Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
January 17, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Brain fog is a mental state that many people experience—it can be described as fuzzy thinking, and it often accompanies forgetfulness.

As we grow older, we experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in the brain that make us lose our focus or impair our learning ability. 

Brain fog can be frustrating, but relief is possible. Make sure that you do not ignore your symptoms—if left untreated, they could impact the quality of your life and lead to serious consequences.

Keep reading to see several ways you can try to clear brain fog instantly.

Symptoms of Brain Fog

It is not easy to define brain fog, as it is not an illness. It could be better to understand a foggy brain as a consequence of another medical condition. The following symptom group usually describes brain fog:

  • Easily confused
  • lack of mental clarity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • strong mental fatigue
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Slow thinking or processing information. 
  • Poor memory recall. 

Sometimes people refer to this phenomenon by calling it mental fatigue. Or they might refer to their medical state (e.g., mommy brain, fibro fog, and so on).

What causes this mental fatigue?

You’re in the middle of a conversation and suddenly you can’t think of what you wanted to say. You’ve misplaced your phone, car keys, or sunglasses – for the fifth time this week. You feel like you’re moving through your days in a fog. What is the root cause of this issue? You might be experiencing brain fog. Read on to find out.

There can be many causes for your brain fog. Below we define nine possible contributors

  1. Lack of sleep,
  2. a medical condition or stress that causes fatigue, like chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, other autoimmune diseases.
  3. mental health issues like anxiety and depression
  4. side effects from medication (e.g., chemo brain)
  5. Nutritional deficiencies 
  6. Toxins or heavy metals
  7. Hormonal changes (e.g., hypothyroidism, pregnancy, or menopause)
  8. Dehydration
  9. Abuse or misuse of drugs or alcohol.

The quickest way to get rid of your brain fog is by treating the underlying issue. You can support yourself in the meanwhile by choosing healthy lifestyle adaptations. Keep reading to know more.

13 Tips to Clear Brain Fog Instantly

Clearing up brain fog isn’t always easy. We can’t make any promises here. There are no quick fixes. Still, implementing these lifestyle changes can already make a big difference.

1. Hydrate

Water is essential for life. It makes up 60% of the human body. Water plays a critical role in all physiological processes, including brain function. Even mild dehydration can cause impairments in cognitive performance and mood.

So, it’s important to make sure you’re well hydrated. Water has many other health benefits. An easy hack to drink more is keeping a bottle around, or drinking a tall glass first thing in the morning. Other benefits could be: 

  1. clear skin
  2. more energy
  3. weight loss 
  4. hydration. 

2. Pay attention to breathing

Chronic stress can be the main cause of your mental fatigue. Paying attention to your breathing can reduce stress levels.

Research on deep controlled breathing shows potential in reducing cortisol in our bodies. High cortisol levels are associated with feeling stressed, or anxious. Other potential positive effects are:

  • enhancement of emotions,
  • better management of anxiety or depression symptoms,
  • and an increase in attention/focus.

3. Take a break

It can be so hard to take a break. Especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. But taking regular breaks is essential for our mental and physical health.

Brain fog might be your central nervous system signaling to slow down, or to take a break. Your brain might be tired after concentrating for a long time.

If your brainpower slows down, maybe it is time for that break. Your brain might have no cognitive load left to focus on any other task. Step away from the desk and take time to reduce stress and recharge your mental battery. 

4. Stop eating processed foods

It’s no secret that eating healthy is important. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. Poor diet or nutritional deficiencies can cause brain fog. These deficiencies can also be caused by issues with the digestive system.

Eating a Mediterranean diet can promote physical and brain health. This diet is full of plant-based foods and omega-three fatty acids (healthy fats). Mediterraneans usually prefer unprocessed foods within a complete diet.

5. Explore nature

Walking or exploring in nature can be a great booster. It is shown to improve brain function and mental health. Most people with anxiety and ruminating thoughts seem to profit from getting some fresh air. It can also help us see life more positively. 

Researchers concluded that a walk in nature should also be used as a low-level intervention for those with depression.

On a cognitive level nature could improve memory, more specifically working memory. This cognitive function saves information for direct use in a thinking task. An example is adding 2 to 5, and subtracting 3. Your brain needs to remember these little numbers. It processes the first task, remembers the first result before it subtracts three from it. 

6. Focus on what flows

Focus won’t always come easy, and surely not when you experience brain fog. Still, researchers noticed the feeling or concept in which concentration just “flows”. People feel high mental clarity and optimal brain functions when in flow.

People in flow use their strengths and interests to stay in a high state of concentration. It feels and looks like it comes naturally. That might mean that choosing a book in your specialized topic gives you renewed energy.

A chess player might be in flow in a game. A professional swimmer will have no issue focusing on swimming a lap. The scientist Michael Csikszentmihaly explains more on how you can find what flows for you, and how that concept works.

7. Reduce your stress

As mentioned above, stress could be a big culprit of your brain fog. It is important to recognize where this stress is coming from. What are the triggers? When do you feel this stress? Where in your body do you feel this stress? And more importantly, what are you thinking when this happens to you?

