14 Mar 5 Tips to Improve Your Memory
Can you remember where you put your glasses? Did you suddenly forget the name of your favorite actress? Or perhaps you suddenly, after walking out of the shopping mall, can’t remember where you parked your car and spent an hour walking around the parking lot to find it. Sure, everyone is forgetful from time to time, especially when you are stressed or too busy.
Memory problems are common, and it doesn’t only affect older adults. For example, in a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study, 22% of surveyed middle-aged adults reported memory complaints.
If you tend to forget things, you are not alone. Still, it can get frustrating, make you and people around you watching you struggle to find your car keys stressed, and affect your daily life, relationships, and work efficiency.
Even though there is no cure or even a guarantee that you can prevent memory loss or dementia in the future, and genes play a vital role in forming memory loss, choices you make in daily life are crucial too. These five tips below can help sharpen and improve your memory.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for all bodily processes and brain functions, including memory. Even if you don’t know much about the science of sleep and its importance for memory, you know the feeling of exhaustion that comes when you lack sleep. It makes you too drained to learn new things or even remember something you already know.
Imagine if you go to a job interview after a night out, and someone asks you a simple question, like “what was your biggest achievement at your previous job?” And suddenly, you zone out and can’t remember even a single achievement, although you know you accomplished quite a lot there.
As friendly advice, remember to get enough sleep before going to a job interview if you want to get that job. That’s because sleep deprivation impairs memory consolidation. It does so by throwing the normal process, which draws on both NREM and REM sleep for forming and retaining memories out of balance. In addition, studies suggest that people who lack sleep are even at risk of developing false memories.
Even though we know sleep is crucial for the healthy functioning of the brain, falling and staying asleep remains challenging for millions of Americans. CDC even declared sleep disorders a public health epidemic. If you lack sleep because of insomnia, read the article What to Do When You Can’t Sleep by Sleep Foundation.
Being physically active comes with various benefits (including better sleep); most importantly, exercise can improve your memory and thinking abilities.
Studies have shown that the parts of the brain in charge of controlling memory and thinking are larger in physically active people than in people who don’t exercise. Most importantly, including a regular moderate exercise in the daily routine from 6 to 12 months may increase the volume of these brain regions, says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Exercise can also indirectly improve memory by boosting mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting better sleep.
What’s the best exercise to improve memory? The truth is that even science doesn’t know. From brisk walking to aerobics, jogging, cardio workout, cycling, or anything that keeps your body moving can help improve your cognitive functioning and boost memory.
One might assume improving memory is all about training the body and mind and remembering more and more. However, if you are already feeling overwhelmed, the good news is that it’s not always the case.
Sometimes all you need is a good rest. Doing absolutely nothing is already something for your mental health and one of the ways to improve your memory. German psychologist Georg Elias Muller and his student Alfons Pilzecker were pioneers in unraveling the memory-boosting benefits of undisturbed rest in 1900. Since then, many researchers have returned to this finding to learn more about the impact of steady rest on improved memory. Regular rest without distraction could help learn new material, as shown in studies that recorded 10-30% improvements in students who rested.
Although it can be a good excuse to lay on a couch and scroll your social media feed, distractions like your smartphone can weaken your memory. Only an undisturbed rest can help boost your memory.
You are what you eat, and if you are refined carbs, processed meat, and sugary drinks, you probably don’t remember where your keys are.
Diet and nutrition can improve memory in numerous ways and negatively affect it. The biggest enemy of our memory, as it turns out, is saturated fat, which can raise blood levels of cholesterol.
A 2012 study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that women who consumed the most saturated fats from foods such as red meat and butter performed worse on memory and thinking tests than those who ate the lowest amounts of these fats.
A healthy diet for boosting your memory consists of fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, low-fat protein sources, and, of course, less saturated fat.
Train Your Brain
Physical activity isn’t the only contributor to improved memory, but brain exercises are equally important. For example, you can train your brain by learning a new skill, reading, doing puzzles, playing memory and brain games, or learning a new language.
One study investigated the effects of learning a new skill in adults 60 to 90 years of age and found that learning skills such as quilting or digital photography can improve memory.
Learning a new language will not only allow you to connect with more people and learn more about other cultures, but it’s also another excellent way to improve memory. A Swedish research team investigated the effects of learning a new language on volunteers who took a ten-month language course. They found that the group remembered new acquaintances’ names 28% better after taking the language course. In addition, the research indicated that studying a new language induced more growth in four key areas of the brain, directly related to memory.
And finally, brain and memory games, besides providing a fantastic way to spend spare time, can enhance cognitive function and improve your memory.