Brain fog. Whether it happens to you when out socializing with a friend or when working for hours in front of the computer, it’s a real thing. Although “brain fog” isn’t formally recognized as a medical term and condition in and of itself, it’s still a good description of that absence of clarity and sense of mental fuzziness that many of us experience now and then, some of us more than others.
So, what does brain fog really imply? Here are a few experiences or symptoms that you might recognize:
- Difficulties thinking and communicating. Thoughts appear hazy and difficult to grasp
- Inability to maintain concentration and focus
- Forgetfulness and short and long-term memory issues
- A lack of motivation, interest and desire to do things
- Physical or mental fatigue that makes it harder to do anything productive
What causes brain fog?
The studies dedicated to researching brain fog are few and scanty, mostly due to it being such an obscure and subjective phenomenon. There are a couple studies that show that brain fog is a common side-effect of certain diseases like autism, celiac diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.
For the majority of us however, the causes of brain fog most likely aren’t related to some underlying medical condition but are probably more related to lifestyle habits, here are 6 potential causes:
- Poor sleep: Poor sleep can mean many different things, ranging from sleep disorders like sleep apnea to not getting sufficient sleep every day.
- Poor diet: Trigger foods and inflammatory foods may be one of the main causes to you feeling brain fog and general fatigue.
- Stress and anxiety: Some theorize that brain fog is mostly caused by underlying stress and anxiety levels, this could be palpable levels that you’re aware during different moments of the day or somewhat more unconscious or subtle levels of stress and anxiety present in the body-mind.
- Lack of exercise: Sitting all day and not exercising or moving about will have a toll on your body, and brain fog is but one of many complications that may arise from protracted physical inactivity.
- Poor air quality: The air we breathe is often an overlooked aspect when it comes to health and wellbeing, mostly due to air being invisible. Pollutions in the air may cause more subtle forms of headaches and brain fog. If you’re living in a city that has polluted air, consider getting an air-purifier and decorate your home with oxygen producing green plants.
- Medications: Prescriptions medications are especially the ones that you should look out for. If you’re taking medications, have a closer look at the side-effects and consider alternatives.
While identifying the definite cause(s) to your brain fog may be hard or even impossible, it’s always advised to be on the lookout for what things in your everyday life give rise to more brain fog.
With that said, here are our suggestions and tips on how to clear the fog that haunting your brain.
1. Improve your sleep
Improving your sleep in many ways means improving your life. Most of the necessary functions and aspects of the body get renewed and rejuvenated from a good night’s sleep. One big potential cause of brain fog may be lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits in general. A good sleep hygiene and lifestyle habits will do you good in this regard.
2. Practice meditation
When it comes to controlling and reducing stress and anxiety, there are few natural things as good as meditation. Now there are many different ways to meditate, ranging from mindfulness to mantric meditations and it may be challenging to know how begin. My suggestion would be to just try one or two and see what happens.
3. Move and exercise
We sit too much and for too long on rigid chairs that are simply not good for us. If your physical body doesn’t get the exercise it needs and wants, you will suffer in some form another at some point in your life.
The brain fog you’re experiencing could be an indication of unhealthy physical habits you’ve accumulated along the years, like slouching, inactivity and laziness. Moving about more and exercising regularly will boost your overall health and wellbeing, keeping that brain fog a step farther away from you.
4. Breathe consciously
Breathing techniques and awareness of breath are underappreciated ways of increasing wellbeing and improving health. The brain fog that you’re experiencing may be due to poor breathing habits, both during when you sleep like sleep apnea or during the waking state.
Trying a rejuvenating breathing exercise to reset and reload could be just what you need.
5. Change your diet
We are what we eat. You’ve heard that one before and it’s certainly the case when it comes to brain fog. There are a number of different deficiencies in your diet that may be causing poor cognitive functioning, the most notable one being a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Eliminating trigger and inflammatory foods is another smart part of a game-plan that has its mission to relieve brain fog. After the elimination, you’ll need to find what foods work in your favor. Here are a couple “brain foods” that may prove beneficial to you:
- Green, leafy vegetables (vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene)
- Berries (flavonoids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory)
- Fatty fishes (omega-3)
- Walnuts (omega-3)
- Nuts and seeds (antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamin E)
- Tea and coffee (in moderation)
6. Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is growing, and its growing fast. Why? Well mainly due to the innumerable anecdotal stories and mounting scientific studies concerning the many benefits of intermittent fasting, ranging from longevity and increased energy levels to weight loss, less inflammation and improved blood cholesterol levels.
