Ever have trouble thinking straight? Some days, your mind just doesn’t want to function at its full capacity. You can feel dull, foggy, and unfocused. Many people struggle with occasional “brain fog,” and look for methods and natural solutions to improve mental clarity, feel better, and get more things done.
All kinds of things can interrupt your mental clarity during the day. Sometimes stress, anxiety, or preoccupied thoughts can make it difficult to focus at work. Sometimes this is a serious psychiatric problem, but normal stress and adverse circumstances can also cloud up your mind with unwanted thoughts.
Feeling tired can also make it hard to think and concentrate. Not enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, can interfere with your memory and cognitive function throughout the day. Sometimes problems with your dietary balance can also contribute to poor concentration. This includes both eating too little or missing meals, and eating too much, or eating heavy, rich meals too frequently.
There are a number of ways that you can improve your sense of mental clarity, helping you to concentrate more closely, think more quickly, and be more attentive. This includes a healthy diet, proper sleep, and other measures toward living a healthier lifestyle.
Herbal remedies to improve concentration can also be helpful for many people. Native plants from around the world have been used for centuries for their stimulating effects on the mind. This includes plants containing xanthines like caffeine and theobromine, as well as more surprising herbs that can increase blood flow to the brain, relieve anxiety, and produce other effects that can naturally improve mental clarity.
Causes of an Unclear Mind
A generalized feeling of “brain fog” or an unclear mind can originate from several different types of causes. This can range from serious infections diseases or liver problems, to more benign issues like stress or sleeplessness. It helps to understand the causes of poor focus and concentration, so that you can address the problem and find the right natural solutions to improve mental clarity.
Here are a few of the possible reasons why you might feel unfocused, mentally tired, or mentally “foggy:”
Serious Medical Conditions
You should know that, although it’s fairly rare, serious and chronic feelings of “brain fog” or mental cloudiness can sometimes indicate a serious medical condition. When severe, this feeling is medically known as “clouding of consciousness.” Some of the medical conditions that can cause brain fog include:
- Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an enigmatic pain disorder characterized by widespread pain, especially in a set of distinct “tender points” located across the surface of the body. Many people with fibromyalgia experience some form of cognitive disfunction or “brain fog,” including short-term memory problems and difficulty concentrating.
- Subclinical hepatic encephalopathy. In hepatic encephalopathy, toxic substances that are normally removed by the liver contaminate the bloodstream, effecting the brain. This causes problems evident during neuropsychological testing, including forgetfulness, confusion, and irritability.
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a brain disease resulting from severe thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. It can result from malnutrition, but is also common in severe alcoholics.
Stress and anxiety can also make it difficult to think and concentrate. This includes acute stress from life situations like financial problems or relationship problems, as well as clinical anxiety disorders. When you’re anxious and stressed, you may find yourself preoccupied with worried and negative thoughts, making it difficult to focus on anything else.
Approximately 6.8 million people in the United States alone suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. If your anxiety is all-consuming and disrupting your everyday life, you may want to ask your doctor for a psychiatric evaluation.
Like anxiety, depression can cause problems with your cognition and mental clarity. Psychological depression is often correlated with poor concentration and short-term memory problems. Finding natural therapies for depression can help you improve your mental clarity.
Dietary issues can also cause you to feel mentally clouded, inattentive, and out of sorts. To maintain good cognitive function, you need the right balance of nutrients and food groups in your diets. Studies have indicated that “good fats,” such as you find in olives or seafood, are integral to brain function. Getting enough protein and unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help naturally improve mental clarity. Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are also helpful, and can be taken as additional dietary supplements.
Lack of Sleep
Poor sleep can also cause a lack of mental clarity. Even if you’re sleeping long enough, you may not be getting a completely restful sleep. For sleep to be effective, it’s important that your body goes through all of the stages of sleep, including three stages of NREM sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) periods.
How to Improve Mental Clarity Naturally
When you’re struggling with minor “brain fog” that isn’t a symptom of a clear medical problem, you can often improve your mental clarity naturally by making some minor changes to improve your overall physical and psychological health.
To maintain mental clarity and sharp thinking skills, it’s important to keep your body and your mind as healthy as possible. Psychological factors like stress and depression can be just as damaging as physical factors like poor sleep or dietary deficiencies.
Here are a few steps that you can take to naturally improve mental clarity, short term memory, and concentration:
Fix Your Sleep Schedule
Feeling slow and groggy during the day? You might need more sleep. Everyone’s individual sleep needs are slightly different, but on average, most adults need anywhere from 6 to 9 hours of sleep, with 8 being about average. If you’re sleeping less than eight hours, you might not be fully rested when you wake up.
Poor sleep can result from many different factors. If you live in a noisy urban area, or you’re close to a loud interstate highway, investing in a white noise machine, fan, or good noise cancellation headphones can help drown out the sounds outside to help you go to sleep.
