Let Me Think

Photography by: Catherine Ledner
Let Me Think

Press ahead We do acupressure naturally when we have mental stress by instinctively rubbing our temples. When we gently hold our foreheads to clear our minds, we’re holding acupressure points that can help us with concentration. To stimulate memory quickly and clear the mind, find the “gall bladder 14” points, which are located on your forehead, over each eye, about one finger width above your eyebrows and in line with your pupils; you’ll feel a slight indentation there. With your right hand, use your thumb to lightly press the point above your right eye and your middle finger to lightly press the point above your left eye. With your other hand, reach around and stimulate the “gall bladder 20” points, which are also known as “the gates of consciousness.” They are just below the base of the skull on either side of the top of your neck, about two inches apart (you’ll feel a little hollow there). Use firm pressure on these points, pressing your thumb into the left side and your pointer or middle finger on the right side. When you stimulate the “gall bladder 14” and “gall bladder 20” points together, it creates a powerful environment for rejuvenating the mind. — MICHAEL REED GACH, PH.D., founder of the Acupressure Institute (acupressure.com) and author of Acupressure’s Potent Points (Bantam)

Handle your hormonal side If you’re feeling foggy-headed, depressed, irritable or indecisive, you may very well be suffering from a hormonal imbalance— especially if you’re in your 40s. Take action to regain your balance: The North American Menopause Society recently issued a position statement saying that the earlier you start with hormone replacement therapy, the more likely you’ll experience brain-boosting benefits, including protection against Alzheimer’s. Stick to bio-identical hormones for best results, and opt for creams or patches over pills. Bio-identical progesterone cream can help if you’re starting to feel like you just can’t juggle things the way you used to. Start with a dose of 50 milligrams to 100 milligrams every day, starting on day 15 of your menstrual cycle; increase the dose by 50 milligrams on day 15 of every cycle until your mood and focus improve. — ERIKA SCHWARTZ, M.D., founding director of the Bioidentical Hormone Initiative, Natural Health adviser and author of The Hormone Solution (Warner Books)

Listen carefully Hearing is incredibly important to brain function. If you do activities that require you to be a careful listener, you can gradually improve the accuracy of your speech-perception abilities and speed up your brain in general. To improve your hearing skills, turn the volume on the television down from your normal setting. Concentrate as you watch, and see if you can begin to hear just as clearly as you did before. This will help you focus on conversations so you can catch every word. — MICHAEL MERZENICH, PH.D., Frances A. Sooy professor of otolaryngology at the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco

Wake up your brain One of my favorite mind boosters is acetyl-L-carnitine. It’s a powerful antioxidant that has been found in animal studies to regenerate brain tissue. Acetyl-L-carnitine is the thing to take if you’re having trouble focusing on work, you just can’t get motivated or you’re not able to get through the day without feeling mentally tired. I recommend taking it in capsule form, anywhere between 200 milligrams to 500 milligrams on an empty stomach in the morning. Start with the smallest dose first. It’s great to take on an as-needed basis because most people feel the effects within a day. — RAY SAHELIAN, M.D., integrative physician and author of Mind Boosters (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Do it (yoga, that is) doggie style Downward-Facing Dog pose is a great way to freshen up your thinking. It puts your head lower than your heart, which helps bring oxygenated blood to your brain. I think of it as the great neutralizing pose—if you’re tired and foggy, it will pick you up; if you are overwrought and scattered, it will calm you and help you focus. To do the pose, start on your hands and knees, with knees just below your hips and hands out in front of your shoulders. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, lift your knees away from the floor and push your thighs back so that you form an inverted V shape. Keep your ears between your upper arms and spread your palms and soles widely on the floor. Hold the pose for a few minutes to get the full effect. When you’re done, bend your knees back down to the floor as you exhale, then rest for a few breaths. — RICHARD ROSEN, founder of the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, Calif., and author of The Yoga of Breath, Pranayama: Beyond the Fundamentals (both Shambhala) and Yoga for 50+ (Ulysses Press)