It’s a sad truth that many of us wake up stressed and go to bed stressed. Our brains are constantly working overtime trying to keep up with deadlines, remembering a loved ones birthday, remembering if you locked the car door, or worrying about whether you’re ready for that big presentation you have today. The thoughts we have to process are endless and our brains suffer for it. They become cluttered to the point where we can’t think straight and can’t perform to the best of our abilities.
Mental clarity is essential to our health and success, and luckily it can be restored very easily, and very quickly. Here are 8 fantastic brain warm-up exercises that can be done in the morning to encourage mental clarity, leaving you with a mind as clear as a blue sky.
1. Find a Noun for Each Letter of the Alphabet
This really simple exercise gets both sides of your brain to work together and it’s quite enjoyable too. Go through the alphabet and think of a noun (the more unusual the better) for each letter. Your left brain will help you to think of the word, and your right brain will imagine what the noun looks like (colour, size, shape). This exercise gets the entire brain to focus and eliminates brain fog.
If nouns don’t interest you, try naming comic book characters or television shows!
2. Classical Music
Studies have shown that music (especially classical music) can have a significant effect on our brain function, mental state and mood (it’s called The Mozart Effect).
Calming pieces of classical music can slow down your heart rate, which decreases blood pressure and lowers the level of stress hormones in the body. A stress-free mind is a clear mind, and this can be even more effective if you play the instrument yourself.
Fun fact: surgeons have been known to perform surgery whilst listening to classical music!
Exercise is a healthy way to relieve stress, but yoga is even better because it combines exercise and meditation to de-clutter the mind. When a person is holding a yoga pose, their mind is focused on their breathing and staying still so much so that other thoughts are removed.
4. Double Doodle
Like the noun challenge, double doodle exercises both sides of the brain by using your dominant and non-dominant hands. Simply take a pen or pencil in both hands (stick the paper down with tape if needed) and try to draw a picture. To start off easy, try drawing a heart or the outline of a house (pre-school style). Doing this basic exercise in the morning will eliminate trivial thoughts from the mind and increase productivity.
5. Brain Dumping
Brain dumping is about transferring all of the thoughts in your head onto paper ⏤ a bit like journalling. All that’s needed for this exercise is a notebook (Wunderlist or Todoist could work too, but it’s best to refrain from technology so early in the morning). Start jotting down any tasks that you haven’t done (big or small) and anything else that seems to have gotten on top of you.
By writing down tasks you’ll gain more clarity in terms of prioritization, making it much easier to focus on the important tasks and leave the trivial ones to be dealt with later on. Brain dumping relieves you of that awful panicky feeling where you stress so much about all of the things that you need to do, that you can’t do them.
When discussing the topic of stress and the mind, meditation inevitably comes up. When our brain RAM (the brain is much like a computer in this way) is clouded with stress, trivial thoughts and other types of worries, it slows down our brain and leaves very little space for tasks we actually should be concentrating on. Meditation teaches you to focus, de-stress (stress is the main cause of clutter) and let go of distractions that are slowing down brain function, leaving us with a clearer mind.
Meditation can be done anywhere and at anytime, but I’d recommend a quick 10 minutes in the morning after you’ve properly woken up.
7. Brain Games
Games such as sudokus, crosswords and maths quizzes are a great way to clear brain-fog. Whether you prefer mathematical problems or word games, a brain puzzle in the morning will stimulate the mind and improve brain function. Puzzles also improve memory and reduce the likelihood of brain degeneration in your later years!
8. Gradually Learn a New Language
Learning a new language is another brilliant way to keep your mind young and sharp. Adopting new words when you wake up in the morning gives our brains a brisk workout because languages are so complex and challenging. Studies suggest those that speak a second language have improved concentration levels, and are better at organization and decision-masking due their heightened mental clarity.
Did you know that there are so many other ways that mental clarity can be attained? These include making sure that you’re hydrated, eating a balanced diet for the vitamins and minerals that the brain needs to function, physical exercise to release serotonin (the feel-good hormone), and getting enough sleep so that our brains are rested.
Combining a healthy lifestyle with any of the above exercises in the morning will leave your brain clutter-free and ready to concentrate on the important tasks of the day.
Are there any morning exercises or routines that you perform for mental clarity in the morning, that you think work especially well?
I’m a nutritionist and lifestyle blogger at Nomad Noms, currently writing nutrition guides for digital nomads whilst travelling the globe with my husband.