Mental Acuity: Our Ultimate Guide To Staying Mentally Sharp

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• Fact Checked By: Spela Bednjanic, B.A. In Psychology

According to the American Spa magazine, we see a growing trend in brain wellness. The goal of brain wellness is to help people improve mental acuity, brainpower, and increase cognitive function. Never in the past have we seen so much interest in optimizing brain performance. Not just among the elderly who are in cognitive decline, but also among students and active adults, who want to be mentally sharp. So, what exactly is mental acuity and how can you achieve mental sharpness?

Table of Contents

What Is Mental Acuity?

Mental acuity refers to being mentally sharp. If you are sharp, it means your brain works on its optimal level. You can focus and stay focused, your memory works well, and your mental performance is great.

Instead of relying on drugs, stimulants, or nootropics, your brain works well on its own. Of course, different compounds can help you sustain high levels of mental sharpness, but I’ll talk about that later on.

How does mental acuity look in real life?

mental acuity meaning

Attention

Many factors influence your attention and focus capabilities. Yet, if your brain works the way it is supposed to, you will have no problems staying focused for longer periods of time. Despite the lack of studies, scientists agree you can stay focused up to 50 minutes before you need a 15-minute break. [2] That’s why the famous Pomodoro technique is so effective for boosting productivity. [3]

Memory

Your ability to remember information depends on your cognitive performance and sleep quality. To record and store memory, you need to be able to process information quickly and accurately. Your brain needs to decide which information should be stored and which not. [4]

If you are in a phase of cognitive decline, your memory will suffer. You will have a hard time remembering important information, which can have a whole range of negative consequences.

Luckily, you can do a lot to improve your memory. I’ll share my strategies later on.

Information Processing

Information processing is the most important brain function. Your brain has the ability to process information, store it, manipulate it, and record it. The faster it can process data from your environment, the better it is for you. The sharpness of the mind is often referred to as your ability to process information.

Situational Judgment

Situational judgment refers to your ability to make sound decisions in every situation. [5] People with Alzheimer’s disease usually suffer the most when they need to make “right” decisions in different situations. While situational judgment is age-related, it also depends on our cognitive function.

No matter how old you are, you want the ability to judge and take the most appropriate action in every situation you end up in.

Now we understand what mental acuity means and how it looks like in real life.

Now let’s check what causes decreased mental acuity.

What Influences Mental Acuity?

Many researchers around the world are trying to understand which factors cause the drop in mental acuity. Once we understand all the factors, we will be able to make smart decisions on how to slow down cognitive decline.

As it currently stands, here are the most common factors that impact your mental sharpness:

Lifestyle factors

I have been researching the impact of lifestyle factors on our performance for several years. The research shocked me on how big of a role these factors have on us.

According to numerous studies, the most important lifestyle factors are: [6]

  1. Our diet
  2. Physical activity
  3. Mental activity
  4. Stress
  5. Environmental toxins

People who live the longest and have the lowest amount of dementia are people in so-called blue zones. [7] How do they avoid a fast mental decline? They do it by:

  • Eating high-quality, organic (mainly) plant-based foods,
  • Being regularly physically active
  • Living with a low amount of stress, including environmental stress

But according to studies, their diet plays the most important role.

Genetics

Until the development of epigenetics, we believed that our genes play a crucial role in our mental acuity. While you cannot eliminate the influence of genetics, we now know that you can change your DNA throughout your life. [8]

As it currently stands, you have a higher risk of getting dementia or other cognitive-related diseases if someone in your family had it too.

With the future development of epigenetics, we may able to decrease or completely avoid such diseases. 

Drug abuse and medications

Drug abuse and medications can hamper your mental health. Sedatives, anticholinergic medications, and tranquilizers cause severe effects on your brain health. [9]

In addition, alcohol and drug abuse is equally dangerous.

Sleep and circadian rhythms

A circadian rhythm is your internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. [10] If your circadian rhythm is off, then your mental performance will suffer. Also, we know how important high-quality sleep is for our brain.

Restful sleep allows you to process more information during the day. Memory consolidation happens during the night, so you need to sleep long enough for it to happen. If you have a bad memory, the reason could also be in your sleep quality. [11]

Studies on mice suggest that sleep helps restore your brain by flushing out toxins. [12] The scientists also discovered that your glymphatic system removes a protein called beta-amyloid. Interestingly, people with Alzheimer’s accumulate a high amount of this toxic compound.

Poor blood circulation

Poor blood circulation and oxygenation are usually a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. If you have poor circulation, your brain health will suffer as well.

Other factors

Other factors that influence your mental acuity are:

  1. Metabolic imbalances (kidney or liver dysfunction, abnormal levels of glucose, sodium, or calcium)
  2. Hormonal problems
  3. Deficiencies in key nutrients (such as B vitamins and omega-3)
  4. Brain trauma (or other damages to brain neurons)
  5. Infections
  6. Inflammation

How about age?

We know that mental decline is also age-related. But as is the case with people living in so-called blue zones, a healthy lifestyle can slow down your cognitive decline. With the development of biohacking and epigenetics, age may become a less important factor.

Anyway, we need to protect our brain from the mentioned factors that have a negative impact on mental acuity. Let’s learn how we can protect our brain health and slow down cognitive decline.

