In the last 10 years, neuroscience has focused its attention on the adolescent brain and concluded it's different from the brains of parents. Adolescence is a time of profound brain growth and change. This recognition is contrary to long-held ideas that the brain was, for the most part, fully "formed" by the end of childhood.
During the years between childhood and adulthood, the brain's "wiring" becomes more complex and even more efficient, especially in the prefrontal cortex—the area responsible for skills such as setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, controlling impulses, and allocating attention—which are still maturing during adolescence.
The developing teen brain is actually growing "circuits" – neural connections that can perform several tasks simultaneously and with ever-greater efficiency. While the adolescent brain is well suited to meet the demands of teen life, guidance from adults is essential while the decision-making circuitry is being formed. Sound sleep, herbal formulations, and a good diet can go a long way towards a healthy brain and more fulfilling student experience.
Ayurvedic tips to boost brain power and make the most of student life
Get a good night's sleep
From high school students to surgeons, anyone who has pulled an all-nighter knows there is a price to be paid the next day: trouble focusing, a fuzzy memory and other cognitive impairments. Research has shown that teenagers are running up significant sleep deficits, which can affect their ability to moderate their behavior.
A teen's daily rhythm changes as they enter adolescence, causing them to stay up later and require more sleep overall. But school schedules force teenagers to rise earlier than their bodies are naturally prepared to do. Distractions like the Internet and increasing homework loads add to the problem by keeping students up even later.
Scientists have found that sleep helps consolidate memories, fixing them in the brain so we can retrieve them later. Now, new research is showing that sleep also seems to reorganize memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Caffeine, for instance, can stay in the body for up to 12 hours. Get to bed by 10pm If you have homework or study, wake up early around 6 am and do it then; early morning is the best time to study according to Ayurveda.
Have a cup of Organic Vata Tea, or use some Vata Aroma Oil or Worry Free Aroma Oil (whichever smells best that particular night), to help settle the teen mind and prepare to sleep. Two herbal supplements that may help one sleep are Blissful Sleep to support getting to sleep, and Deep Rest, which promotes uninterrupted sleep throughout the night.
Take Ayurvedic herbs for brain health
According to Maharishi AyurVeda, there are three aspects to mental performance: Dhi – learning and comprehension; Dhriti – processing and retention of knowledge; and Smriti – memory or recall.
Ayurveda places great importance on a special class of herbs called Medhya herbs. These are Ayurvedic herbs especially useful for the mind, including the frontal lobe. These herbs promote learning, retention and recall individually, and also support the coordination among the three. They provide powerful nourishment for the brain.
Medhya herbs are found in Intelligence Plus. One study measured the effects of Intelligence Plus on non-verbal intelligence. The five-month study consisted of 34 third-grade students who were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a placebo group. The Intelligence Plus group exhibited a 9.83 point increase in IQ compared to 4.88 points for the placebo group.
Medhya herbs are also found in Organic Youthful Mind—promoting memory and alertness. The herbs include Shankhapushpi (Aloeweed or Dwarf morning glory), Jal-Brahmi or Bacopa monniera, and Indian Pennywort (Gotu kola or Centella asiatica). Dwarf morning glory, for example, supports memory and problem-solving ability under situations of day-to-day stress. Gotu Kola aids memory as we age and enhances verbal articulation. In addition, Ashwagandha (Winter cherry) helps support natural resistance to stress.
Mind Plus is a traditional Ayurvedic syrup that is especially useful for anyone who has to learn new information (syrups are assimilated quickly).
Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar Paste (MAK4) and Ambrosia Tablets (MAK5) have full-spectrum super-antioxidant power and nourish all the major body systems. Amrit Nectar enlivens the body's inner intelligence at a very fundamental level and supports all the following factors:
- The three types of mental function: acquisition, retention, and recall.
- Metabolic transformations, digestion, the emotions and their effect on heart function.
- The mind, nervous system, respiration, circulation and elimination.
- Moisture balance, physical structure and strength.
- The sequential transformation of the seven tissues, one into the other – plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive fluid.
- The microcirculatory channels that transport nutrients and energy and can be blocked by improperly-digested impurities.
- The production of ojas, the finest product of digestion and the master coordinator between consciousness, matter and immunity.
- The vitality and strength of the mind and body.
Embrace a good diet & maintain digestive health
According to Ayurveda, how you eat is as important as what you eat. One key to good digestion is to eat in a settled manner. Avoid watching TV, as the distraction interferes with the ability of the body to digest food. Don't eat too fast. Chew your food well – 30 times, according to Ayurvedic experts. Ice-cold drinks should be avoided, as they disrupt agni (the digestive fire) and hinder the assimilation of nutrients by the body. Your main meal should be at mid-day, as this is the time when digestion is strongest. Never overeat, as this is one of the main causes of indigestion and formation of ama (toxins) in the body.
According to Ayurveda, it is very important to eat foods that are natural and pure (free of toxins, chemicals, pesticides, and GMO's) for their full benefit to be absorbed by the body. When foods are as close to their natural state as possible, they deliver the most valuable nutrition.
Cooking with fresh, organic ingredients can take a little more time and effort, but your brain, and indeed your entire physiology, will thank you for it and repay the effort with accelerated performance. A balanced meal includes whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, and a protein. Also include some tasty spices like Vata, Pitta or Kapha Churnas.
Balanced digestion creates ojas, the master Ayurvedic biochemical of balance and happiness that supports mental clarity. Certain foods are quickly turned into ojas by digestion. Ayurveda recommends organic ghee (clarified butter), which is valued for its ability to transport the benefits of herbs and spices to the brain and to other parts of the body.
Include some dairy if you are not lactose-intolerant, such as whole organic milk and lassi made from fresh organic yogurt. Almonds and walnuts are also excellent brain foods. When you need something sweet, fruits, raisins and dates are a much better option than sugary drinks and foods.
Everyone can benefit from good brain health habits like sound sleep, targeted Ayurvedic herbal formulas and a fresh, organic diet—especially children and teens in their formative years. Optimize your mind and memory for better brain functioning, and increase your quality of life.
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