Memory is at the center of everything we do. From routine daily tasks to the unique components that make up our individual personalities, humans constantly tap into their memory “banks.” For that reason, the idea of losing access to the important details of life through memory loss can be fear-provoking. Luckily, there are ways to proactively combat memory loss. Here are five steps to help improve memory.
Choose The Right Diet
When discussing how to improve memory, it is essential to think about brain health. The brain, though an organ, responds like a muscle in some ways. The right brain care can go a long way towards improving both strength and performance.
This starts with a healthy diet. Dietary research suggests that the foods we consume can impact cognitive functions such as memory. Certain foods have been linked to either harming or helping memory retention. Harmful foods include those high in saturated fats, the same “bad” fats known to raise cholesterol and create heart issues.
When it comes to diet, knowing what to avoid is important, but it can often be more helpful to focus on what you should eat. Foods that are known to have a positive impact on brain health and memory include those high in unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet is a great example of the types of food that can help improve memory. This diet consists of foods like olive oil, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains and keeps red meats to a minimum.
Partake In Physical Exercise
Physical exercise has benefits for all aspects of health including the brain.
In fact, there are several ways that exercise is connected to improved mental wellness. For one, as exercise strengthens the heart it strengthens the blood supply to the brain. More blood to the brain allows for better cognitive functioning. Additionally, exercise helps to literally change our brain. Exercise results in new connections in the brain, allowing for a smoother flow of information. Exercise also leads to the development of new cells, particularly in the region of the brain associated with memory.
Research indicates that all types of exercise can help improve brain health and therefore strengthen memory. It is important to note that while the type of exercise may not matter, the level of performance does. A high-intensity workout is what makes a difference in the creation of new connections and increases cell development in the brain. Therefore, the more intense the workout, the better for the brain.
Get good Sleep
Like diet and physical exercise, sleep can help improve memory. When it comes to sleep, both the quantity and the quality count. Research suggests that memory is affected by not only the number of hours of sleep but also by the quality of sleep that occurs during that time. Both oversleeping and undersleeping are linked to issues with memory loss. Research recommends obtaining 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. During a quality night’s sleep, the body is in a restful state, however, the brain is constantly working. Experiencing the different cycles of sleep is important for strengthening neural connections and memory storage in the brain.
Many people struggle with both quality or quantity of sleep and may require consultation with a doctor. However, several changes to daily routine may result in better sleep. Getting adequate exercise, as well as avoiding long naps during the day, can help improve sleep. Also, a healthy bedtime routine is important. This includes a regular bedtime, avoiding screen time before bed, and eliminating alcoholic beverages after dinner.
Practice Memory Tricks
Memory may be improved with the use of “memory tricks” known as mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices may be familiar as techniques for test taking, however, they are also applicable for aiding day-to-day memory recall. There are several different types of mnemonic devices.
One popular memory trick is creating acronyms with information. For example, using the first letter of each item on a grocery list to form a word. Say the list consists of salad, apples, ice cream, drinks, and yogurt. By taking the first letter of each item you can make the word “DAISY” can be created and give only one word to recall. “D. A. I. S. Y.” D- drinks, A- apples, I- ice cream, S-salad, and Y- yogurt.
Rhymes, chunking, and imagery are additional mnemonic devices used as memory tricks. The popular rhyme, “In fourteen ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” puts information together in a rhyming sentence to facilitate ease of recall. Our minds use rhyme to anchor information together – once you start the flow of words they rhyming information naturally falls out together. Chunking is a memory trick most often used for numbers. This is done when memorizing social security numbers and telephone numbers. It simply means to take a larger sum of information and break it down into “chunks.”
Lastly, imagery is the process of adding descriptive words to paint a picture along with the memory. Imagery is a mnemonic device often employed for name recall. Remembering the name of a new acquaintance, such as “Austin” could be difficult. However, by imagining a picture of Texas and thinking of the capital, Austin, recall of the name may become easier.
Try Something New
Learning something new may also improve your memory. In particular, engaging in new social activities is known to help improve brain wellness. High levels of stress can have a negative impact on the brain and studies suggest that social activity and having a support system of friends help reduce stress. Not only does it reduce stress, but the combination of social activity and new experiences helps generate new brain cells and improve memory.
Choosing a new activity that is challenging socially, physically and mentally can multiply the benefits. Being social and physically active while stimulating the brain simultaneously has the greatest impact on cognitive function. Learning to play a sport is an ideal example of such a trifecta activity. However, this can also be accomplished by going dancing or even take a gardening or woodworking class. Even if unable to partake in physical activities, just trying something new, in itself, can improve memory. Several other activities to try may include learning to play an instrument, painting, trying pottery, volunteering, or even traveling.
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Boost your memory by eating right – Harvard Health. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/boost-your-memory-by-eating-right
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). How to keep your brain healthy through exercise – Harvard Health. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-keep-your-brain-healthy-through-exercise
- Memory and Mnemonic Devices. (2016, July 17). Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/memory-and-mnemonic-devices/
- Sleep, Learning, and Memory. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2018, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory