Just imagine what would happen if one day you could not remember anything. Your world as you know it would come to a stop.
A good memory is a must. It helps you remember skills that you have learned, retrieve information that is stored in the brain or recall something from the past.
But with time, you may notice a decline in your memory or recall capacity. For many, a decline in memory can have a huge impact in their life and make it difficult for them to live independently. And nobody wants to live a life with a black hole where their memories should be.
You can curb the natural decline in memory that comes with age by taking some necessary steps today. Remember that memory capacity isn’t fixed, but rather pliable like plastic. There are many simple tips and tricks that can boost your brain power and improve your memory.
Here are the top 10 tips to improve your memory.
1. Get Sound Sleep
Your sleep has a direct impact on your cognitive abilities, including your memory.
During sleep, your brain sorts and stores new memories. Good quality sleep helps strengthen memories and new information because your brain goes through a sort of review process during this time.
So, sleeping less means your brain won’t retain or recall information as well as it normally would.
A 2005 study published in Neuroscience reports that a good night’s sleep triggers changes in the brain that help improve memory (1).
Another study published in 2006 in Learning & Memory reports that declarative memory is enhanced when sleep follows within a few hours of learning, independent of the time of day, and with equal amounts of interference during retention intervals. Sleep deprivation has a detrimental effect on memory, which was significant after a night of recovery sleep (2).
In a 2013 study published in Physiology Reviews, researchers provided detailed information regarding the role of sleep in your memory (3).
You’ll sleep better if you establish a good sleep pattern. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Also, avoid looking at bright screens before bed, as it inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle.
2. Exercise Daily
Regular exercise is good for your memory. Exercising significantly increases the volume of the brain’s hippocampus, the structure involved in verbal memory and learning.
A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function (4).
Also, exercising helps more oxygen and nutrient-carrying blood reach the brain. Plus, regular exercise reduces the risk of diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to memory loss.
A study published in 2013 in Comprehensive Physiology reports that regular exercise and dietary management appear to be a noninvasive and effective strategy to counteract neurological and cognitive disorders (5).
Incorporate different types of exercise into your daily schedule, such as cardio (running, biking, swimming, etc.), high-intensity interval training, stretching, yoga and strength training.
3. Reduce Stress
When you are under stress, it becomes harder to remember things. Stress can affect your memory both directly and indirectly.
When stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol impairs the brain’s memory process, especially your ability to retrieve long-term memories.
Constant stress even shrinks the brain over time, leading to the destruction of brain cells and damaging the hippocampus, the section of the brain that forms new memories and stores old ones.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience reports that while severe stress lasting weeks or months can impair cell communication in the brain’s learning and memory region, even short-term stress can impair brain-cell communication in areas associated with learning and memory (6).
Another study published in NPJ Science of Learning in 2016 analyzed several studies and found that stress not only induces a deficit in memory retrieval and memory updating, it also changes the way information is stored and retrieved by multiple memory systems (7).
If you’re experiencing stress, take steps to lessen your stress and calm your mind and body.
4. Play Brain Games
It is important to challenge your brain with different information to maintain and improve your cognitive abilities. If you don’t sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it will begin to deteriorate.
Playing brain games help activate synapses in the whole brain, including the memory areas. Also, it helps improve concentration and the ability to recall things.
A 2017 study by Cambridge University found that video games improved the brain function of those with early memory problems which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease (8).
You can do puzzles like sudoku and crosswords to improve your memory and delay brain decline. In fact, any game that is new, fun and challenging will stimulate your brain.
To benefit from brain games, invest at least 20 minutes a day. When you spend longer amounts of time on a task, the benefits weaken.
5. Start Meditating
Meditation, an age-old practice, can also have a positive impact on your brain and memory.
Meditation is important for sharpening your ability to focus and blocking out distractions, which in turn helps in retaining and storing information. It also improves cerebral blood flow, another memory-boosting factor.
A 2013 study published in Psychological Science found that mindfulness training may help boost standardized test scores and improve working memory (9).
Meditation can even delay brain aging and prevent neurodegenerative diseases like mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Psychology also supported the hypothesis that meditation offers brain-protective benefits (10).
In addition, meditation has been shown to reduce stress, which can do a number on your memory.
For best results, learn meditation from an expert and meditate in a quiet and peaceful place for at least 10 to 15 minutes daily.
6. Get Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is closely associated with your brain health and memory.
Higher vitamin D levels are linked to improved verbal memory scores and may even protect the brain from dementia.
This happens as activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Also, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help maintain healthy brain functioning.
A 2015 study published in JAMA Neurology found that older adults with low vitamin D levels may lose their memories and thinking abilities faster than those with normal vitamin D levels (11).
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease also suggests an association between severe vitamin D deficiency and visual memory decline, but no association with verbal memory decline (12).
Exposure to early morning sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes (without sunscreen) is a good way to maintain an adequate vitamin D level in your body.
7. Laugh More
Laughter is the best medicine, and it’s even good for your memory.
