Sometimes our memory is strong, but there comes the day when we can’t remember certain things.
These memory problems can be mild and result from stress, tiredness, and other lifestyle factors.
But in some cases, memory loss is significant and in the form of cognitive decline in older men and women.
Weak memory is a bothersome problem for most people, but it’s manageable.
Yes, you can improve your memory with simple lifestyle adjustments.
Scroll down to see how to improve memory and get ten tips you may want to try yourself.
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1) Focus your attention
Attention is one of the most vital parts of memory. The logic is simple – you need to actively attend to information in order to process it into short-term and store into long-term memory, which is known as memory consolidation. Most of us experience problems with attention from time to time. Fortunately, these problems are manageable.
To improve attention and thereby strengthen memory, you may want to try the following:
- Eliminate all distractions that prevent you from studying and working
- Exercise (it improves physical fitness, but also your attention)
- Stay hydrated
- Set goals and to-do lists
- Take notes by hand during your study session
- Chew gum
- Become more self-disciplined
- Listen actively (pay attention to what other people are saying)
2) Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, and what we’re doing while avoiding being actively reactive or overwhelmed.
Mindfulness can improve our attention span because it teaches us to focus on something and soak in new information. Moreover, mindfulness can change our brain health and improve short-term memory. Mindfulness also helps strengthen your episodic memory.
Why is mindfulness beneficial? When you try to learn something new, it’s challenging to do it because past memories may interfere. Mindfulness allows you to focus on the present, the task at hand and alleviates interference from past memories.
To improve memory through mindfulness, you may want to try the following:
- Do mindfulness meditation
- Pay attention to something you do every day (you’ll be amazed by how we do many things without even paying close attention to them)
- Approach situations with curiosity
- Focus on your breathing
3) Sleep well
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. However, most of us don’t get enough good night’s rest.
About 37% of 20-39-year-olds reports short sleep duration, as well as 40% of people who are between 40 and 59 years of age. 35.3% of adults report less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period.
Sleep deprivation can harm our health and wellbeing in many ways. Increased stress levels, weak immune system, and cardiovascular problems are just some short sleep duration consequences. Weak memory performance is also one of them.
Evidence confirms that sleep deprivation, even if only for brief periods, can impair memory and learning. In many cases, the impairment is related to changes in the hippocampus activity; during learning or forming new memory, the connections between the relevant neurons in the brain change.
Sleep deprivation dramatically reduces the connectivity between neurons in the hippocampus due to the increased activity of cofilin. You see, cofilin is a protein that breaks down the action of filaments that shape the connections between neurons. On the flip side, recovery sleep leads to the rewiring of neurons in the hippocampus. As a result, learning and memory power improve.
Your brain processes information and stores memories when you sleep. So, if you don’t sleep well, the whole process becomes sluggish.
The solution is simple (and cost-effective) – strive to get enough sleep. Aim for at least seven (or up to nine) hours of sleep a night. Even more so is essential to have a sleep schedule. Your bedtime every night and wake time every morning should be the same.
Ensure your room is calm, cool, and avoid using the phone or watching TV to get quality sleep.
4) Anti-inflammatory diet
What you eat has a major impact on brain function, especially your memory. An unhealthy diet, especially foods rich in saturated fats and cholesterol, is associated with memory loss.
Working memory is particularly affected in this case. The memory loss is associated with inflammation in the brain and impairment of structural proteins that affect nerve cell functions. Inflammation is a significant consequence of an unhealthy diet.
Since an unhealthy, inflammatory diet leads to memory problems, your solution here is obvious – focus on an anti-inflammatory diet. Generally speaking, it’s a well-balanced diet that focuses on consuming fruits, vegetables, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and other helpful compounds.
This kind of diet supplies the body with a broad spectrum of nutrients that alleviate inflammation and allow the brain to function properly. As a result, your memory improves. A healthy diet is one of the most crucial lifestyle measures to support nerve cells’ health and function.
Your anti-inflammatory diet should include various healthy ingredients, including:
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Green leafy vegetables
- Spices and herbs
5) Do brain-boosting activities
The brain needs a challenge for proper function and strong memory. Challenge gives stimulation and makes the brain work harder to process new information and create memories.
These activities can also improve your semantic memory. Since your mission is to improve your memory, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of brain training activities. You can see some of the most effective brain exercise examples below:
- Puzzles – great memory exercise, doing jigsaw puzzles, recruits multiple cognitive abilities, and is a protective factor for visuospatial cognitive aging.
- Play cards – a quick card game can lead to a greater volume in several regions of the brain, improve memory, and promote thinking skills
- Build your vocabulary – improves visual memory and auditory processing strengthens overall memory. A useful thing to do is to read a book or an article, write down an unfamiliar word in a notebook, find its meaning, and try to use that word five times the next day.
- Learn to dance – learning new dance moves can increase the brain’s processing speed and memory.
- Use all your senses – evidence confirms that using all your senses can help strengthen your brain. For example, you can bake cookies, visit a farmer’s market, or do something else that will allow you to focus on smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, and seeing all at once
- Learn a new skill – improves memory function because it gives a brain more challenge and may decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. This can be anything from learning a new language to signing up for a cooking class, knitting, gardening, etc.
- Teach someone else – one of the most useful ways to support memory improvement and learning is to teach a skill to another person. What you learn, you also need to practice.
