Six Natural Ways to Boost Concentration & Improve Focus

An unfortunate truth about getting older is that cognitive function and memory begins to wane. It’s a difficult transition to grapple with because in many ways your memory holds the essence of who you are.

Then, there’s the practical side of memory, things like remembering where you left your car keys, what happened in your book’s last chapter, or worse, who your family members are. Neurological diseases can have a debilitating impact on the practical side of memory, along with your overall health and wellness, so it’s important to keep the brain healthy and properly fueled throughout life.

The good news is that there are proven natural ways to improve your memory, concentration, and focus. If you’re keen to keep your mind sharp as a tack, keep reading.

Physical Exercise

The importance of exercise for overall health, cognitive function, and well-being cannot be overstated. It’s absolutely essential for your body and mind.

Countless studies have shown that regular exercise improves cognitive function and working memory. Moreover, a study by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus –– the part of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Experts say to shoot for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, so get outside and move!

Meditation

Many people meditate to relieve stress, calm the mind, and find peace in their daily lives, but the effects of meditation are far-reaching. It’s a powerful practice that can have a positive impact on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. And the best part is, you don’t need to become a monk to reap the benefits. In fact, just 10 minutes per day will improve your concentration and working memory.

Wondering how to meditate? You can start by just sitting comfortably in a quiet space and following your breath for ten minutes. Every time your thoughts drift away from your breath –- and you notice –– gently bring it back into your awareness.

You could also try using mindfulness apps like Headspace or Waking Up if you’d prefer a guided approach.

Prioritize Your Sleep

Research has shown that sleep is essential for memory, learning, and cognitive function. There is a TON of processing going on in the brain while you’re asleep every night, so losing sleep is a surefire way to limit the capabilities of your brain.

While we sleep, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and memories are processed and solidified into long-term storage.

Getting seven to eight hours of sleep has shown to be most effective for memory recall, information processing, and overall cognitive function. So make sleep a priority and keep your mind optimized!

Exercise Your Brain

If you don’t use it, you lose it. Just like exercise keeps the body strong, mental exercise works wonders for cognitive ability. This exercise can come in the form of puzzles, games, learning a musical instrument, learning a new language, creative endeavors –– anything that stimulates your mind to solve a problem or explore uncharted territory.

Exercising your brain will keep your neurons firing and keep you in peak mental condition.

Spend Time in Nature

Nature has a powerful way of resetting our minds and reinvigorating our concentration. So if you can, try to get outside for at least 15-20 minutes each day, preferably in a park with a lot of plant life around.

Interestingly, a 2014 study showed that enriching office space with plants led to improved outcomes in concentration and cognitive performance. In that case, simply adding a few plants to your home or office space can be all it takes to improve your cognitive function.

Include Brain-Stimulating Foods in Your Diet

The food you eat plays an important role in the health and function of your brain. Eating a diet rich in brain-boosting foods will work wonders for your brain health and cognitive performance.

Here are a few foods that you should consider adding to your diet:

Omega-3’s

These healthy fats are essential for learning and memory and they’re abundant in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines.

Blueberries

Along with reducing inflammation and other health benefits, studies have shown that blueberries improve memory function in older adults.

Pumpkin Seeds

These are rich in magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper –– all important compounds for neurological health and brain function.

Another way to get these brain-stimulating minerals into your diet is with a robust supplement focused on cognitive performance. Our Focus Performance blend features Lion’s Mane, which is a powerful functional mushroom that’s proven to improve cognitive function, focus, and memory. It also contains Cordyceps, a functional mushroom that’s great for energy and focus, along with Ashwagandha and Ginkgo Biloba to provide you with a balanced cognitive boost whenever you need it.

Check out Focus Performance in our shop today and see what’s possible!

References:

Harvard Medical School, Regular Exercise Changes the Brain to Improve Memory, Thinking Skills
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing, Biological and Psychological Benefits.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.
National Library of Medicine, The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments.
The Conversation, Mindfulness Meditation, Ten Minutes a Day Improves Cognitive Function

Five Benefits of the Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps has a long and rich history as a functional mushroom. It’s native to the high mountains of China and Tibet and has been a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as a tonic to improve energy, organ function, and vitality.

In fact, Cordyceps was so highly valued in ancient history that it was reserved for royal families. It remains in high demand to this day for its exceptional health benefits and rarity in nature.

When it comes to functional mushrooms, Cordyceps is one of the most interesting species out there and deserves its place as a staple in modern health supplements.

