Getty Images Women who feel worn-out are often told to prioritize “me time.” But according to David Perlmutter, M.D., and his son, Austin Perlmutter, M.D., co-authors of Brain Wash ( $16.80, Amazon ) , for millions of us, the brain is in a biochemical state that makes it impossible to feel calm and energized. To blame, they say: technology. “Smartphones and social media remodel the brain so the anxiety- producing amygdala becomes dominant, while the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the region that restores energy, becomes less active.”
Fortunately, research reveals the brain can quickly rewire itself, making your PFC more active and helping you feel better in just 10 days — without giving up your gadgets! Here’s how. Snack on pistachios.
Eating foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan will help you feel calmer and happier for four hours, report scientists at Canada’s University of Ottawa. “Tryptophan is a building block of a mood-boosting hormone that soothes the anxiety-producing amygdala, reducing stress,” says Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the bestselling book Grain Brain. The study-proven dose: 50 pistachios or 1⁄4 cup of sunflower seeds daily. Load up on ‘vitamin N.’
“Decorating with potted plants will give you a daily dose of vitamin N (nature), which is proven to sharpen problem-solving skills,” Dr. Austin Perlmutter asserts. In fact, research shows that indoor plants can increase energy by 30 percent and promote healthy activity in the PFC. Tip: Pick gardenia, begonia, or mint, which stimulate your brain with their beauty and their scent. Tune into silence.
Relaxing in silence for 15 minutes prompts the release of hormones that improve brain function for 24 hours, says Dr. David Perlmutter. In fact, more than 600 studies prove the brain-healing power of daily doses of silence, which also foster a 55 percent improvement in happiness by encouraging the growth of new brain cells in the region associated with memory and emotion. Breathe in a calming scent.
“Cedarwood essential oil calms an overactive amygdala, easing anxiety and sharpening focus within seconds,” says Dr. Austin Perlmutter, who adds that this plant extract is rich in compounds that promote healthy activity in the PFC. Indeed, a recent research review suggests that this soothing scent heightens electrical activity in the PFC by 50 percent, reducing anxiety in as little as two minutes. Use a ‘first-aid kit.’
“Moving acts as a first-aid kit for aging brain cells,” says Dr. Austin Perlmutter. That’s because using large muscle groups stimulates the growth of new connections throughout the brain. What’s more, Harvard studies show that women are 75 percent less likely to be fatigued and can focus three times better when they move regularly. Dr. Perlmutter notes: “Just getting out of your chair for two minutes each hour can help.” Take a brain booster.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, makes up 97 percent of the fat in the brain, UCLA researchers say. And studies suggest keeping DHA levels high doubles your ability to think clearly. To get the benefits, Dr. David Perlmutter suggests taking 1,000 mg. daily, adding: “Supplements often contain multiple omega-3 fats. Check the label to make sure you’re getting enough DHA.” One to try: Nordic Naturals DHA ( $23.14, Amazon ).
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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