17 Tips for Improving Your Memory
Do you have a good memory or a bad one?
How good is good and how bad is bad?
If you occasionally forget where you parked your car because you were in a hurry to get to the office, then your memory loss may be normal. As long as it is not happening often.
But if you forget the names of close friends you have related with for years, then you have a bad memory. If you just met someone but after a few minutes can’t remember their name, you have poor memory.
In the context of meeting new people, the more they are the more difficult it is to remember their names. Also, if you were not very attentive or got distracted, you may not remember the names you were told. This is normal.
What differentiates the degree of memory loss is the frequency of the experience and how soon you forget after doing something.
It is very normal to forget something you did a long time ago. But if you just did it a few minutes ago and cannot remember it, then something is wrong. Don’t be discouraged though. We are here to help you with that.
As bad a condition as memory loss is, the situation is actually quite redeemable. Things can get better if you put some effort. A few changes here and there and you will be back on track remembering all the important things.
This articles is however not just for those suffering from memory loss. If you have good memory, you can make it better. There will be more to celebrate with an improving memory.
It is also necessary to remind you that none of us is growing younger. And with every passing year, month, day, hour and even second, you are growing older. That means your memory is deteriorating. You cannot stop this but you can at least reduce the rate of your memory decline.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR MEMORY
Just as you can get healthier due a better lifestyle—diet, exercises etc—so can you become better at remembering things. And if you are diligent, your peers will seem to be aging faster than you. So how do you improve your memory?
Let’s dive straight into it.
1. Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol is not all poison but if not taken in moderation, it becomes poisonous. The euphoric feeling you get after taking alcohol is a result of the drink crossing the blood-brain barrier and causing the release of “feel-good” chemicals.
As good as alcohol makes you feel, it also causes addiction and this is where your memory suffers. Before you say that you’re not addicted, consider what is defined as safe drinking levels.
According to dietary guidelines 2015-2020, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Just to be sure, one drink is described as containing 14 g (0.6 fl oz) of pure alcohol.
Problems arise when you indulge in high-risk drinking. This is defined as taking 4 drinks or more per day or 8 drinks per week for women and 5 drinks or more per day or 15 drinks per week for men. It therefore goes without saying that if you’re the so-called party animal, you’re quite at risk.
Part of high-risk drinking is binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men within about 2 hours). This has been shown to mainly start in the teen and young adult phase of life and the effects on memory are clear.
In a study conducted on 155 first-year university students, it was found that those who engaged in binge drinking had problems recalling information. More than that, the problem remained persistent over time.
As if that’s not bad enough, abandoning the habit did not lead to immediate improvement of memory. Improvements could only be experienced if the change was maintained for a long period of time.
Do you want a better memory? Keep alcohol under control. If you don’t take alcohol, then stay away from it.
2. Reduce your sugar intake
Sugar is sweet and as you may know, it’s usually used for a quick dose of energy. Whereas you may feel energized after drinking soda, you may be unknowingly lowering your cognitive power.
For some time, scientists have known that high-energy diets have two major negative effects: they lead to obesity and an impaired memory. According to research, impaired memory comes as a result to inflammation on brain areas which are crucial for memory.
A study done showed the contribution of sugar towards this result. When sugar levels rise in the bloodstream, risks of inflammation in the hippocampus increase. The hippocampus is the area of your brain associated with among other things, emotions and long-term memory.
And that’s not all. If you take too much sugar, you will be on your way to Alzheimer’s disease even before you get to the age usually associated with it.
3. Deviate from routines
Comfort zone. Comfort zone. Comfort zone. It is always easier to choose comfort over discomfort; safety over uncertainty; security over insecurity. This is because your body is wired to keep you safe so any threat or possible struggles are frowned upon.
But did you know this hinders the growth of your cognitive abilities? Your brain learns better when exposed to new environments. That is why back in school, the lesson conducted outdoors stayed in your memory longer than those conducted in familiar grounds—class.
Changing the environment is thought to activate the part of the brain called the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA). The SN/VTA has functional links to the hippocampus and amygdala and due to the emotional arousal of new environments, learning is more effective.