Caffeine and other stimulants can also interfere with your sleep cycle. If you’re drinking coffee or caffeinated soda too late in the afternoon or evening, you may have trouble falling asleep on time. Light from LCD monitors can also interrupt your sleep cycle. You may be able to naturally improve mental clarity and correct an imbalanced sleep cycle by avoiding computer and phone screens at night.
Digital monitors emit light in bright, bluish wavelengths. The body’s circadian rhythm is partly regulated by light levels, and when your eyes perceive light in certain wavelengths, it can “trick” your pineal gland into suppressing melatonin, a sleep hormone, because your brain “thinks” that it must be daytime.
Balance Your Diet
Cognitive fog can also result from an imbalanced diet. If you’re not eating the right foods, you may not be functioning at your full potential on a daily basis. Everyone’s metabolism and caloric needs are slightly different, but in general, you should be eating a well rounded range of foods. Too many simple carbohydrates and convenience foods can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, and overfed. A diet rich in proteins, whole grains, and unsaturated fats is conducive to better cognitive function, helping you improve your mental clarity naturally.
In particular, the “Mediterranean” diet, typical of Southern Europe and the Levant, has been linked to better cognition and a reduced chance of age-related cognitive decline. Mediterranean diets tend to be fairly low in carbohydrates, but rich in plant based foods, fish, and healthy natural oils and fats. This may be partly because Mediterranean diets tend to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain structure and function.
Another way to naturally improve your mental clarity is to cultivate mindfulness. Learning meditative techniques can help you mitigate stress, reduce depression, and develop a more healthy and positive approach to dealing with negative factors and situations in your life.
Mindfulness is a difficult term to define, although this concept factors into many Eastern philosophical traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Mindfulness has to do with being self-aware and “present” in the moment. Rather than dwelling on past regrets or worries about the future, you can learn to approach life as it’s happening now.
8 Herbal Teas That Can Help Improve Mental Clarity
Along with good physical and mental health, many natural herbal teas can also help you improve your mental clarity. There are quite a few natural plants available whose various effects can contribute to quicker cognition, better concentration, and better working memory for many people.
Some herbs help improve mental clarity by stimulating the mind, eliminating mental fatigue. Others improve clarity by calming you down, making it easier to move away from ruminating on unpleasant things so that you can focus on the task at hand.
Tea cultivation began over 4,000 years ago in ancient China, and today, it’s still among the world’s most popular natural herbs for improving mental clarity. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is less processed than black tea or white tea, leaving it with more antioxidants, xanthines, and other active ingredients that confer its distinctive health benefits.
Green tea can deliver just the right amount of natural caffeine and theobromine to improve your mental clarity, without leaving you jittery and overcaffeinated. Green tea consumption is also correlated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and blood pressure problems, as well as a healthier metabolism.
Ginkgo (Gingko biloba) has been cultivated in China for over 1,500 years. Its potential as a natural herb for improving mental clarity has been investigated in elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
In test subjects given 120–240 mg per day of ginkgo for 3–6 months, researchers noted a small but significant improvement in cognitive function and mental clarity. Gingko may achieve these effects by helping to improve cerebral blood flow, although scientists are still investigating which natural compounds may give it its effects.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has a fleshy root which is used in traditional Chinese folk medicine. Research has indicated that ginseng may help improve mental clarity naturally, specifically by enhancing spatial cognition and spatial memory.
Along with its mildly nootropic effects, ginseng may also provide a mild boost to your mood and energy level. Although ginseng is still undergoing research into its underlying mechanisms and overall effects, preliminary results suggest a positive benefit on memory, mood, and mental clarity.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is an Amazonian plant whose seeds are traditionally ground into an herbal tea to improve mental clarity, energy, and stamina. Guarana contains a potent form of caffeine known as guaranine, making it a useful addition to herbal tea blends designed to increase mental clarity and boost cognition.
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is an Argentinian plant that’s steeped into a nourishing herbal tea to improve mental clarity. It’s popular throughout South America for its pleasant taste and mentally stimulating effects.
Kava (Piper methysticum) is traditionally used as an entheogenic sacred plant in areas of the Western Pacific. In modern times, research has indicated that its sedative, anxiolytic effects may be helpful as a natural treatment for anxiety. As far as sedative herbs go, kava is unique in that although it’s calming and can promote sleep, it still preserves mental clarity.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), also known as maypop, is a beautiful North American flower that’s often steeped into herbal teas to promote mental clarity. Passionflower has mildly anxiolytic effects, meaning that it can reduce anxiety and stressful feelings while promoting relaxation. Its effects come primarily from a natural flavonoid called chrysin.
Like kava and passionflower, valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) can help you relax and reduce anxiety. Natural organic compounds in the plant’s roots bind to GABA-A receptors in the brain, giving it calming and sedative effects that can help ward off anxiety. Valerian root is popular as a sleep aid, and drinking valerian herbal tea can help you sleep better, leaving you well rested and alert in the morning.
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