The 7 Needs of a Healthy Brain & Body – Looking After Your Brain Health when Studying

Maximising your study effectiveness and focus is all about optimising your brain health. If you are looking for greater clarity, improved memory and better concentration these also come down to looking after your brain health.

There are 7 fundamental needs of your body and brain to optimise your study smart effectiveness.


Breathing is perhaps the most important process to keep you alive. Medics say on average, you can only live 2 minutes without air before your brain health is diminished and 3 minutes before the body starts to die. Low, slow, deep breathing has been promoted not only for health but also to lower stress and anxiety. Recent research shows that breathing through your nose is more advantageous than mouth breathing. Scientists suggest nose breathing allows 18-20% more absorption of oxygen, aids in better digestion and can significantly reduce anxiety. The fresher, the cleaner the air you breathe, the better it is for your brain.


Water is essential for life. Your body requires large quantities of water to maintain your internal temperature balance and keep your cells alive. Most people can only live for three days without water. One of the ways water impacts your brain, and therefore your concentration and focus is by clearing the brain of any toxic chemicals which inhibit the brain from working at its best. Toxins are then excreted through urine and faeces. Co-founder of Max Fitness College, Rowena McEvoy, teaches, “drink more water until you have clear wees [urine]!’ Darker urine is mostly a sign of dehydration and maybe potentially dangerous waste products circulating in your system. Water aids in this clearing of toxins.
Drink fresh, clean water and avoid adding anything to it. Carry a water bottle with you, drink between meals and keep yourself (and your brain) hydrated every day.


Interestingly, your body’s third main need is sleep. This comes before food! If you have ever had disturbed sleep, night after night over a prolonged period, you will know the struggle to make decisions, think clearly or recall simple information. Teenagers are recommended to have 8-10 hours of sleep a night, while most adults can function well on 7.5 hours of sleep per night. If your schedule does not allow for this, many cultures routinely have ‘afternoon naps’ to allow their brain to rest and recharge. To get a great night’s sleep, it helps to have a darkened and cooler room, avoid eating 1-2 hours before bedtime and ensure there is no ‘blue’ light from screens and phones. Being exposed to blue light at night can stop your brain from producing melatonin which aids in the sleep process.


Your brain is approximately two per cent of your body weight and uses a staggering 20-30% of the food/calories/energy you consume.  The quality of the food you eat directly influences the quality of your brain health, impacting focus, memory, recall and concentration. The ideal intake for optimum brain health is to eat 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% high-quality proteins and 25% whole grains and fibre-rich carbohydrates. Avoid sugar as much as possible. Don’t believe the product advertising claims that it will give your brain a boost as a diet heavy in sugar has been shown to increase depression by 58% and to rewire brain pathways (not in a good way!).  Did you know manufacturers use at least 56 different names for sugar on their packaging?
Brain foods include berries, nuts, fish, broccoli, banana, whole grain bread, spinach and tomatoes. To boost your brain health, add an extra serving of fresh fruit and vegetables to each meal.


Keeping your body active assists with blood flow and getting this oxygenated blood to your brain for improved thinking and learning. The movement also activates the lymphatic system, which protects your body from illness-causing invaders, maintains body fluid levels, absorbs digestive tract fats and removes cellular waste. During your study time, plan for times to be physically active. You might use the iStudyAlarm app to take frequent breaks and use these breaks to jump rope, bounce on a trampoline, go for a walk in the fresh air or have a private dance party.


Vitamin D is important for strong bones and increasing intestinal absorption to gain maximum benefits for the good food you are eating.  Vitamin D is produced naturally when the sunlight is in direct contact with your skin and can be absorbed from food such as salmon, tuna, eel, eggs, milk products and liver. It is not stored in the body and therefore requires a daily top-up. The best way to do this is with 10-15 minutes of early morning sensible sun exposure. Supplementation may be an option in the wintertime to reduce SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Contact a health professional to see if this is right for you.

7.Non-energy Nutrients

Non-energy nutrients add essential components that support and promote overall well-being. They do not provide fuel in the form of calories or energy. These include vitamins, minerals and fibre. Overall, however, not exclusively, vitamins assist in the biochemical reactions related to the metabolic processes, while minerals support your skeletal structure. Fibre aids in digestion, ensuring you get the best from the high-nutrient food you are eating.

A well-balanced diet provides a range of vitamins and minerals you need each day.

If you have exams coming up, want your brain to be clear and focused and/or are looking to clear any brain fog to boost your memory and learning, it is important to take steps to look after your physical needs in order to boost your brain power.

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Published on Thursday, September 1st, 2022, under Health & Wellbeing, Study Skills

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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