- Take a new route – this is a great memory test; you don’t have to go to work or the store (or anywhere else) via the same route every day. Challenge your brain by taking new route, less familiar roads
Physical exercise is an integral segment of a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity is crucial for weight management, cardiovascular health, blood glucose control, healthy joints and muscles, immune system, and general health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t as active as we should be. A sedentary lifestyle is mainly prevalent and incredibly harmful. Besides many other health problems brought on by a sedentary lifestyle, weak memory is also a major issue.
Studies show that sitting too much is associated with changes in a section of the brain that is critical for memory. More precisely, sitting too much is a significant predictor of the thinning of the medial temporal lobe, a region in the brain involved in the formation of new memories.
On the other hand, regular exercise can improve brain function and even slow down age-related memory decline, leading to dementia. Physical activity spares age-related loss of brain tissue and enhances functional aspects of higher-order regions involved in cognition control.
Exercise manifests its effects on cognition by affecting molecular events related to energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity. At the same time, exercise collaborates with other aspects of lifestyle to influence cognition’s molecular substrates.
- Improve hippocampal volume
- Promote spatial memory performance
- Prevent age-related cortical decay and cognitive impairment
- Support working memory
- Upregulates cerebral blood flow volume in the dentate gyrus, the only region in the hippocampus that supports adult neurogenesis, i.e., production of new brain cell
Regular physical activity, especially in combination with other lifestyle measures, can improve your memory and cognitive ability. The best thing is that the choice is yours. If you don’t work out, you probably think it’s too late to start, or you’ll never be able to make it a habit. It’s never too late, and of course, you can make a habit out of it.
To stick to exercising, you should do something you enjoy. Physical activity is not a punishment – it’s a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. You can make it versatile. For example, you can do cardio, resistance training, sign up for a gym class, jog, or play sports. Options are endless, and your brain will thank you.
Not everyone is a social butterfly. Some people prefer spending time on their own. Social isolation isn’t just a choice but also a recommended measure to suppress the spreading of COVID-19 and ensure we stay safe and protected.
Even if you’re not a social person and isolation seems comfortable, you should still strive to be in contact with your friends and family. Not only does it improve your social life, but also general health and wellbeing.
Believe it or not, socializing can improve your memory as well. Studies confirm that social isolation leads to poorer memory in older adults and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Mechanisms through which social isolation impairs memory require thorough research. Isolation decreases brain stimulation. When the brain isn’t stimulated, the processes of storing and recalling information also slow down. As a result, your memory weakens as well.
Here’s the good news – you can counteract that problem and improve memory by socializing more. You don’t have to turn into a social butterfly or ignore the pandemic suddenly, but spending more time and communicating more with your friends and relatives can mean a lot. Cognitive stimulation will improve and memory with it.
8) Manage stress
Stress is a strong modulator of memory function. Unmanaged stress or high-stress levels impair working memory particularly. Problems with memory occur because stress affects abilities that require conscious, effortful information processing and reduces cognitive function.
Stress affects how memories are formed. When you are under stress, it’s more difficult to create short-term memories and turn them into long-term memories. In other words, stress makes learning more difficult.
Even though stress is a natural response to negative stimuli, it’s possible to manage it. We can’t avoid stress at all times; sometimes, it’s inevitable. Hectic lifestyle and stress go hand in hand. However, the problem comes when we fail to manage stress properly. Various health problems result from stress, and impaired brain function is one of them.
Stress management is an important memory strategy. Every person is unique, so that stress management techniques may vary. The goal is to do something you find relaxing and calming. It can be a good workout, reading, writing, yoga, meditation, bath, a nice walk; the choice is yours.
8) Build a memory palace
Memory palace, also known as Method of Loci or the mind palace, is a memorization technique first developed in ancient Greece. Paper was limited and expensive in time, so people relied on their memories to retain and recall information. This is great cognitive training and a fun way to remember everything.
Generally speaking, a memory palace is an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. It works perfectly for memory recall, storing, and processing information.
The most common type of memory palace involves making a journey through a place you know well, e.g., a town or a building. On that journey, there are specific locations that you always visit in the same order. These locations are called “loci,” which is Latin for “locations.”
The idea of a memory palace may seem complicated, but it’s simple. All you need is practice. The more you try to do it, the easier it will get. Here are some simple instructions for beginners:
- Step 1: for the first memory palace, choose a place you know very well, e.g., home office.
- Step 2: plan out the route, e.g., front door, shoe rack, hallway, kitchen, living room, bathroom, as if you’re going through your house
- Step 3: Create a list of something you want to memorize and remember, e.g., a shopping list of 10 to 20 items.
- Step 4: take one or two items from the list and place a mental image of them in each locus (singular for location) in your memory palace.
- Step 5: To make it easier, you may want to exaggerate the items’ images and have them even interact with the location. Instead of a regular milk bottle, you can picture a huge bottle of milk sitting on the sofa watching TV, go into details, make it fun and specific.
Practice makes perfect. When it becomes easier to build a memory palace using a location, you know, you can let your creativity shine and think of new locations.
Try to practice every day, and it’s going to serve as a great memory aid. Create a memory palace with certain information in the morning and try to remember it later that day.
10) Support learning and memory
As you can see, methods to improve memory are numerous. Besides the tips mentioned above, you can do many other things to ensure your memory and learning are strong and sharp. For example:
- Don’t procrastinate
- Be organized
- Visualize concepts
- Relate new information to something you already know
- Pay extra attention to difficult information.
- Drink less alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink coffee (caffeine boosts long-term memory), but don’t overdo it
Memory fluctuates; it goes up and down. It’s easy to think there’s nothing you can do. However, better memory is a reasonable goal that requires a healthy lifestyle. This post showed ten easy ways to make it happen. Try to incorporate as many tips as you can into your daily life.