You know it. I know it. We all know research supports it: Healthy people think, adapt and perform better.
That goes for both in and out of the office.
Here, four key areas — eating smarter, moving more, sleeping soundly and thinking clearly — that, when improved upon, enable you to be able to perform at your best.
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Food is the most potent medicine we have. High quality, nutrient-dense foods are the optimal fuel for our brains and bodies and help to prevent and treat just about every chronic disease out there.
1. Hydrate. Sixty percent of your body weight and almost 90 percent of your brain is made up of water. Water helps you concentrate, problem solve and remember. It keeps your muscles and joints functioning. And it gives you energy. Sluggish in the afternoons? Drink more water. Pretty much all of us need more.
2. Optimize your H=N/C ratio. This means health = nutrients per calories consumed. Your goal should be to eat nutrient-dense foods while avoiding calorie-dense foods. Muffins and bagels? Nutrient poor and calorie dense. Fish and vegetables? Nutrient rich and calorie suitable. Memorize this formula.
3. Eat healthy proteins. It’s a great idea to eat protein at every meal. That low-nutrient, high-carb breakfast of toast and orange juice will lead to an energy crash. High protein foods can help you to maintain better attention, concentration and focus. Healthy proteins arrive in their most basic forms – not processed or battered. Try eggs, fish, chicken, pork, quinoa or chickpeas.
Moving your body fights inflammation, metabolic syndrome, cancer, heart disease and ageing. It builds bone density. It evens out your emotional ups and downs. But most importantly for business people, it sharpens your mental abilities.
1. Get fast. Add some speed training to a regular fitness routine. You’ll develop your endurance and your strength at the same time. Vary the pace of your workouts: mix short intervals of higher effort with longer, slower and easier periods.
2. Get outside. Simply looking at pictures of nature can lower blood pressure and stress and relieve mental fatigue. Imagine how good it is to be immersed in the real thing. Exercising outdoors give you all the benefits of exercise with literally more of every mental and physical health benefit.
3. Move strategically. Exercise has been shown to improve mental performance — specifically what’s known as executive function, which includes memory, reasoning, problem solving and planning. Add 15 minutes of activity before your most important mental task of the day.
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Sleeping well helps prevent disease, slows aging and boosts thinking and creativity.
1. Save your coffee for the morning. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that stays in your system for about six hours or longer. Avoid foods or drinks with caffeine for eight hours before your bedtime. That coffee after dinner is just not a good idea.
2. Calm your body, calm your mind. Our hectic lives mean we often come home from work fired up and still revved at bedtime. Create a calm ritual to help lower the cortisol in your body. Make a to-do list and put it aside, stop checking email by 8 p.m. and read a book that helps to give your mind a break.
3. Your bedroom is for sleeping, not for screens. Speaking of not checking your email, get rid of the TV in your bedroom. Keep your room dark and turn off the screens, as the light emitted stimulates your brain rather than calms you down.
For athletes, thinking clearly is all about getting into the Ideal Performance State. You know what it’s like: You’re performing at your absolute best, the effort feels minimal and time is flying by. You’re completely absorbed and producing great things. You’re in a state of flow — also known as The Zone. These moments don't have to be rare or random. You can learn to get into your performance zone every day with some practice.
1. Use self-talk. Set your intentions for the day by telling yourself what actions you'll take to improve your performance. Use positive language that reminds you of how capable and committed you are. Your intentions create your reality. So talk to yourself about them.
2. Create more energy and less tension. You can multiply your effort without tightening up mentally or physically. Tension is going to block your way into your zone. Boost your energy output but don’t go harder — go faster. Increase attention and relax at the same time.
3. Learn how to focus. Focus is not possible when our minds are jumping all over the place. We need to clear out internal distractions and then tackle the external ones too, like email and social media. Don’t kid yourself that you can multi-task. Being in the zone requires a single focus. The task you're working on gets all of your attention.
When you seek to do your very best at something, you'll begin a wonderful process that will lead to you growing, learning, improving and achieving. By focusing on performance you will, as a nice side benefit, also improve your health. And when you have both high-performance and health, you'll have the opportunity to craft a world-class life where you can achieve your dreams.
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