Forgetfulness is usually a normal part of life, especially if you’re getting older…
The good news is that there are lots of scientifically proven ways to improve your memory and make remembering things come more easily. Take a look at the following ideas to help you improve your memory day by day:
Do Crosswords and Play Brain Games
Using your brain for fun activities like crosswords and teasers can have a beneficial effect on your memory. Marcel Danesi, PhD, researcher and author of Extreme Brain Workout, theorizes that these types of activities keep synapses in the brain active, including those that are used to form new memories and recall information. Playing these kinds of games during your leisure time is an easy way to help give your brain a workout and your memory a boost, with only putting in a little time.
You’ve probably heard that fish is brain food—that’s because it’s chock full of omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and avocado are also great sources of these brain boosting antioxidants. Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Memory Clinic, fruits and vegetables, especially berries, are also great for your memory. A study conducted by the University of Reading also touted the benefits of berries for improving recall. With the proper fuel, your mind and memory will feel much sharper throughout the day.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping,3 but few realize that their performance has actually improved. Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you “practice” and improve your performance of challenging skills. In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.
The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain’s capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. Plasticity occurs when neurons are stimulated by events, or information, from the environment. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.
Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.
As you might suspect, this holds true for infants too, and research shows that naps can give a boost to babies’ brainpower. Specifically, infants who slept in between learning and testing sessions had a better ability to recognize patterns in new information, which signals an important change in memory that plays an essential role in cognitive development.4 There’s reason to believe this holds true for adults, too, as even among adults, a mid-day nap was found to dramatically boost and restore brainpower.5
Get on Your Feet
Research shows that regular exercise improves memory and prevents age related cognitive decline. Exercise enlarges the hippocampus, which is part of the brain responsible for memory recall. Regular exercise has countless benefits for both brain and body, so if your memory needs a little help, consider amping up your workout routine.
Used for decades to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers, multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible. Ultimately, multitasking may actually slow you down, make you prone to errors as well as make you forgetful.
Research shows you actually need about eight seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory, so if you’re talking on your phone and carrying in groceries when you put down your car keys, you’re unlikely to remember where you left them.
The opposite of multitasking would be mindfulness, which helps you achieve undistracted focus. Students who took a mindfulness class improved reading comprehension test scores and working memory capacity, as well as experienced fewer distracting thoughts.2
If you find yourself trying to complete five tasks at once, stop yourself and focus your attention back to the task at hand. If distracting thoughts enter your head, remind yourself that these are only “projections,” not reality, and allow them to pass by without stressing you out. You can then end your day with a 10- or 15-minute meditation session to help stop your mind from wandering and relax into a restful sleep.
Master a New Skill
Engaging in “purposeful and meaningful activities” stimulates your neurological system, counters the effects of stress-related diseases, reduces the risk of dementia and enhances health and well-being.6 A key factor necessary for improving your brain function or reversing functional decline is the seriousness of purpose with which you engage in a task. In other words, the task must be important to you, or somehow meaningful or interesting — it must hold your attention.
For instance, one study revealed that craft activities such as quilting and knitting were associated with decreased odds of having mild cognitive impairment.7 Another study, published earlier this year, found that taking part in “cognitively demanding” activities like learning to quilt or take digital photography enhanced memory function in older adults.8 The key is to find an activity that is mentally stimulating for you. Ideally this should be something that requires your undivided attention and gives you great satisfaction… it should be an activity that you look forward to doing, such as playing a musical instrument, gardening, building model ships, crafting or many others.