With your brain “feeling good” about the new environment, you not only remember what you learned but are also motivated to learn some more—in a new environment.
How do you change your environment?
Decide to work from a different office location. Change the set up of your desk. Take a different route to work and back home. If you always drive, decide to walk on some of the days. BUT taking your work home is not changing the environment.
Now you know why working outdoors is good for you.
4. Grab some oily fish
Oily fish are known to be one of the most nutritious foods in the world. They are tasty and more importantly, nutritious. When we talk of nutrition and memory, we are specifically talking about the tried and tested benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Oily fish have the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are called essential because they are needed in your body yet you can’t produce them in enough quantities. There are three main ones: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA can be attained from plant sources such as walnuts, flaxseeds, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, canola oil etc. Once in your body, this is converted into EPA or DHA for it to become useful. The problem is that the human body is not very efficient in this process. Solution? Get EPA and DHA directly from food sources.
EPA and DHA are highly available through fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines etc. Not all are the same however due to their mercury content. High mercury levels are dangerous and so you need to check the fish you’re eating.
Research has indicated that the absence of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet leads to a faster degradation of your brain’s functioning. Tests done on 1,575 subjects proved that those low in DHA had lower brain volumes. Moreover, they scored lower in tests of memory, problem-solving and multi-tasking.
At the same time, more DHA and EPA proved to improve working memory. Subjects supplemented daily with DHA and EPA for six months performed 23% better in a memory recall test.
5. Learn just before going to bed
Did you know that the time of learning is crucial to remembering things? Of course you cannot have all learning take place just before you sleep. But if you have something important like a speech or exam coming, you can make use of this tip.
Research has shown that when memories are encoded (the first step of creating memories), they are fragile and susceptible to disruptions by stimulus interference. When sleep occurs soon after the encoding, memory consolidation for these memories is better.
Another study tested the ability to recall faces from memory. Some participants reviewed the photos before sleeping for eight hours while others reviewed them in the morning. After 12 hours of study, those who reviewed the photos before bedtime had better recall rates.
As you shift the time you study important material, ensure you also get enough sleep.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleeping helps your body replenish worn tissues so that you’re fresh the following day. But sleeping also helps with your memory. It is during sleep that memory gets consolidated. Consolidation is the process of converting short-term memory into long-term memory.
Short-term memory is usually low in duration and limited in capacity. Long-term memory on the other hand is indefinite. Whatever you store in your long-term memory will be there for a very long time.
It is generally agreed by scientists that sleep is important for memory formation and recall. But the question is, how much sleep is enough?
Sleep needs vary by individual. Factors like age, health and lifestyle have an impact on how long you will sleep. The circadian rhythm, which is your natural sleep/wake cycle, regulates your body’s sleep times and will prompt you when it’s time to sleep.
The average sleeping that is recommended for adults is 8 hours. The age differences however mean that this is not for everyone. The National Sleep Foundation has a sleep guide for the duration of sleep recommended for different age groups.
Watch the below video to get a deeper understanding of how sleeping benefits your memory.
Many people have sleep debt that has accumulated over several days of sleeping less than required. This debt is like a credit card balance that has to be paid eventually. But paying it in bulk over the weekend is usually not the best way of doing it.
Just make changes in your lifestyle by following these tips for better sleep and you will reap the memory benefits as well as the rest your body needs.
7. Physical exercise is key
Physical exercises are good for your whole body. And when you work out at the gym and see your muscles tone and grow bigger, you definitely like it. This helps in many ways including building your self-confidence.
As you exercise, your brain also gets to develop in ways that your memory benefits. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that aerobic exercises brought about a boost in the size of the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is the are of the brain which is involved in verbal memory and learning. The researchers also noted that the exercises have to be regular for the benefits to be realized.
Generally, the recommendation for aerobic activity is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Strength training did not provide the same results. Weightlifters should therefore include some aerobics in their schedule to enjoy these benefits.
8. Drink lots of water
Water is really life and your body needs it. More specifically, your brain needs water. By itself, your brain is composed of 73% water and when you experience dehydration, things start going wrong.
Your brain is what controls basically everything in your body, including your heart. As much as your brain needs blood to function, it is your brain that directs the operations of your heart. For example, unless you have narrowed arteries, your brain controls blood pressure during times of “fight or flight.”
