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3 Tricks to Get Your Brain Moving

note: This article was originally published in 2019 on

As someone with ADHD who finds it INCREDIBLY hard to start any task that requires attention, I’m always looking for “hacks” to get my brain in gear. So much so, that I decided to make it my research topic when I did my Master’s in Psychology, and it's something I frequently get asked about from clients today. But you don’t need to have ADHD to benefit! Here are 3 evidence-based ways to get your brain moving.

Get Drinking! Water, that is. It’s well-known that being dehydrated can have a negative impact on our health. What is less well-known, is that even being moderately dehydrated can significantly impact our brain-function. Studies have shown that drinking just 1 cup of water before doing a cognitively demanding task can improve performance on it, and this improvement in performance can last as long as 40 minutes after drinking. I tried this when it was time to write up my research and can attest to the brain-boost it gave me. Personally, I prefer sparkling water (I don’t know of any research to say that it’s better than still, I just like it :D ). Get Moving!

There is a huge body of evidence showing that physical activity improves cognitive performance. This is true both of acute sessions of exercise (e.g. 30 mins on an exercise bike or treadmill) and longer-term fitness pursuits. This improvement is due to increased blood flow to your brain as well as increases in the neurotransmitters noradrenaline (which readies the body and brain for action) and dopamine (which has become well known in pop culture as the pleasure chemical, but also plays an important role in regulating attention). Any activity that gets your heart-rate up for a sustained period will do, so you don’t have to slog it out at the gym if that’s not your thing. A brisk walk around the block, a jog, a skate, a bike ride, a course of tap dancing classes… Get Chewing! This one was the main topic of my Master’s dissertation. Can chewing gum REALLY help improve your attention and cognitive ability? The answer is, certain conditions. Your best bet is to chew your gum for 5-10 minutes and then discard it (or hamster it in your cheek for later) BEFORE starting whatever task it is you need to do. Studies have shown that popping in a piece of gum and chewing while completing a mentally taxing task can actually impede cognition, but chewing for 5-10 minutes then discarding gives a boost in cognitive performance that lasts around 20 minutes (then you can lather, rinse, repeat as needed). This boost comes from the activation in the areas of the brain linked to attention. Some research suggests that those with conditions such as ADHD, in which the ability to sustain attention is impaired, experience a bigger boost than those without such conditions. My personal favourites from these 3 are water and gum chewing. Which one of these works for you? Try them out and let me know!


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