It can be difficult to know what to focus on when many things want your attention. Cleaning our space vs. video gaming vs. significant other vs. work; the options seem limitless. There are likely many conflicts that arise when you select one over the other. What if instead we look at ways our bodies help us focus versus other intangible things such as obligations and desire? What if there was something that helped us narrow and select in ways that allow us to be more successful?
Biologically, there are 3 neurotransmitters in our body that work to help us “pay attention” or focus. Acetylcholine helps us determine what is “noise” and what is important. Dopamine helps with motivation and determining effort. Norepinephrine helps with being alert and staying on task. Additionally, just like our computers, we have a finite amount of working memory and running too many programs at once impacts outcomes. Our brains need some basics to be at optimal performance. The basics are nutrition, exercise, sleep and rest.
What we are “feeding” our bodies plays a large part in how well our brain functions. Studies have found that deficiencies abound within our regular diets and supplements are often helpful to make up for some vacancies. According to an article in Psychology Today, October 2021, “The Juice of Concentration”, Omega 3 fatty acids (think cold water fish, nuts, yogurt) influence the efficiency of brain cell operations and signaling. They can also have an effect on how dopamine is used in our bodies.
Vitamin B9 or Folate (think dark green leafy vegetables, beans, fresh fruit, peanuts) is a helpful partner. It contributes to the development of myelin which protects our neurons and speeds up conductivity in our nerve signals. Dopamine & norepinephrine depend on its presence to function properly. Folic acid, the synthetic form of Folate, can be taken as a supplement to what you are not getting in your basic diet to improve cognitive function.
Vitamin 12 (think fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy); which helps our bodies, blood, and nerve cells stay healthy; struggles to be absorbed if Folate is not available in our bodies. Most all of our B Vitamins are necessary if we want to stay sharp and productive. B Vitamins also match up nicely with Vitamin D to help keep our neurotransmitters firing effectively. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D supplements used with adjunctive therapy can give a small boost in attention and behavior outcomes.
While the adage “you are what you eat” is not always a fair comparison, there is some truth in making sure we are getting enough of the right fuel. Considering a supplement with Folic Acid & Vitamin B & D’s could work to help our bodies help our brain.
Lastly, consider expectations. Our world is full of constant stimulation and demands. It is important to recognize that prioritization and setting limits is necessary to ensure that realistic outcomes are possible. I feel multi-tasking is a guilty hope of the busy to justify attempts to accomplish more than is manageable. It is usually only helpful to allow rapid shifts of attention, but at the cost of accuracy and speed and it takes a lot more of that working memory we were talking about earlier.
Give yourself a fighting chance with the right nutrients and the right plan…..your brain and your body are counting on you.