Energy & Focus Part 2

Earlier this month I sent out a short essay on how to reclaim your focus in the attention economy (tech companies are literally selling your attention to the highest bidder).

As a follow-up, here’s a simple, effective list of health and wellness tips you can use to support focus, rebuild dopamine function, and be more effective in life.

  1. Increase brain blood flow with short, intense bouts of exercise 

Normally, as you use your brain, the areas that are most active get the most blood flow (which delivers oxygen and nutrients). But in people who have trouble focusing, the areas of the brain responsible for executive function may receive less blood flow[1]. 

Exercise increases blood flow, as anyone who’s ever gotten a “pump” in the gym can tell you. This is equally true of your brain, not just your muscles.

According to Dr. Jaycie Loewen, a neuroscientist who works with brain injury survivors, using exercise in this way helps deliver blood to areas that need it and increases neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to change)[2].

You can do as little as 1-5 minutes of exercise at a time any time you need a boost, including exercises like kettlebell swings, hill sprints, stairclimber, elliptical, or even jumping jacks.

  1. Build your dopamine levels, fast

Focusing on your health and wellness, blocking blue light at night, and getting more sleep all help build your dopamine.

But have you heard of a dopamine fast? This is a radical strategy that involves temporarily digital detoxing or at least avoiding social media, notifications, gaming, and other digital temptations. Some people also extend the practice to real life temptations like sweets and 

Some skeptics argue that dopamine fasting doesn’t actually affect dopamine function, but many people who try it do feel that it helps reset and resensitize their reward and motivation systems[3].

  1. Be quiet and do nothing

Constantly pursuing goals leaves you with no time to rest and relax. And numerous studies show that pausing silently can relieve tension, enhance creation of neurons, and help keep your brain young[4][5][6].

Try sitting or standing quietly with nothing to do for five minutes or longer every day, or as often as possible, to give your brain a rest and build new connections.

If you really need something to do, try observing your breath, or sitting outside and paying attention to nature.

  1. Try low-carb and fasting

The keto diet and other low-carb diets, as well as intentionally skipping meals (fasting), can increase your blood ketone levels[7].

Research suggests that because ketones are an efficient and effective fuel for the brain, they may in turn support cognitive function[8].

Carb restriction and fasting also support autophagy, a process that helps your brain recycle old brain cells and remain healthy[9].

But don’t fast too much — make sure you fuel your brain with plenty of protein, antioxidant-rich foods, and healthy fats.

  1. Obtain omega-3s

Around 60% of your brain is made of fat, and up to half of that is omega-3 fatty acids[10].

Studies show that omega-3 from food or supplements may support focus and reduce difficulty with attention, possibly by reducing inflammation in the brain[11][12].

If you aren’t already eating fatty fish regularly, or you want to support better focus, try adding more omega-3s to your diet.

  1. Maintain a healthy microbiome

Did you know a significant amount of your body‘s neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA, and dopamine) are made in your gut, and your body relies on gut bacteria and other microbes for this process[13]?

People with more diversity and abundance in their microbiome may even have higher cognitive performance for this reason[14].

To help maintain a healthy microbiome you can:

Overall, keep in mind that your focus levels relate to your overall mental and physical health, so if you’re having trouble focusing, try a digital detox or restructuring your daily routines.


The Science