When it comes to training—and nurturing—your noodle, the latest apps, “diets,” and methods would appear to have you covered. Read on to find out whether studies and experts approve of the latest in brain and mental health trends.
Do brain-boosting apps really work?
Good news: the progress you’re making on your brain-training app is not just in your head. One study discovered that playing an app called Decoder for eight hours over a one-month period improved participants’ ability to concentrate.
However, another study says even though many brain-training apps often work, there is one caveat: a particular app may work for one type of brain training, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily transfers to another task.
Are sleep apps as effective as we think they are?
So far, research on apps for help with sleep has proven promising. For instance, one study found compelling evidence that an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention can effectively treat insomnia.
On the other hand, some note that sleep apps may interfere with sleep hygiene. For example, the light from your cellphone—or other light-emitting devices—is known to interrupt your circadian rhythm.
What about using an app for relaxation?
Mindfulness apps can decrease stress—especially those that help users cultivate acceptance or “learning how to be open and accepting of the way things are in each moment.”
Research also indicates relaxation can be achieved through gameplay. According to one study, apps designed specifically to enhance mindfulness may not be as effective at relieving after-work stress as digital games are.
Kimberlee Mancina, registered psychotherapist and founder of Nourished Mind Psychotherapy, uses apps in her practice, believing them to be “valuable complementary tools for traditional therapeutic interventions.
“They can act as a starting point, are much more accessible—financially, they’re more affordable —and can add therapeutic support,” explains Mancina.
She adds that those with anxiety or agoraphobia may find them particularly useful.
But Mancina also acknowledges that studies on the efficacy of apps are in their infancy and safety regulations are not yet in place. What’s more, Mancina advises app users to read the privacy policies of the apps they’re using.
Does dopamine fasting do anything?
Dopamine fasting is a California-born fad that refers to taking a break from technological stimuli that have proven unhealthy for you, whether it be social media, texting, or the sounds you hear when you receive a message. The trend’s creator, Dr. Cameron Sepah, postulates that taking a break from these activities helps you to gain control over your life and rein in compulsive behaviors.
But, according to an article by Dr. Peter Grinspoon in the Harvard Health Blog, many have misinterpreted the science behind the fad. He explains that dopamine doesn’t decrease when you avoid such stimuli, and dopamine fasting may just be a modern label for “taking a break” or mindfully approaching life.
Is there science to back the Wim Hof method?
Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete, developed his own breathing and meditation methods to help build endurance to cold.
One study performed on Hof found evidence that the brain, rather than the body, was responsible for Hof’s responses to cold exposure. The study’s authors think these findings may allow practitioners a greater degree of control over their brain’s autonomous system.
Colin Jackson, owner/operator of BPM Fitness and Yoga holds workshops on the method. He says the method has changed his life.
“I’ve gotten quite deep into meditative states, considerably quickly with the Wim Hof Method, that otherwise would take me hours in traditional meditation. This really helps me to reduce stress, anxiety, fear, etcetera,” explains Jackson. “Furthermore, the cold exposure, from a mental standpoint, helps me to build my resilience to stress, and helps me build more grit.”
|tea||A 2019 study suggested that drinking tea can prevent or slow cognitive decline.|
|curcumin||New research indicates that ingesting an easily absorbed curcumin supplement can help with brain power; in particular, it may improve memory and attention abilities significantly.|
|Recent research indicates that inhaling a compound in rosemary—namely 1,8-cineole—is significantly related to better performance on cognitive tasks and breathing in higher concentrations of the herb leads to even better performance.|
|Bacopa monnieri||Used in Ayurvedic medicine since 500 AD to treat anxiety and improve cognitive processes, memory, and recall, one recent study found that a daily 300 mg extract had a significant effect on some components of memory.|
Your brain on yoga
It’s been proven that aerobic exercise strengthens the brain and helps it grow new neurons. Now, a University of Illinois review of studies says multiple studies show that yoga practitioners experience an increase in hippocampus volume, the part of the brain involved in memory processing.