Some people ruminate constantly, thoughts go through their head without a stop. You might be panicking about everything you still have to do that day, month, or year. In general, these thoughts don’t serve us. 

A therapist can teach you coping skills to manage your stress and your triggers. They can also help you with formulating your boundaries so you don’t take on more stress than needed. Other things you can already try at home are practicing 

  • your breathing,
  • some mindfulness techniques, 
  • or focusing on self-care. 

8. Develop positive thinking

Research shows that thinking positively can make you feel more positive. They recommend focusing on implementing a daily routine.

In the evening, you should focus on 5 positive things that happened that day. Your mindset can slowly retrain from a depressive point of view to a more resilient thinking viewpoint. You might be able to see the positive consequences of negative actions.

These same researchers also recommend implementing a gratitude practice. While these practices might not be directly linked to feeling foggy, they are associated with mental health. Mental illnesses can be causes of brain fog. 

9. Improve your sleep

Lack of sleep or sleep disorders can negatively impact brain fog. Our sleep habits play an essential role in recharging our body and cognitive function. Some of us just don’t sleep enough. That might be because they go to sleep too late, or because their thoughts keep them up all night.

Other people don’t have an established sleep routine. The following sleep hygiene rules are made to get you optimal sleep:

  • Sleep about 8 hours per night
  • Sleep in a dark space, and don’t fall asleep in front of your tv, tablet, or computer
  • Avoid getting your body activated before sleeping
    • No caffeine, exercise, or dinner right before bedtime 

10. Get regular exercise

Stressful situations and mental health symptoms can cause brain fog or a lack of mental clarity. Regular exercise is usually one of the first interventions that doctors recommend to get you out of the rut. Physical activity can release endorphins. It lowers stress hormones, and in this way contributes to your brain function. 

Some say it gets the blood and oxygen flowing. Research shows that is surely the case in the brain. 

Physical activity has more benefits than just supporting and protecting your brain. Regular and moderate exercise can provide you control over your weight, help your immune system and provide you with more energy.

11. Play some brain games

If you’ve been suffering from brain fog for a while, brain training can help you retake power over your brain function. Research shows that brain training games can help your working memory. As we covered above, this memory system is the temporary place in which we save information to use or process with other cognitive functions. 

Also, researchers believe it might support fluid intelligence. It might also provide you with more control over your attention. For people with ADHD or associated conditions, this seems like good news. 

Some great examples of training your brain functions could include sudokus, crosswords, and more. Other ways to keep the brain activity could be watching the news, reading a book, or learning a new language. The whole objective is to stay active and flex those deep thinking muscles.

12. Avoid alcohol, smoking, and coffee

Brain fog could be caused by a lack of hydration. While drinking enough water could improve your hydration levels. It might also be useful to reduce your alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine intake.

In general, these products aren’t recommended for consumption for adolescents or those who still have a developing brain. These products can negatively affect the maturing of the brain.

Let’s take a deeper look at these substances and their effect on brain fog, or brain functions: 

Alcohol is known to cause short-term and long-term memory loss. After a night of drinking people sometimes experience a black-out. There is nothing left in the brain from the night before. Sometimes you could cut and paste some parts, however, this is a classic example of how alcohol damages the brain.

Long-term alcohol can also have a damaging effect on our nerve cells and our memory.  In the worst-case scenario abuse of alcohol can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This syndrome is a deteriorating type of dementia. This mental decline might also be associated with vitamin deficiencies.

Alcohol breaks down the B-1 vitamin (thiamine). This vitamin is essential for proper energy distribution in the nerve cells and brain.

Nicotine for the developing brain is not the best choice. Not only could it prime for addiction. It also harms the logical or prefrontal brain

Lastly, one of the most used substances in the world, caffeine should be taken in moderation. Moderation would mean a maximum of 4 cups of coffee per day (or 400 mg). This stimulant can have an effect on your sleep and stress levels. If you drink your coffee too late, it might impede your sleep. 

If you are going to reduce your intake, it is recommended to go slowly. You might notice more brain fog after quitting coffee, nicotine, or another drug. These are probably due to the reduction of your substance. They might be temporary withdrawal effects. 

13. Find enjoyable activities

Finding a hobby can help you increase your energy levels. Further, it might also decrease your stress levels. It can improve your physical and mental health. You might also meet like-minded people and extend your social circle. Positive social relationships can decrease these tense feelings and a negative mood. 

Concluding Thoughts

Clearing brain fog instantly is not easy. The usual recommendations focus on lifestyle changes to treat mental fatigue. This is usually a big project of searching for the cause of your brain fog and adapting your habits. 

If you want to learn more about how to clear brain fog, visit our blog. There are plenty of articles and tips on the topic. These might help you get started clearing your mind for good!

In addition, we have created an online community where members can share their own experiences with others. We hope to see you there soon. Let’s work together in bringing back great health and wellness into people’s lives.

Join The Mental Health Community You've Been Dreaming Of

This discord family is a safe place where we can all (anonymously if we choose) talk about and seek help for what is going on in our heads.

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