Here are some of the most prominent health benefits of Cordyceps:

Increased Energy and Performance

One of the most prominent and well-researched effects of Cordyceps is its ability to increase energy levels and improve athletic performance. The compound in Cordyceps that’s responsible for this is called Cordycepin. It has a notable effect on the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and the body’s ability to produce ATP – an organic compound that provides energy to many of the processes within cells. Studies have shown a nearly 50% increase in cellular energy levels after supplementing with Cordycepin.

Notably, in the 1993 Olympics, many Chinese runners shattered world records after supplementing with Cordyceps! Whether or not you’re looking to smash any world records, Cordyceps can certainly help you improve your energy levels and physical performance whenever you need it.

Our Energy Performance blend is the perfect way to give yourself a reliable stream of natural energy that lasts through your toughest days. It’s formulated to ramp your body up for optimal performance whenever you need it. Give it a try today and see what’s possible!

Improved Heart Health

Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 650,000 people dying from it every year. So, taking preventative measures to strengthen your cardiovascular system is essential for your long-term health.

Cordyceps has shown to benefit the heart in a myriad of ways. One of those is by helping lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which contributes to a healthier cardiovascular system. In addition, the abundance of antioxidants and beneficial compounds in Cordyceps provide additional support for heart health and function.

Anti-Cancer Properties

The compound Cordycepin has shown a remarkable ability to attack tumors and abnormal cell growths in the body. A recent lab test showed that Cordycepin applied to tumors resulted in them shrinking in size. It’s currently hypothesized that supplementing with Cordyceps could help the body prevent certain cancers from even starting to form in the first place. Cordycepin works on cancer cells by disrupting their ability to create the vital proteins they need to survive, leading to cancer cell death.

More research on Cordyceps anti-cancer properties is needed, but supplementing with this potent functional mushroom can provide additional peace of mind in your everyday life.

Boosting Immune Function

Cordyceps contains an array of beneficial amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and polysaccharides that improve the body’s natural defense system. It also provides powerful anti-fungal, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties.

With respect to the immune system, Cordyceps helps stimulate the production of NK cells (aka Natural Killer cells), which are an integral part of the immune system’s defense against pathogens, infection, and illness. Improved immune function will benefit you whenever you cross paths with harmful invaders in the body, helping you live a long and healthy life.

Improved Liver and Kidney Function

Cordyceps is commonly used to treat kidney disease in Asian countries by helping to protect the kidneys from oxidative stress, inflammation, and improving kidney function. A 2014 study found that Cordyceps achieved this by regulating the levels of metabolites that become imbalanced from chronic kidney disease (CKD), improving liver and kidney function in the process.

In addition, Cordyceps has been shown to stimulate the liver and support detoxification processes within the body.

References:

Earth Pulse, Ancient Cordyceps in the Modern World
HCP Now, Cordyceps Boosts Energy Naturally
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Lipid-lowering effect of cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) from Cordyceps militaris on hyperlipidemic hamsters and rats
National Center for Biotechnology, Anti-tumor and anti-metastatic roles of cordycepin, one bioactive compound of Cordyceps militaris
Research Gate, Cordyceps Militaris Enhances Cell-Mediated Immunity in Healthy Korean Men
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cordyceps sinensis protects against liver and heart injuries in a rat model of chronic kidney disease: a metabolomic analysis

Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System

The immune system is your body’s natural defense against pathogens, viruses, and bacteria, so it’s important that you keep it functioning at its best. Immune function is based on many different lifestyle factors including age, sex, genetics, and stress levels. The good news is that there are proven ways to improve your immune system and keep yourself protected at all times.

Get Out and Exercise!

Exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. So, it should come as no surprise that regular, moderate exercise would improve immune function. The data says it all –– there is a clear inverse relationship between moderate exercise training and illness risk.

How much exercise do you need? Experts suggest that people should aim for a goal of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. This includes activities like running, cycling, hiking, and walking.

Prioritize Your Sleep (Quality and Quantity).

We spend a third of our lives in bed, yet so many people neglect the importance of high-quality sleep. Getting into a regular sleep routine will work wonders for your overall health and quality of life. But it also keeps your immune system optimized to perform.

Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to illnesses, viruses, and disease throughout their lives.

A couple of ways to improve your sleep quality are:

Go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day. This helps to align your body with your natural circadian rhythm. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Less than seven hours has shown to have a detrimental effect on immune function, energy, and memory.

If you struggle with falling asleep –– or maintaining a restful sleep through the night –– our Chill Out blend is the perfect way to wind down and the end of the day and get your body primed for relaxation. It contains powerful ingredients like Reishi, Chamomile Extract, and Valerian root which have all been proven to relieve stress, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality.

Stay Hydrated.

We’re made of 60% water, so it’s no surprise that adequate water intake is necessary to keep the body functioning optimally. Among the many functions of water in the body is carrying oxygen to the cells in the body, which keeps everything operating at its best.