That aside, dehydration has serious effects on your brain. Just 2% dehydration impairs brain performance. The effects get to your attention span, psychomotor and immediate memory skills.
It is encouraging to know that the research which identified these results noted that dehydration from moderate physical exercise did not have an impact on long-term memory. You will therefore do well to exercise and take water to stay safe.
9. Quit smoking
Ever read the warning on the cigarette pack saying that smoking is harmful to your health? As ironic as that may be, you better believe it.
Nicotine, the substance in cigarette that causes addiction, is linked with some cognitive functions. This is why when you smoke, you may feel alert. Nicotine also stimulates the brain to make you feel good due to the release of dopamine. But what are the effects?
A study done to investigate the impact of cigarette smoking on memory and sleep showed that smokers have impaired memory and poor sleep quality. The good news is that quitting has proven to be able to reverse the effects to some degree.
Another study found that people who had quit smoking for 2.5 years recorded a 25% better functioning memory than those who still smoked.
If you decide to quit smoking, which is a good move, see your doctor so he can help you fight nicotine withdrawal. Keep an upbeat mood knowing that you did the best thing for yourself and those around you.
10. Enjoy the sun
The sun provides light and heat. But in there, is also an important vitamin for your brain’s functioning. That vitamin is Vitamin D. Since it naturally comes from the sun, people living in colder climates rarely have enough of it from the sun. They therefore have to take Vitamin D supplements.
This vitamin has for a long time been known to help in forming strong bones through promoting the absorption of calcium. However, with studies confirming the relationship between this vitamin and cognitive abilities, then it is important to keep your levels in check.
Researchers have found that levels of vitamin D are usually low in many adults and they normally lose their memory and thinking abilities faster. Coupled with the growing number of studies associating low vitamin D levels with Alzheimer’s disease, then it becomes necessary to bask some more.
A meta-analysis of several studies was conducted to ascertain the connection between vitamin D deficiency and dementia. It found that the people with low levels of Vitamin D were certainly at higher risks of experiencing dementia.
You can get your levels tested and consult your doctor on the need to take supplements. All the same, if you can get it from the natural source, why not enjoy the sun?
11. Take more dark chocolate
We all love chocolate, although we at times are made to feel guilty of over-indulging. But no more. Chocolate is good. One of the quickest results you will feel after taking chocolate is the improved mood. But did you know there is more you can get?
When you take dark chocolate, you stand to gain more benefits than good moods. For your memory’s sake, the flavonoids found in cacao are the cause of the benefits. A recent study revealed that the higher the cacao content in the chocolate, the more the benefits on cognition, memory and even immunity.
But just take note that this is dark chocolate being talked about.
Dark chocolate is chocolate with at least 70% cacao in it. This will rarely be your favorite unless you are determined to mine the benefits. This type of chocolate is quite bitter in taste when compared to the other types. The high percentage of cacao means that only 30% of the bar is milk, sugar and fat.
Are you willing to trade some sweetness for your memory?
12. Exercise your brain
You hit the gym to work out your muscles and your brain gets some of the benefits. But did you know you can have even more benefits for your brain by training it directly?
Referred to as cognitive training, your brain’s working in regards to memory, concentration, problem-solving, learning abilities, vocabulary and thinking speed could be greatly improved. Research has shown that cognitive training makes an old brain function like a younger one.
One way cognitive training is achieved is through mental exercises. These can be question and answer games, crossword puzzles or other more common ones which target specific aspects of your brain’s functioning. Apart from the fun, these games provide real brain improvement.
Generally, the games are easy to play as they are usually available on newspapers e.g. crosswords, sudoku etc. Others can be easily accessed in the form of mobile phone games or online games.
In the below video, you will get to learn some easy and fun games which will help improve your brain power.
13. Use mnemonic devices
Mnemonic devices are techniques used to help you remember things. These have been in use for a very long time. Although you may not have known their names up until now, you definitely have used one.
If you have a list of things you want to remember, for example your shopping list, you can write the items on a piece of paper. But if you want to go paperless and improve your mind, then one of these will surely help.