Laughter triggers the body to release more endorphins, which send dopamine to the brain. This can help improve the immune system’s functions and alter brain wave activity. The changes in the brain wave activity positively affect memory and recall.
Moreover, laughter helps reduce stress that can mess with your memory.
A 2014 study published in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine suggests that humor can have a positive impact on memory by improving learning ability and delayed recall (13).
Another study published in Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in 2014 found that showing a 20-minute funny video to healthy seniors and seniors with diabetes helped them score better on memory tests and significantly reduced their cortisol levels when compared to non-video watchers (14).
If you don’t have enough laughter in your life, join a comedy club or watch a funny movie or video clip. Also, spend more time with friends and family who make you laugh.
8. Sip Red Wine
If you like to drink, then choose red wine. It’s good for your physical as well as mental health.
Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant predominantly present in red wine, protects against cell damage and helps keep memory loss at bay. In fact, it may help prevent age-related memory loss.
A 2015 study published in Scientific Reports found that resveratrol has positive effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to memory. Resveratrol had apparent benefits in terms of learning, memory, and mood in aged rats (15).
To reap the benefits, be sure you enjoy your red wine in moderation since too much alcohol can kill brain cells. The recommended amount is one glass a day for women and two for men.
9. Eat More Brain Foods
What you eat affects your brain and memory. In fact, food provides fuel for the brain to function properly. Certain foods can even reduce your risk of dementia in old age.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids can make a lot of difference. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish as well as walnuts, spinach, broccoli, and kidney beans.
You can also consider taking EPA or DHA supplementation. A 2014 study published in Human Psychopharmacology reports that EPA-rich supplementation can help people’s brains work ‘less hard’ and achieve a better cognitive performance (16).
Also, eating more fruits and vegetables that are packed with antioxidants can help protect brain cells from free-radical damage and stimulate the production of new brain cells.
10. Quit Multitasking
If you have a habit of multitasking to be more productive, stop doing it right now. It will negatively affect your memory.
Multitasking actually distracts your brain and prevents you from focusing on and completing one thing. Always remember that the brain doesn’t actually multitask. Instead, your brain switches focus from one thing to the other. This is why it is difficult to read a book and hold a conversation at the same time.
A 2011 study published n Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that multitasking takes a significantly greater toll on the working memory of older people (17).
Be attentive and give your full focus to one thing at a time, especially when you are trying to learn new things.
• Chat more with friends. Having a conversation with another person requires your brain to complete several high-level processes at once.
• Regularly challenge your brain with new places and information.
• Mind wandering may allow your brain to better catalog and store memories.
• Use mnemonic devices to help you remember information.
• Another trick to help you remember certain things is to incorporate multiple senses into the memory. Also, try to relate it to something you already know.
• Writing down new information helps reinforce it in your mind.
• People who clench their right fists while learning new material have better recall power.
• Do not take any medication without consulting your doctor, as there are many medicines that will affect your central nervous system.
- Study Shows How Sleep Improves Memory. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050629070337.htm. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Gais S, Lucas B, Born J. Sleep after learning aids memory recall. Learning & Memory. http://learnmem.cshlp.org/content/13/3/259.full.html. Published January 1, 1970. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Rasch BCB, Born J. About Sleep’s Role in Memory. Physiological Reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768102/. Published April 2013. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Erickson KI, Voss MW, Prakash RS, et al. Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/7/3017. Published February 15, 2011. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Gomez-Pinilla F, Hillman C. The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/. Published January 2013. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Short-term Stress Can Affect Learning And Memory. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311182434.htm. Published March 13, 2008. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Vogel S, Schwabe L. Learning and memory under stress: implications for the classroom. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/npjscilearn201611. Published June 29, 2016. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Donnelly L. Brain training games boost memory and may reduce the risk of dementia, research suggests. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/02/brain-training-games-boost-memory-may-reduce-risk-dementia-research/. Published July 3, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Mrazek MD, Franklin MS, Phillips DT, Baird B, Schooler JW. Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering. Psychological Science. 2013;24(5):776-781. doi:10.1177/0956797612459659.
- Luders E, Cherbuin N, Kurth F. Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full. Published December 15, 2014. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Miller PDJW. Vitamin D and Cognitive Decline in Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults. JAMA Neurology. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2436596. Published November 1, 2015. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Kuźma E, Soni M, Littlejohns TJ, et al. Vitamin D and Memory Decline: Two Population-Based Prospective Studies. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26836174. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Bains GS, Berk LS, Daher N, et al. The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness. Advances in mind-body medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24682001. Published 2014. Accessed February 14, 2018
- Fight memory loss with a smile (or chuckle). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140427185149.htm. Published April 27, 2014. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Kodali M, Parihar VK, Hattiangady B, Mishra V, Shuai B, Shetty AK. Resveratrol Prevents Age-Related Memory and Mood Dysfunction with Increased Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Microvasculature, and Reduced Glial Activation. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep08075. Published January 28, 2015. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Bauer I, Hughes M, Rowsell R, et al. Omega-3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults. Human psychopharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24470182. Published March 2014. Accessed February 14, 2018.