To perform my best at work and life, I’ve tried various approaches to find what brings the highest return. I’ve found that there are several areas in which the right behaviors can have a big positive impact. I get my best peak performance results when I focus on the areas I list below. These are the top 5 that help
1. EAT TO SUPPORT PEAK PERFORMANCE
I’m not an evangelist on any specific type of diet except that which works best for your body and brain. I’ve followed many different diet prescriptions over the years and I’ve learned what helps me perform my best.
The following areas will give you a high return on investment regarding performance. me sleepy (I’m looking at you, pancakes). Knowing what I need to eat (and avoid) to perform my best has taken trial and error but I’ve gotten it dialed in pretty well.
It becomes even more critical before important presenations or other times when I need to operate at peak performance.
2. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
People have different sleep needs and I’ve come to learn that I require a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Any less than that and I don’t perform my best. I don’t think as clearly, and even my diet suffers since I crave sugar to counter the negative impacts of insuffient sleep. And I certainly don’t have as much energy.
Sleeping at least 7 hours, and 8 preferably, helps me perform at my best. I’m clear-headed, more positive, and have more energy. I have more patience for family and co-workers. So many positive benefits.
The quality of sleep is also important. The nights that my daughter climbs into bed with me and kicks throughout the night can reduce the quality of my sleep. I feel it the next day.
Some people brag that they can function on very little sleep. However, in the October 2015 issue of Scientific American, the cover story shares research done by sleep researcher Robert Stickgold. The study explains why it’s critical that we get sufficient sleep. The article shares the following about the importance of sleep:
“[Sleep] is involved in a ‘multitude of biological processes—from the inner workings of the immune system to proper hormonal balance, to emotional and psychiatric health, to learning and memory, to the clearance of toxins from the brain.’ Losing a few hours of shut-eye depresses various functions, reducing our cognitive and memory powers, souring our mood, even reducing our body’s ability to defend against infections.”
If you want to read more interesting research findings on sleep deprivation and the role sleep plays in your health, check out this article from the Atlantic: How Sleep Deprivation Decays the Mind and Body.
3. STAY HYDRATED
I start each day with a big glass of water – even before my first cup of coffee. It helps wake me up and clear my head. Throughout the day I continue to drink enough water to keep my energy and mental clarity up.
Much study has been done on the benefits of drinking water. This WebMD article explains that we lose water daily through breathing, skin evaporation, urine, etc. and it must be replaced for good health. “Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.” The article goes on to list benefits to skin, muscles, diet, etc.
Mayo Clinic has a nice diagram that shows Functions of Water in the Body.
The brain uses water to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters. It’s not just good for weight loss and pretty skin.
I recently read the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey. I’ll admit that my primary reason for reading it was to motivate me to exercise more. I’d slacked off in the past year, and needed motivation to move more. I know as a result of attending a 5:30am fitness boot camp for years that I perform my best when I’m getting adequate exercise.
I found that when I exercise I handle stress better, I sleep better, and I have more energy
John Ratey’s research supports what I was experiencing – that exercise supports congintive functioning. He shares studies of research participants who performed better on academic tests when they exercised in the morning. His research shows that exercise impacts your neurotransmitters and can help with a multitude of issues: depression, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and hormones, among others.
Christopher Bergland’s article in Psychology Today, Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Function, describes the findings of two studies “showing that physical activity done today can benefit cognitive function for decades down the road.”
I previously wrote about meditation in an article on Project Bliss titled 5 Ways to Quickly Improve Focus. There I cite several studies that show the beneifits of meditation. I find that it helps calm my mind when I find it hard to focus and when my thoughts are racing and I need clarity. It also lifts my mood and I’m more positive and patient. And it’s such an easy thing to do.
These are the practices that I use regularly to ensure that my brain and body function at peak performance. There are other practices I incorporate at different times to dial-in even more: supplements, gratitude practices, etc. But the items above lay a solid foundation.
If you’ve not paid attention to how any of these behaviors impact your performance, start to do so. Experiment in these areas and see the improvements in your own life.
Where will you start first?
This article originally appeared on ProjectBliss.net