Tips to Balance Mental Health and Productivity, and Boost Cognitive Function

In today’s always-on world, trying to stay on top of things can feel like a massive undertaking.

With so much going on not just in our busy lives both personally and professionally, but with everything going on around us, things can weigh heavy on the mind. Want to know some strategies on how to balance mental health and productivity? Here are some simple ways to incorporate these simple habits into your daily life!

So how do we balance mental health with productivity?

  1. It’s important to be understanding of yourself during challenging circumstances, recognising that factors affecting mental health and productivity vary from person to person. Factors such as patience and time management skills are crucial, and should be considered.
  2. Creating motivation is essential for maintaining consistent productivity levels. Acknowledging successes and fostering a culture of personal growth within the workplace boosts morale and encourages harder work.
  3. Establishing clear boundaries and expectations helps individuals plan tasks effectively, setting a baseline for productivity. This serves as a key tool for balancing mental health and productivity.
  4. Setting both short-term and long-term goals enables individuals to focus their efforts and prioritize tasks accordingly. Goals should be tailored to individual capabilities and priorities, and should evolve as productivity improves.
  5. Remember to prioritize mental health alongside productivity, as our state of mind significantly influences how we manage our time and tasks. It’s crucial not to sacrifice mental well-being in pursuit of material goals.

But mental health and well-being, as well as overall productivity, cannot happen without investing in the health of your brain and overall cognitive function.

Maximising Cognitive Function

To stay on top of our lives, we have to ensure that we take care of our brain health, and it starts from young. Have you ever thought about how to maximise cognitive function?

Fortunately, there are some well-documented ways you can engage your mind every day!

By training and making your mind sharper, you might reap benefits not just in your personal life but in your professional life as well! Harvard Business Review published an article in 2017 stating that they found a “direct correlation between a person’s focus level and their career advancement”.

So what are some daily habits you can take on to improve brain structure and cognitive function?

  1. Physical Activity:

Research from Boston University School of Medicine suggests that engaging in physical activity positively affects brain health and cognition. Hormones released during exercise are linked to improved memory function.

A 2013 study from Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School identified a molecule called irisin, produced in the brain during endurance exercise, which has neuroprotective effects and enhances learning and memory genes.

  1. Openness to Experience:

A 2013 study, “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults,” emphasises the importance of learning new and challenging skills along with maintaining an active social network for cognitive health.

Engaging in unfamiliar and mentally challenging activities, as opposed to less-demanding ones like word puzzles, is crucial for cognitive enhancement.

  1. Curiosity and Creativity:

Neuroscientists have found that playing a musical instrument improves brain function and connectivity, and reading fiction enhances brain connectivity, imagination, and the ability to empathise.

This shows it’s worth finding a creative outlet and making sure we don’t let that creative spark from when we were kids just die out!

  1. Social Connections:

Loneliness, as per a 2014 study, can lead to psychological and cognitive decline, affecting sleep, blood pressure, cortisol levels, gene expression, and overall well-being.

Ensure you nurture the relationships you have in your life with your loved ones, and check in regularly on the people you care about so that energy can be reciprocated when it comes to you too.

  1. Mindfulness Meditation:

A 2013 pilot study from Harvard suggests that meditation and stress reduction may slow age-related cognitive disorders by affecting the default mode network and the hippocampus, the latter of which is involved in the brain’s long-term memory formation and memory retrieval.

  1. Brain-Training Games:

University researchers propose that stimulant-rich environments and problem-solving puzzles may contribute to preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Specialised video games, like those developed at the University of California, San Francisco, have shown potential to enhance mental skills, reasoning, and processing speed in older individuals.

Sessions of cognitive training can improve a person’s reasoning ability and speed of processing for up to a decade after the intervention.

  1. Get Enough Sleep:

Groundbreaking research presented at the Society for Neuroscience highlights the importance of sleep in consolidating learning and memory. Sleep aids in brain reorganisation and is associated with improved cognitive function.

Ensure you get enough sleep and make sure you’re getting quality sleep too!

  1. Reduce Chronic Stress:

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can damage the brain, according to neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley. Prolonged stress leads to long-term changes in brain structure, potentially explaining mental health issues in individuals exposed to stress early in life.

Chronic stress may hardwire pathways in the brain, creating excess white matter and inhibiting neural pruning, contributing to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Practices like yoga have been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce chronic stress.

Enhancing concentration and attention capabilities through brain exercises offers various effective methods. The crucial aspect is to identify an approach that resonates with you and consistently engage in it. Our discussion has delved into a range of strategies for improving attention span and memory through these exercises. While these exercises may not yield instant results, their effectiveness extends to anyone who applies them. Experiment with these techniques to discover what suits you best.

As you observe enhancements in mental sharpness, feel free to tailor these brain exercises to better align with your preferences. Additionally, as you master these cognitive training techniques, you might consider delving into more advanced meditative practices for a deeper exploration of mental well-being.

*This article should be used as guidance and not medical advice. Please seek professional advice from a medical practitioner for an expert opinion.