Last week I was on the train on my way home from work. I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking about. I completely zoned out, eyes glazed over, mouth slightly ajar. The next thing I know, my train is pulling into a station two stops past mine! I didn’t just miss my stop. I overshot it completely and didn’t even realise for 10 minutes. It was a classic ‘brain fart’ moment.
A brain fart can be many things to many people, but often it is when our brains fail us. Just like with my unfortunate train incident, the brain sends a puffing smoke signal instead of the tiny electrical impulses usually created to get us the information we are looking for. Being as well as you possibly can be will help avoid brain farts and technology like ph360 let you know how or the soon to be released Shae can help manage it for you. But what is it that makes brain farts happen?
- An event boundary – strangely enough, our brains can sometimes focus on the context of a thought, meaning that, once you are removed from that familiar context, it’s harder or sometimes near impossible to recall the thought! Just like walking through a door and not remembering what you did in the previous room.
- Worry or anxiety – persistent negative thought patterns can become very disruptive to everyday life and have a negative impact on physical as well as mental health. Worry and anxiety cause stress reactions in the body, giving our body and brain something to constantly try and rectify to a state of balance. If our brain is occupied on a function it perceives as a higher priority (like stabilizing life-systems) then it has less energy to operate tasks that don’t seem so important to staying alive at the time, like remembering an appointment or what day it is..
- Age – the retrieval process of the brain becomes less efficient with age. Our neurons don’t fire at the same rate they used to and our reactionary thinking slows down. This is evident when Mom or Dad goes through the whole list of your siblings, cousins and pets before they get to your name when they’re calling for you!
- Sleep deprivation – not getting the optimal amount of sleep for you can have a detrimental affect on your body as well as your brain, especially over a long period of time. This is because all your energy is spent on keeping you awake and functioning at a basic survival level, meaning that functions such as digestion and brain function don’t have as much to work with.
- Distraction – multitasking may sound appealing when you have a million things to get done but it can result in forgetting important steps. Doing one thing at a time properly and efficiently can be more useful than doing a bunch of things half way.
I think distraction played a big part in my train brain fart last week but I’m sure that other factors were involved. I didn’t particularly enjoy having to get off the train and wait to get one back in the opposite direction, in the rain, at rush hour when I could have been home snuggled in the warmth already.
So how can we improve brain function and stop the brain farts? A few ways to give your brain a helping hand to work better are:
- First of all, know that it’s pretty much impossible to eliminate or prevent all brain farts, but neural improvements (better brain function) can be had!
- Use it or lose it – if you want to remember something, you’ve got to work on it, in the same way that you would on a language or skill. Put notes in strategic places or repeat words and phrases in your head or out loud to reinforce whatever it is that you are trying to remember. Try writing it down with a pen or pencil and varying the amount of pressure from your fingers to use more than one sense to help you remember. Sing it as you’re doing a workout or in the shower…!
- Keep learning – in order to give the brain a workout and get those neurons firing, it can be helpful to try to learn a new skill, have a go at a new puzzle or watch the news in a different language to expose your brain to new ways of making connections.
- Apply the “Look, Snap, Connect” technique – (from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program by Dr. Gary Small). Look means focus your attention, snap means create a mental snapshot and connect means give the snapshot a meaning (personally meaningful events are better memorized than ones we don’t care about).
- Sleep well, eat healthy, exercise and turn off your TV! Taking care of your overall health and wellness can have a profound impact on brain function, concentration and memory not to mention all the positive effects for your body.
The number one thing to remember is that we are all different with different genetics, living in different environments with different lifestyles. Therefore our brains and bodies work in different ways and have varying needs. If you find yourself having brain farts it may be time to consider some of the above reasons why they happen.
Are you getting enough sleep? Worried? Distracted? If yes then consider what your body and mind might be needing for optimal health. Find out what is right for you at ph360 and do it – or let Shae take care of it for you! Because ultimately, everything is connected. If you take care of your health and wellness in a way that is best for you as an individual, your brain function will naturally improve. The brain farts will stop. You won’t miss your train stop, or your appointments, or think your neighbour is your dog..