From methods such as chunking, musical mnemonics, using acronyms and rhymes, mnemonics help you recall the information encoded in your brain. But how exactly do they work?
These techniques help you remember by forming associations in your brain. Depending on the technique used, your brain uses some associations it has created to point to what needs to be remembered.
For example, one technique called the method of loci has been shown to help in improving student performance in assessments. Another study was conducted and it proved that this same mnemonic device could function like natural memory.
14. Never stop learning
This is a very natural and effective tip. It’s so natural that you may not even have noticed using it. Have you ever noticed differences between the schooled and unschooled? Those who only managed to attend elementary school compared to those who graduated from universities?
The more you learn, the more you remember things. This is because your brain knows that you need what you learn. Automatically, it will store it in your short-term memory ready for access. But since your short-term memory gets erased quickly, it becomes important to learn again.
Your brain grows by creating new connections between brain cells and this is where your memory benefits. When you learn something new, your brain associates it with what you have already learned. As a result, when you need to recall the information, your brain just looks to what it already has and the link to the new information facilitates the recall.
15. Reduce your phone’s usage
The number of smartphone users has been growing at impressive rates. This is a good thing because life has to get simpler. But when life gets so easy that simple calculations are done using phone apps, then there’s a problem. Your brain’s processing power and memory are getting wasted away.
From phone numbers to appointments, birthdays to the doctor’s schedule, all these are stored in your phone. You now trust your phone more than your own memory. Whereas you could claim that your phone has better memory, you can be sure that the over-reliance has worsened your own memory.
Is it a wonder that people go crazy when they lose their phones? Not because of the cost of the phone but the value of information it contains. Fortunately, there are backup solutions. But are these really solutions you should embrace considering that they are just encouraging you not to use your brain?
Kaspersky Lab conducted a study on digital amnesia. Digital amnesia is whereby you forget the information that you have entrusted to a digital device. You deem the information as not worth keeping in memory because you can always retrieve it from the device.
From a UK study, Kaspersky Lab reports some very disturbing statistics. 71% of smartphone users cannot recall the phone numbers of their children while 49% cannot recall that of their partners.
Put simply, your phone makes your brain lazy. And it is your brain that stores information. Why not decide today to take back the power you gave your phone?
16. Add cinnamon to your diet
Not willing or ready for some of the solutions given above? At least there’s an easy one. Cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a great spice that is used by many to aid in weight loss and the treatment of colds. Various cinnamon tea recipes are available to help you enjoy the spice. But is that all you can get from cinnamon?
Cinnamon consumption has been linked with improved memory. A study done on mice indicates that the improvement is so great that poor-learning mice could find the right hole in a maze in 60 seconds after 1 month of cinnamon intake. Before cinnamon, they used 150 seconds to find the right hole.
It was discovered that when cinnamon was ingested, it enhanced the integrity of brain cells. Also, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of this spice give you more reasons to take cinnamon.
Something to note: these benefits are a result of sodium benzoate which is produced when cinnamon is broken down in your body. Although there were some fears that sodium benzoate may have negative effects, the US FDA found these fears to be unwarranted because the amounts consumed are very low.
Also, when shopping for cinnamon, the researchers advise that it is best to buy the Ceylon or Sri Lanka variety.
17. Always tell the truth
Another natural tip. This one may sound a bit odd but truly works. It is evidenced by the problems liars face when trying to recall the information they lied about.
Many say that you can lie to everyone except yourself and God. No more. You certainly can’t lie to God but to yourself you can. Many instances of lying have been documented in law courts when victims and offenders lie to avoid giving away incriminating information.
But some years later after the whole matter is settled and done with, some may come out to speak the truth. What happens? They may tell the truth about much of what happened but some lies will still prevail. How come?
Lies have been shown to affect memory in regards to the details of the events which took place. Whereas the big details will be intact, the smaller details will have gotten altered.
These people may either completely forget some details or falsely remember details which never existed. Their brains will have “believed” the lie and now cannot remember the real truth.
For all the efforts you will put towards improving your memory, won’t it be better to complement them by sticking to the truth?
Go ahead and practice these tips for a better memory. And do not forget to share them with your friends.
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