Physical exercise strengthens your cardiovascular health. But it’s also good for the brain.
Walking briskly for 20 minutes a day can lower your blood sugar. This in turn spurs blood flow to the brain—and that enables you to think more clearly.
If you set aside daily time for a sustained walk outside or a gym visit, the activity will provide a carryover effect at work. You’ll manage stress better, problem-solve more creatively and feel more energy throughout the day.
Thankfully, sharpening your brainpower need not involve breaking a sweat. Try participating more actively in meetings, whether to answer others’ questions or analyze a strategic decision.
By speaking up, you force yourself to think extemporaneously. Through lively give-and-take, you gather new information and gain insight into your colleagues’ attitudes, concerns and biases. Your engagement with others (especially if you exchange facts, ideas or opinions) helps form new neural pathways in your brain.
When co-workers talk, listen for details and retain them like a sponge. Take notes to record concrete bits of information. Notice others’ nonverbal cues and when they veer from their baseline behavior. By connecting these subtle changes to what they’re saying, you arouse many areas in the brain and promote memory formation.
Fed up? Blame your brain
When you get frustrated after making mistakes or forgetting to do something, you activate the brain’s limbic system. That can prevent lucid thinking. If you’re preoccupied with a harrowing situation at work while ordering from a big lunch menu, you may find it nearly impossible to decide what to eat.
As David Rock writes in Your Brain at Work, “Many of your foibles and mistakes come down to the way your brain is built.” He suggests that the next time you berate yourself for your errors, bad habits or inability to perform at the level you’d like, tell yourself, “Oh, that’s just my brain.”