Some days I feel like I’m losing it! And while I’m not entirely sure what “it” actually is, there are days when I’m certain that “it” used to be far more clear, bright and easily accessible than “it” is now. What about you?
Without putting too many words to it I guess what I really mean by “it” is lively brain function, memory and the ability to stay on top of all the thoughts, commitments, appointments, names, numbers, and tasks that seem to have become part and parcel of modern living.
And I know I’m not alone here. I’ve heard it called everything from “mommy brain” to “scatter brain” to my personal favorite…”vata brain”, and for most of us who sometimes have a little trouble remembering where we put our keys or… the car, it’s often chalked up to just getting older.
But what really is behind sluggish brain function and memory loss? Is it an inevitable part of getting a little older? What, if anything can we do to stay alert and “with it” for as long as possible…?
Great questions! Here’s the Ayurvedic take on this situation…
First let me say that memory loss is NOT necessarily inevitable. It can be a routine part of getting older (and usually starts to kick in around age 35 or so), but it’s not guaranteed! And in my book that means that there are lots things you can do to improve or safeguard what you’ve got in order to keep it.
The energetics of losing your mind
According to Ayurveda each of the doshas has a part to play in how the mind and memory functions. The hot sharp qualities of Pitta energy keep the mind articulate and nimble, organized and clear. Heavy, sticky Kapha energy is responsible for ensuring our memories “stick” and keeping the mind focused and settled. Vata energy acts as the driver that moves nerve impulses (and therefore information) to and from the brain, supporting our thoughts, reactions and memories.
Impaired brain function (memory loss or dullness, foggy brain) is usually an imbalance of vata or kapha dosha. Feeling spacey, forgetful or unable to concentrate are tell tale signs of an increase of vata in the mind. Heaviness, dullness or cloudy thoughts and not-quite-there memories are signs of kapha imbalance.
The thing to know is that there are many factors that can contribute to either type of imbalance (vata or kapha). Everything from age, stress, drugs, and diet, to immune system issues and unprocessed emotions. So I’ll reiterate the good news, which is that impaired brain function or memory loss is NOT considered an inevitability for everyone and pass on a few simple things you can do to preserve and possibly even improve your piece of “it”.
Eating for a better brain
We’re often so focused on the effects that our diet has on the body that we forget that the food we eat also affects our mind. If you’re choosing a diet for mental clarity the simplest way to look at it is “Fresh is best”. When you think about it, it’s probably no surprise that good quality organic fresh produce will feed your brain as well as the rest of you! Ideally a diet that is balanced including a good selection of light and clean foods (great for kapha) as well as good oils and healthy fats (think nuts and ghee! Great for Vata), will support healthy brain and memory function. Ayurveda recommends a sattvic diet to promote a calm, clear, strong and receptive mind.
So I’ve put together a handy dandy guide to give you some idea of what “Sattvic” is and some of the foods that fit into that category… Download it here! (Let me know if you have questions!!).
Also if you’re aiming for a “mind like a steel trap!” (that’s totally me!), consider cutting back on caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs. And go easy on meat, cheeses and other heavy foods which if eaten in excess can contribute to physical heaviness and dullness in the mind.
Studies have shown that oily fish (like salmon), good quality nuts, tomatoes and whole grains are some of the best foods for healthy memory and brain function (so get more of that!).
Herbs and Essential Oils
Rejuvenation of the mind and body are a key part of the Ayurvedic approach to healthy living. Herbs can be a powerful addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise for boosting your brain power! And brahmi and gotu kola are my go-to (pun intended) Ayurvedic herbs for mental clarity and resilience!
Brahmi is a brain and nerve tonic used for improving memory and mental alertness that’s also used as a treatment against alzheimers disease. Here’s a link for more info about this fabulous herb!
Gotu Kola is another powerful herb that eases anxiety and improves mental function and concentration. Check this link for more information about Gotu Kola
Both are terrific herbal supplements for increasing brain power, reducing mental stress and promoting a sense of calm and well being! You can find them pretty easily anywhere that carries vitamin supplements. Banyan Botanicals also carries a wide range of mind and memory tonics!
Yoga & Meditation
These days it pretty much goes without saying that yoga and meditation are GREAT for your body and mind. Current and ongoing studies have discovered the brain has the ability to regenerate itself (something never before thought possible). These and other studies are also uncovering new things about the amazing benefits of as little as 10 minutes of meditation every day! So if you’re not already meditating or taking some time out each day for quiet contemplation, prayer or some other form of deep “unplugging”, there’s no time but the present!
And then of course there’s yoga! Yoga has been proven to reduce stress and increase immune function, focus and memory. Inversion poses (Downward dog, Prasarita padottanasana), forward bends, as well as balance poses like tree pose (Vrksasana), warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana C) and twisted triangle (Parvritta trikonasana) are great to improve overall strength, concentration and mindfulness.
Not only that, but yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) like alternate nostril breathing are also terrific for balancing, and clearing the mind and energizing the body! (Watch for my article on breathing coming up on DoYouYoga.com soon).
Cleansing for clarity
And of course last, but certainly not least it’s important to consider the power of regular cleansing and detoxification. The body and mind are intricately connected. So much so that overloading one, most definitely impacts the other. Creating self care routines that build in regular detoxification practices for mind and body are a critical part to staying on your mental emotional game. Things like…
- Keeping your home and working environment clean and clutter free
- Regulating and or reducing mental stimulus (turning off the TV, radio, computer or cell phone) on a regular basis.
- Regular fasting or enjoying lighter meals which helps to keep your digestive system from over loading!
- Seasonal cleansing or detoxification (try a week long or 10 day cleanse a couple times a year or when you feel you really need it)
All of these activities give the mind and body a much needed break and can improve your ability to think clearly too!
One of the main reasons I’m telling you about this is because SO many people believe that memory loss and foggy brain are just a part of agin. I want you to know that while that may be true for some, the vast majority of us have the resources and ability to keep our minds alert, clear, and zippy now and well into the future. But just like everything it comes down to choice. So…What are YOU choosing?
I would LOVE to hear about your experiences with memory loss, “mommy brain” or anything that might feel to you like reduced “brain power”! What if anything are YOU doing to get “it” back, keep from losing “it” or deal with “it”!
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