Many who practice intermittent fasting also report increased mental clarity and concentration. Well that sounds like a great counter to brain fog, don’t you think? Why this clarity arises for fasted individuals isn’t exactly clear, but could possibly be due to some of the other effects of intermittent fasting, like lowered blood insulin and sugar levels, increased growth hormones or the activation of autophagy, a physiological process that is responsible for cellular cleansing.
That being said, there are quite a few of others who find intermittent fasting rather difficult and a number of people report the initial days of implementing the intermittent fasting schedule to cause dizziness and mental fatigue. From my own experiences this is mostly because of the acclimatization period or a transition to the new lifestyle. Learn to listen to your body and go from there.
7. Stay hydrated
Hydration is important, perhaps extra important when it comes to certain cognitive functions. One study claimed that 2% dehydration in relation to body mass can cause adverse effects on cognitive functions (concentration, alertness, short-term memory, psychomotor skills etc), they postulated that even 1% dehydration was sufficient to cause deficits in these cognitive faculties.
How to stay hydrated
- Drink hydrating fluids or water when you’re thirsty. A reusable water bottle that you carry with you will do you good.
- Eat sufficient amounts of fruits and veggies. In some cases, the juices contained in fruits and veggies do more to hydrate the body than drinking mere fluids.
- Depending on where you live, try to avoid too much time spent under the sun.
- Limit dehydrating or diuretic drinks like caffeine and alcohol.
8. Change your habits
Everyday lifestyle habits could be responsible for you feeling foggy in the head all the time. Whether its not exercising, eating unhealthy foods or just you consuming too much, i.e. sitting in front of the computer, watching TV or browsing YouTube for 3 hours straight.
Instead try doing things that fulfill you, there are many relaxing hobbies that will boost brain power to try out, ranging from archery, chess to qigong and dancing.
Habits make up your life, choose them wisely.
9. Stop multi-tasking
For most of us, multi-tasking is not practical. Though it may suit some personality types, multi-tasking just creates too much of a mess and never allows you to settle and focus on any given thing.
I suspect that a chronic habit of multi-tasking may be one of the main reasons we end up with brain fog, we’re just too distracted and spread out.
Instead training ourselves to finish a task from start to end, whether through mindfulness or just will-induced focus, will do you good when trying to dissipate the brain fog.
10. Try minimalism
As without so within. If you’re surrounded by mess, redundant stuff that just clutter your visual field and not only takes place physically but also psychologically, consider going minimalistic for a short period of time. There are many benefits to minimalism, especially when it comes to your home décor but also existentially. Minimalism will cut away the noise, both external and internal.
11. Try a digital detox
Ever heard of digital detoxing? Like intermittent fasting, digital detoxing is a new rapidly growing trend in today’s highly hectic society. A digital detox is essentially about consciously distancing yourself from digital technology in order to achieve clarity of mind, reconnect with your senses and allow for time to do other things that may prove more beneficial to your overall wellbeing.
12. Get a massage or do some self-massage
We’re no strangers to massage here on True Relaxations, and I’ve decided to feature massage as the last point to try when it comes to relieving yourself from brain fog. Self-massage in particular is great to align your mind with the natural workings of your body. In my humble opinion, we’re mentally disconnected from the workings of our bodies in so many ways that this causes a palpable imbalance, which could be felt as many different things, brain fog being one of them.
The benefits of massage therapy are many, ranging from overall stress reduction and increased joint mobility/flexibility to improved circulation and muscle tissue recovery.
Massage allows the body to work its own healing capabilities, and that is the least you could give yourself in these frantic times.
Brain fog makes it harder to function day to day. Whether its stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or poor diet that causes your case of brain fog, fortunately there are many ways to deal with it.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.