Water also works to flush toxins out of the body. You use water to wash your hands and shower every day, but we don’t often think of the internal cleansing that’s happening when you drink enough. Drinking enough water keeps bacteria and toxins from building up in your body.

So, how much water should you drink? According to The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, adult men should drink 3.7 liters per day and adult women should drink 2.7 liters per day.

Add Functional Mushrooms to Your Routine.

If there’s one thing functional mushrooms are great at, it’s boosting immune function. Here are a couple of powerful options to ramp up your immune function and keep yourself protected:

Reishi

Known as the Queen of Mushrooms or Mushroom of Immortality, Reishi is a powerful adaptogen with a rich antioxidant profile to enhance immune function. It’s renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to stimulate white blood cell production, which are the foot soldiers of your immune system.

Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail has a long, valued history and is one of the most researched functional mushrooms for its immune-boosting properties, anti-cancer potential, and support for a healthy gut microbiome. It contains an abundance of antioxidants, phenols, and polysaccharide peptide –– all of which contribute to a healthy, strong immune system.

You can find Reishi and Turkey Tail mushrooms in our Protect + Defend, Chill Out, and Mike’s Mushroom Mix blends.

References:

Science Direct, “The Compelling Link Between Physical Activity and the Body’s Defense System.
Harvard Medical Publication, Get Sleep.
Mayo Clinic, Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Functional Mushrooms: A Brief Overview

When people talk about functional mushrooms, they’re not talking about your typical grocery store varieties like Portobello, Button, or Cremini. You can save those for your omelet.

Alongside oat milk and Peloton, functional mushrooms have become one of the latest health trends, known as superfoods –– and for good reason. Functional mushrooms have powerful health benefits and have been utilized in medicine for thousands of years. And we’ve only just scratched the surface of their immense potential to improve our lives.

What are Functional Mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms are a specific subclass of mushrooms that have shown –– through clinical testing and anecdotal evidence –– to improve health, wellness, and vitality. Many of these mushrooms have a rich history which, in some cases, dates back nearly 5,000 years. Due to their powerful properties, functional mushrooms have been the cornerstone of countless medicinal lineages.

What makes functional mushrooms unique to other mushrooms is that they’re absolutely packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and have been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions and illnesses throughout history. Western medicine is now beginning to catch up to the ancestral knowledge that indigenous cultures around the world have utilized for generations upon generations.

What are Some of the Health Benefits of Functional Mushrooms?

The health benefits of functional mushrooms are potent and wide-ranging. To date, clinical studies have been done on a host of different mushrooms including Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Turkey Tail. While more human trials are necessary, preliminary trials with functional mushrooms have shown a lot of promise for regenerating nerve cells, improving immune function, increasing energy levels, and even fighting certain forms of cancer. These benefits span across the health spectrum because functional mushrooms contain high amounts of beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and compounds like polysaccharides, antioxidants, and polyphenols that have a positive impact across the body’s systems.

For example, a 2011 study from the University of Florida showed that eating just one shiitake mushroom per day for a month reduced inflammation and boosted immune function. Talk about nutrient-dense!

Over 35,000 species of mushrooms have shown to have some medicinal benefit. As far as clinical research is concerned, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential of mushrooms to improve the function of our body and mind. It’s a rich and exciting research path that is now getting the traction it deserves.

But What About Magic(al) Mushrooms?

Psilocybin –– the psychoactive component of psychedelic mushrooms –– is back on researchers’ radar after showing a lot of promise as an effective treatment for depression and end-of-life care. However, don’t confuse functional mushrooms with their magical cousins! Functional mushrooms are NOT psychoactive.

Unlike psychedelic mushrooms, you can think of functional mushrooms as one of nature’s superfoods, boasting an abundance of nutrients that can have a positive impact on nearly every system in your body.

What are the Best Ways to Take Functional Mushrooms?

There are a number of ways to incorporate functional mushrooms into your day-to-day life. Due to difficulties with sourcing, their inedible nature, and the need for extraction, supplements are a great way to reap the benefits every day. Just make sure that you’re buying high-quality supplements that utilize a safe method of extraction (such as water) from a reputable supplier like Spore!

Supplements typically come in powders, capsules, or extracts –– all super easy ways to fit them into your diet. Some functional mushrooms, like Shiitake, can be found fresh in supermarkets, so be on the lookout! These are great to add into a stir-fry, soup, or a breakfast burrito.

Wrapping Up

If you don’t know, now you know! Functional mushrooms have the potential to transform our understanding of human health, wellness, and longevity. As science continues to show what’s possible, we’ll continue to share it with you!

Until then, we’ll keep making it easy for you to incorporate their benefits into your daily life. You can click here to check out our innovative blends!

