning ability. It has been used in traditional medicine to help with poor cognitive ability and lack of focus (18).

Find out more about other supplements that can support brain health:

Zinc | Iron | Astaxanthin | Ashwagandha | Magnesium | Acetyl L-carnitine | Vitamin C | Vitamin B12 | Ginkgo Brahmi | Fish oil | Vegan Omega

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

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  10. Piñero, DJ & Connor, JR. “Iron in the Brain: An Important Contributor in Normal and Diseased States.” The Neuroscientist. Published 1 Dec 2000 on https://doi.org/10.1177%2F107385840000600607. Accessed 7 Jan 2022.
  11. Sekikawa, T, Kizawa, Y, Li, Y, & Takara T. “Cognitive function improvement with astaxanthin and tocotrienol intake: a randomized, double-blind, place-controlled study.” Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. Published Nov 2020 on https://doi.org/10.3164/jcbn.19-116. Accessed 8 Jan 2022.
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  14. Sim, M, et. al. “Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” European Journal of Nutrition. Published 2021 on https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-021-02656-3. Accessed 8 Jan 2022.
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