Anyone who knows me knows that I have the memory of Dori of Finding Nemo fame. One of my husband’s biggest frustrations with me is that I just can’t seem to remember where we ate last weekend or what he just reminded me of today. Luckily, there’s hope for people like me. With the help of the following 9 memory improvement tips, it’s possible to remember better and boost your overall brain health and functioning and even help prevent dementia later in life.
Sleep is crucial for improving and maintaining a healthy memory. Recently, scientists discovered that sleep plays a pivotal role in helping the brain process memories. During your natural sleep cycles, your brain erases some synaptic connections, which strengthens others. In short, forgetting is a key part of remembering because it clears out the less important memories so the brain can retrieve what’s more important.
A good night’s rest is crucial in this process of clearing out the clutter in the brain, which helps you remember things that matter.
Sleep is also important because it helps you regulate stress and stay healthy, which are also important ingredients for a good memory. It’s hard to remember things when you’re overwhelmed or run-down.
2. Eat Right
Another of the important memory improvement tips is to eat right. Foods filled with healthy fats and antioxidants have been shown to improve memory and support overall memory and brain health.
That means load up on the blueberries, salmon, and broccoli. It may be a cliché, but eating a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats and fish is probably the easiest way to boost your memory.
On the other hand, processed foods and foods with refined sugar have been found to have the opposite effect on the brain; they actually harm memory and may even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. So skip the sugar and the prepackaged foods and go right to the whole, healthy foods that are good for your memory and your overall health.
Some studies have also shown that coffee and dark chocolate are good for your brain health because they contain some natural caffeine that keeps you alert. Part of the memory process requires alertness because you’re not going to remember things that you’re not alert enough to pay attention to in the first place. You can’t store what you don’t notice.
However, like all things, moderation is key. I skip coffee altogether because the memory benefits don’t outweigh how jittery and anxious it makes me. Pay attention to your body to figure out whether or not a little coffee or dark chocolate seem like good ideas for you to boost your memory.
Speaking of being alert, exercise helps get the body going, which is great for your memory, too. Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat helps strengthen the hippocampus. Since your hippocampus is in charge of verbal memory and learning, this means regular exercise helps boost your memory.
While toning exercises are good for your overall health, the same study showed that they did not affect memory. So get your heart pumping and sweat it out at least three times a week to experience another natural memory-booster.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
A new study has shown that being even a little dehydrated impairs short-term memory. Participants were put into one of two groups. One group was allowed to drink water and the other wasn’t while they sat in a hot room for a few hours. The group that did not drink water did worse on memory tests. The study showed that losing just 0.72 percent of one’s body weight caused memory impairment.
That means drinking plenty of water throughout the day. I’m super guilty of not doing this, which may explain my Dori memory, so let’s all vow to drink that water to boost our memories.
5. Limit Toxins
Now let’s talk about what to avoid. The next of the memory improvement tips is to limit the amount of alcohol and drugs you consume. Alcohol messes with the firing function of neurons all over the brain, which is not good for memory
One study covered in WedMD showed that middle-aged people who drink at least 2.5 drinks a day experienced a faster mental decline than those who didn’t. However, they didn’t find any difference in mental decline between the participants who completely abstained from alcohol and those who drank moderately. The takeaway is to drink in moderation to maintain your healthy brain and memory or abstain completely.
Similarly, heavy marijuana consumption has also been shown to harm short-term memory in middle-aged participants. People who consumed marijuana every day for at least five years showed declines in their verbal memory, focus, and ability to make quick decisions compared to those who consumed marijuana moderately or abstained.
A good rule of thumb for protecting and improving your memory is to consume alcohol and other drugs moderately or not at all.
You can also boost your memory by using some supplements. Let’s start with the old standards like Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps reduce brain inflammation, which is important for healthy memory functioning, and Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect cell health, which is also important for memory.
There are also some lesser-known supplements like Lion’s Mane and Rhodiola Rosacea that have been shown to boost memory. Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that affects the brain similarly to Vitamin E and other antioxidants. It helps reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to function better. Lion’s Mane also helps improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for memory and learning.
Rhodiola Rosacea is an herb that helps protect adrenal health. This helps to prevent mental and physical fatigue.
Make sure to consult your doctor about what supplements might be right for you in protecting and improving your memory.
The next of our memory improvement tips is to try meditation. Meditating isn’t about not thinking or forcing your brain to go blank. It’s actually about becoming curious and aware of your thoughts.
I like to compare meditation to watching the clouds roll by. When you have a new thought, you don’t judge it, you just accept it and let it pass. Then another thought rolls by and another. Eventually, with enough practice, you get better at quieting your mind.
One of the benefits of meditation is that it improves memory. In one study, students who tried mindfulness meditation for eight days performed better on their GREs, improved their working memory, and were less easily distracted. Those are some pretty major improvements in just eight days, so it’s certainly worth a try.
Here’s a beginner’s guide for meditation: The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)
8. Be Mindful
If you’re not a big fan of meditation, you can also try other mindfulness techniques and strategies to improve your memory.
In my book Play Your Way Sane: 120 Improv-Inspired Exercises to Help You Calm Down, Stop Spiraling, and Embrace Uncertainty, I feature games that you can play to practice mindfulness while you’re going about your day.
One game is called Call it Like You Sees It. All you have to do is point to things as you walk somewhere and say the names of those objects, “Car, tree, grass, branch, telephone pole.” If you do this for fifteen seconds, you can’t be overthinking, worrying, or stressing.
It’s a way to force yourself to be in the present, or mindful, and as I’ve already explained, mindfulness is great for your memory. It’s just nice to know that you don’t have to sit on a cushion and say “Om” to experience the benefits of mindfulness.
9. Use It or Lose It
Finally, the last of our memory improvement tips is to use it or lose it. A study published on Science Daily showed that people with mentally challenging or complex jobs and people with more years of education had higher levels of a beneficial brain protein and lower levels of memory loss and Alzheimer’s. That means you need to keep your brain challenged and thinking if you want to boost and maintain a healthy memory.
You can do brain teasers, crossword puzzles, join a book club, or study a new language, anything to keep your brain challenged and your memory healthy.
The bottom line for improving your memory is to start with a healthy foundation. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, stay hydrated, and get some aerobic exercise. Then, practice mindfulness or meditation, try some brain-boosting supplements, and challenge your dome each day. These are the ingredients for improving your memory and keeping it working for you for many years to come.
You may always be a little bit Dori, but that doesn’t mean you can’s take some steps each day to boost your memory and maintain good health.
More Memory Boosting Tips
Featured photo credit: Jess Bailey via unsplash.com