References:

National Center for Biotechnology Information, Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycella Enriched with Erinacines
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Antiinflammatory and Immunomodulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Altifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology
Science Daily, Mushrooms Boost Immunity, Suggests Research
Ecowatch, 5 Medicinal Mushrooms
MAPS, John Hopkins Study of Psilocybin in Cancer Patients

How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

Sleep is essential if you want to live a healthy and balanced life. Yet in the Western world, people seem to glorify avoiding sleep as a badge of honor representing their growth, work, or otherwise.

There are tons of reasons why your sleep schedule can get off track, including traveling across time zones, staying up late, excess caffeine, or watching too much Netflix before bed. But what it all comes down to is that your internal body clock –– AKA your circadian rhythm –– is out of whack.

This isn’t something to take lightly. Circadian rhythm issues and poor sleep quality are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular, metabolic and cognitive diseases, poor quality of life, and mortality.

That said, there are proven ways to get yourself back on track and enjoy deep, rejuvenating sleep every night.

Avoid Blue Light Exposure Before Bed

The light emitted from cellphones, tablets, TV screens, or computers is considered ‘blue light’ and interrupts your body’s natural production of melatonin at night –– an essential hormone for regulating the physiological sleep cycle. Looking at screens before bed decreases your body’s natural production of melatonin. As a result, your circadian rhythm gets disrupted, making it harder to fall asleep and reducing overall sleep quality.

You could join the latest trendy health fad of wearing red-tinted glasses (they’re called ‘blue-light blockers) around your house at night or you could aim to avoid all blue-light emitting screens and bright lights at least one hour before bedtime. Dimming lights around your house will also help stimulate your body to produce more melatonin and get you drifting off to sleep with ease.

Set a Specific Wake-Up Time

An irregular schedule is a surefire way to disrupt your sleep schedule. The body is designed to function best in a consistent routine. The best way to get started with this is to pick a wake-up time that you can manage every day and stick to it.

It’s important to keep up with your wake-up time even on weekends or after late nights out. The more consistent you are with your wake-up time, the easier it is for your body to settle into a healthy sleep routine.

Prioritize Sleep in Your Daily Routine

Preparing your body for high-quality sleep starts from the moment you wake up and continues throughout the day. Your lifestyle can play a major role in your sleep schedule and quality.

One thing to focus on is to expose yourself to natural light throughout the day. Getting a healthy dose of sunlight in the morning can work wonders for regulating your circadian rhythm because it signals to your body that it’s time to wake up.

Also, be sure to keep moving! Along with a number of other health benefits, regular movement and exercise have shown to improve deep sleep quality. However, don’t exercise too late in the day or your body won’t have enough time to cool down before bedtime!

Watch What You Eat (and When You Eat It)

Certain eating habits are notorious for disrupting sleep. The biggest culprits are late-night snacking, caffeine, and alcohol. Eating late at night makes it harder to fall asleep because your body still has to digest that food! It sends the signal that you want to stay awake, not start winding down for bed.

Caffeine is a common afternoon pick-me-up, but you should avoid all caffeinated beverages after 12:00pm to keep your sleep schedule on track. It takes several hours for the body to process caffeine and it’s notorious for disrupting the release of melatonin at night.

Last but not least, alcohol is a severe disruptor of sleep quality. Still, as much as 20% of Americans rely on alcohol to fall asleep every night! While it might make you fall asleep quickly, it does not contribute to healthy, restful sleep. Alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm, blocks beneficial REM sleep, and makes you wake up more frequently through the night.

Try a Natural Sleep Supplement

If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your sleep quality, supplementation can be a great approach. Taking a dose of melatonin before bed can alert your body that it’s time to start winding down for the day to prepare for sleep.

A natural way to get a similar effect is through a functional mushroom supplement or natural herbs. At Spore, we’ve combined Reishi –– a functional mushroom with a potent calming, anti-stress effect –– and natural sleep-inducing herbs like Chamomile, Valerian Root, and Lemon Balm to help you relax and unwind at the end of the day. Head over to our online shop and pick up our Chill Out blend to give it a try!

Wrapping Up

Optimizing your sleep is essential for your overall health and wellness. We spend a third of our lives in bed, so if your circadian rhythm isn’t aligned, it’s only going to lead to problems down the line. Focus on your sleep now and you’ll set yourself up to live your best life for decades to come.

References:

National Center for Biotechnology Information, New Perspectives on the Role of Melatonin in Human Sleep, Circadian Rhythms and Their Regulation
SleepFoundation.org, How Blue Light Affects Kids & Sleep
John Hopkins Medicine, Exercising For Better Sleep
SleepFoundation.org, Alcohol and Sleep