Take Care of Your Brain
Posted on 14 November 2013
Memorising lines and remembering routines is intense work. It surprises me that more comedians don’t have university degrees. Once you are capable of mentally retaining knowledge such as your own comedy writing, you are more than three quarters of the way to holding a BA, MA, or even PhD in your hot muggy mitt.
If comedy is important to you, you need to know how to care for your brain. I learned this from experience working on my own degrees and helping other students as a post-graduate supervisor.
Your brain is very much like a muscle.
Your brain sucks up nutrients at a high rate and at an even higher rate when you are exercising it in thought. If you find you start having a hard time remembering things, it could be because you’ve depleted your body’s supply of B vitamins.
For most people this is unlikely to occur, but for people in the arts—many of them are vegetarian or vegan and I’ve seen students struggling with memory problems from insufficient B vitamins more than once. I remember mentioning this to a student who then exclaimed, “That must be why I ate an entire loaf of bread the other day.” Red meat, fortified breakfast cereal, Brewer’s yeast, Vegemite are all good sources for B vitamins. Fish such as salmon or mackeral are particularly good, because they also have Omega 3: which builds gray matter and cell membranes.
If you over exercise a muscle, it stops benefiting from activity and starts to weaken instead. That muscle may even seize up. It is of course important to practise lines and go over routines. But if you work all day and practise all night, you may be overdoing it. You need time for your brain to relax and integrate what you have learned. Sleeping isn’t enough.
Spend even thirty minutes a day giving your brain a rest. In particular stay away from anything that has you thinking in words for a little while. Exercise, meditate, plant a flower, pat your cat, do yoga, take a walk in a park.
Physical exercise is particularly helpful because it oxygenates your brain, helping it to think faster and more efficiently. While you are exercising, make sure to get a little sunshine as well. Scientists are finding a strong correlation between appropriate levels of vitamin D and healthy brain functioning. Sunshine helps the body synthesize vitamin D. Sunshine also gets those happy hormones such as seratonin happening.
Finally, take the time to have fun. Having fun keeps your brain fresh, but it also provides you with new material and a vibrant attitude while you perform.
Peace and kindness,