Improve Your Memory With These 10 Tips And Tricks You Won't Be Likely To Forget
It kind of feels like, as we age, our minds and memories just don't quite work like they used to. But is that really the case, or are there ways to improve memory? While age can have an effect on some brain functionality, certain aspects of brain function and memory capability are not necessarily linked to getting older. Lifestyle choices and whether or not we implement memory-assisting techniques in our day-to-day lives can affect the overall health of our brains and our ability to remember both new and old information.
All of that information we used to be (or maybe still are being) hounded about by family and friends about regarding how healthily we should be eating, how much exercise we should be getting, and how many hours we should be sleeping was (whether or not they knew it) not just about physical health but also mental health. Our brains rely on that kind of nurture just as much as our bodies do. So if you've ever thought your memory could be better than it is, perhaps making some lifestyle changes will help. Of course there are also certain tricks you can use to better train your memory in addition to making sure your brain is in tip-top shape. So if you're ready to improve your memory, here are some general lifestyle tips and specific tricks to get you started.
1. Balance Your Diet
The types of foods you eat and the quantities in which you consume them can affect your brain power. To improve your overall brain function, including memory, steer toward a diet rich in essential fatty acids, fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, and whole grains. These will help protect your brain cells from being damaged by free radicals and even stimulate the production of new brain cells. You'll also want to avoid foods with higher levels of saturated fat and processed sugars, as these types of foods can actually increase risk of dementia and hinder memory and concentration. Here are a few foods to try, but for a more extensive list, the same foods that are good for having healthier hair and nails are also good for having a healthier brain!
- For omega-3 fatty acids, try foods like salmon, tuna, sardines, spinach, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
- For fruits and vegetables, try especially colorful ones like broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, and mangoes.
- For antioxidants (in addition to those from fruits and vegetables), try drinking green tea or red wine (in moderation).
2. Get Enough Exercise
Your brain can be developed in a similar manner to your muscles. That is, exercise can help it grow. When you exercise, nerve cells are affected in a couple of ways. The first is that they are stimulated to multiply, which in turn strengthens their interconnections and protects them from potential damage. The second is that they release proteins that can trigger "other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning." Additionally, proper exercising can reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease which can lead to memory loss. Instead, it will keep memory function in tip-top shape.
Try to incorporate different types of exercise into your schedule, including but not limited to:
- Cardio (running, biking, swimming, etc.)
- High-Intensity Interval Training
- Strength Training
3. Get Enough Sleep
There's a reason your professors always told you to get a good night's sleep before an exam. Having an ample amount of sleep (read: six to eight hours) can help your brain and memory function in a couple of ways. The first is that sleep (especially deeper stages) can strengthen memories and new information because your brain goes through a sort of review process during this time. The second is that your brain is able to forge connections while you sleep, helping you to not only remember certain information but also related information, and therefore more information.
4. Don't Try To Multitask
As it turns out, the brain doesn't actually multitask. Instead, it switches focus from one thing to the other, which is why it is difficult to read a book and hold a conversation at the same time. If you're not trying to perform two tasks simultaneously, you can apply more time and focus to one thing at a time, and therefore better remember what it is you're doing or learning. Because it takes about eight seconds of direct and unadulterated focus to process and apply a piece of information to your memory, try to clear your mind before attempting to retain a piece of information. If you allow yourself time to focus, you'll have an easier time recalling what you need.
5. Balance Your Stress
Chronic stress, depression, and anxiety can all lead to reduced memory function and even the destruction of brain cells if left untreated for too long. A couple of things you can do to counteract these effects to laugh and meditate when possible. Laughter engages multiple regions of the brain while simultaneously reducing stress, which both add to the health of your brain. Meditation stimulates positive brain activity and can reduce feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Regular meditation can even work to produce more brain-cell connections which can increase memory capabilities.
6. Play Brain Games & Learn New Things
Especially as you become older, if you don't challenge your brain with different information, you could lose cognitive abilities that you previously had. This is because there are pathways forged in your brain for different types of problems and tasks. However, if you don't try to solve certain types of problems or tackle certain types of tasks, you either won't develop corresponding pathways, or if you already have those pathways, they will begin to deteriorate.
Try games like Simon, Sudoku, Memory Match, or even crossword puzzles and math quizzes. And if you want to learn something new, how about a new language, a new instrument, or an activity such as knitting? Whatever you choose though, make sure it's not only new to you but also enjoyable.
7. Use Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are tools you can implement to help remember information. There are a few different types.
- Acronyms: Make a word that is made up of the first letter of each thing you need to remember. For example, "HOMES" is an acronym for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Eerie, Superior).
- Acrostics: Similar to acronyms, make a sentence where the first letter of each word corresponds to the thing you need to remember. For example, "Mary's Violet Eyes Made John Stay Up Nights Praying" is an acrostic for the order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto when it was still a planet).
- Chunking: Chunking is what we all already use to remember telephone numbers. Instead of just remembering seven to 10 numbers, we break them up into two or three sets of numbers. This makes the entire sequence easier to remember.
- Memory Palace: Step one of making a memory palace is to associate a visual image with each thing you want to remember. The more vivid or shocking you can make the image, generally the easier it is to remember. You can stop here if having the visuals is beneficial enough. But if you want to remember a particular order, say the order of a shuffled deck of cards, you can place these images on a path that you might travel in your mind's eye. This way, you can better remember each thing as you pass it.
- Rhymes: Create a brief rhyme to more easily remember a set of information such as the ever-popular rhyme to help avoid a hangover: "Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, in the clear."
8. Use Multiple Senses
Another trick to help remember certain things is to incorporate multiple senses into the memory. While it can be helpful to remember how something felt, sounded, or even tasted in addition to how it looked, the strongest sensation related to memory is smell. This is why you might have a flooding of memories or emotions when you're reintroduced to a perfume you used to wear in high school, for example.
9. Make It Relatable
You'll also be able to better remember information if you can relate it to something you already know. If you have trouble remembering new birthdays, for example, relate the new dates to dates you already know such as family birthdays, holidays, or important events such as anniversaries.
10. Write It Down
Physically writing down new information can help reinforce it in your mind. If you keep a day planner and write down appointments and to-dos, chances are you'll better remember those things without actually having to reference your agenda.