Ways To Boost Your Mental State

There are many effective strategies to improve mental acuity. Let’s check them out.

meditation

Improve Your Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important factors that influence brain health. It also helps with information processing and it can improve mental acuity. Lack of sleep quickly diminishes mental acuity. But it’s not just about sleep length, we need to talk about sleep quality as well. If you sleep long enough (7-9 hours), but you sleep poorly, then you can still suffer from mental issues.

Here are my top suggestions to improve your sleep quality:

  1. Establish a regular sleep routine
  2. Do not drink caffeine after 12 pm
  3. Make your bedroom completely dark
  4. Change the bedroom temperature to around 65 degrees F (18.3 degrees C)
  5. Avoid all electronic devices at least 1 hour before sleep
  6. Avoid food at least 2 hours before sleep
  7. Take sleep nootropics

If you follow my recommendations, your sleep will improve. Better sleep conditions will also help you avoid sleep deprivation. This will lead to better cognitive performance.

Does Blue Light Affect Your Sleep?

I mentioned that you need to avoid electronic devices 1 hour before sleep. The main reason for that is that they emit blue light. This is a light that travels at shorter wavelengths and can increase your focus and alertness.

It is important to avoid blue light before going to sleep so that our body can produce melatonin. But, once you wake up, try to expose yourself to bright blue light. The best way to do it is to go on a short morning walk. If it is sunny, vitamin D3 will be produced as well. So it’s a win-win situation.

Eat Brain Foods

Many foods have a strong positive or negative impact on our brain health. First of all, you need to avoid the following foods:

  1. Processed foods
  2. Conventional animal-based products (like dairy products you buy in the supermarket)
  3. Foods high in sugar
  4. Simple carbohydrates (white rice, white flour)
  5. Non-organic foods
  6. GMOs
  7. Vegetable oils

Of course, if you eat unhealthy food once a month, there is not much you need to worry about. But eating it weekly or even daily is very damaging.

My rule is that I try to eat real food 85-90% of the time. Now and then, I eat a slightly more processed meal, but I very rarely eat animal-based products, or sugar. This helps me keep my brain functioning on a higher level.

So, what you should eat?

  1. Plant-based foods
  2. Nuts and seeds
  3. Legumes
  4. Natural and organic food
  5. Complex carbohydrates

Doing that will provide crucial nutrients to your brain for mental acuity. Once you optimize your diet, you will soon notice many benefits.

Avoid Stress

Stress is detrimental to your brain health. I recommend you take a short 5-10 min break every hour of your day. If this is impossible, then take a break as often as you can. This will prevent a potential burnout.

Also, do the following:

  1. Go on regular walks in nature
  2. Do breathing exercises
  3. Take weekends off

Besides, meditation is a must.

Meditate

Meditation decreases anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and provides a myriad of other benefits. [15] You can improve your mental acuity by meditating 5-10 minutes daily. Of course, you can benefit even more if you meditate longer, but start with 5 minutes a day.

There are many types of meditation available, but what’s more important is creating a habit and sticking to it.

Exercise

Your body and brain will benefit from any exercise. According to the Harvard Medical School, aerobic exercises, low-intensity mind-body exercises, and resistance exercises can benefit your brain the most. [16]

The healthiest people in the world do low-intensity exercise throughout the whole day.

But my golden rule is – any exercise is better than no exercise. Try to work out at least 2-3 times per week for 20-40 minutes.

How About Brain Supplements?

Brain supplements or nootropics can improve your mental acuity. Nootropics are natural compounds that improve focus, memory, and mental power. They also slow down cognitive decline and provide long-term benefits. [17]

Which are the most effective nootropics? Here is my shortlist:

  1. Bacopa Monnieri – an adaptogen herb that improves memory
  2. Aswagandha – a medicinal herb great for reducing anxiety and depression
  3. Lion’s mane mushroom – an effective nootropic for long-term brain health
  4. Omega 3 fish oil – a must-use supplement for mental acuity and brain health
  5. Turmeric – a strong antioxidant that protects your brain
  6. Phosphatidylserine – great for cognitive function
  7. Citicoline – a choline compound for mental acuity and memory

These are some of my favorite nootropics that many people use for optimal mental health. Check out my top-rated supplement list, where you will find the highest-quality premade supplements on the market.

But are there any other ways to improve mental acuity?

Biohack Your Brain

Here I share some advanced strategies that will increase mental health.

  1. Neurofeedback – needs to be done with an expert
  2. Photobiomodulation – using a special light that reduces inflammation, resets circadian rhythm, and enhances memory
  3. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation
  4. Brain Wave Entrainment – You can use an app called Brain.FM. Check my video review here >>
  5. N-Back training – an effective mind workout for speeding up information processing, focus, and memory

These are advanced biohacks that can give you an edge, but only after your basic lifestyle is in order. 

Verdict

If you care about the sharpness of the mind, then follow my recommendations. No matter your genetic predispositions or your age, there is a lot you can do to increase mental power. Many people rely on doctors and medicine too much, so don’t do this mistake.

Start by optimizing your sleep and diet, start working out, take some time off and start taking some crucial nutrients and supplements.

If you want to achieve more, consider some of the advanced biohacks that I mentioned.

All of the mentioned strategies and hacks will positively impact your mental acuity and leave you with a healthy, well-working mind.

What’s Your Brain Health Score?

Are you satisfied with your brain performance? How are your focus, memory, and brainpower? 

Check our quick brain assessment to find out your real brain health score. 

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Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !