This article provides ideas for improving memory. I have organized them according to what you can do for the body, and what you can do for the mind. Applying only one or two of them can already make a big difference.
Improving Memory with your Body
Watch What you Eat
Based on recent research, the following foods may help protect your body and brain from the stress of aging:
- Blueberries: reverse several parameters of brain aging
- Wild salmon: rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids
- Nuts and seeds: high vitamin E content
- Avocadoes, beans and pomegranate juice: lower blood pressure
- One cup of freshly brewed tea: helps with focus
- One ounce of dark chocolate made with at least 70% of cocoa: improves mood
- One cup of coffee per day: improves energy levels, short-term memory, reaction time and capacity to process information
According to many experts, two supplements can really help your brain. One is ginkgo biloba, which appears to enhance memory in older adults, help reduce dementia and facilitate the blood flow to the brain.
The second supplement is folic acid, which is helpful in case of brain damage. Research reveals that up to 38 percent of people suffering from depression have low levels of folic acid.
Beware of Drinking
Alcohol abuse reduces the count of brain cells related to memory. However, a study of 4,000 French people aged 65 or more found that those who consumed up to – and no more than – two glasses of wine a day were 45 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than nondrinkers. Resveratrol, one of the flavonoids in red wine that is good for blood vessels, is also present in red grape juice, so no need to rely on alcohol!
Avoid Dangerous Chemicals
The reason why abuse of alcohol, nicotine and drugs can be very dangerous is that certain substances can affect different areas of our brain, including our memory, judgment, coordination and sensation areas. Repetitive abuse of alcohol and drugs kills brain cells. This, in turn, affects memory, and sometimes sleep, appetite and emotions. It can also reduce our ability to learn and remember new information.
Besides drugs, heavy metals such as lead and mercury can reduce memory and cause certain
mental and emotional side effects, including irritability, memory lapses, tremors and vision changes. While people working in a mining or industrial environment are more prone to this type of poisoning, eating fish contaminated by pollution also presents high risks.
Get Enough Sleep
Another idea for improving memory is just sleeping! According to Newsweek, recent studies indicate that sleep not only helps store facts, it also helps make connections between them. When you haven’t had enough sleep, it is much harder to remember something like a phone number. Also, sleep deprivation increases cortisone (the stress hormone) in your body. Seven to nine hours of sleep are recommended, not necessarily in one go, but everyone has different needs. Try what is best for you.
Exercise your Body
New research indicates that as little as 12 minutes of exercise per day can help enhance your concentration and awareness, make you feel better and help your focus. You need to get the blood pumping so that the brain can receive oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream. So walk, dance, swim, skip, run or golf, but get physical to benefit from a good mental workout by producing two feel-good hormones: dopamine and serotonin. If you stay active, you will stimulate your nervous system and let go of negative emotions, like frustration or anger.
Improving Memory with Your Mind
When you are stressed and overwhelmed, your brain has difficulty remembering the most basic tasks, such as where you put the car keys. Take a break! There are many things you can do during this break, including going for a walk, having lunch with a friend, taking a bath, keeping a journal to identify what triggers you, doing some breathing exercises, or listening to a recording like Putting Stress to Rest.
Do Something Creative
To stay active, the brain needs constant stimulation. If you stop giving it new or unexpected activities to deal with, it will simply slow down and age faster. Make sure the learning is challenging, like a new language. Art, such as painting, pottery or dancing, will do wonders in improving memory, cognition and emotional knowledge. Once something gets easy, go to the next level and keep it interesting and rewarding. If you are frustrated, you will end up stressed.
Use Visualization and Meditation
Visualization exercises help reprogram your brain by relaxing you and by changing your thinking pattern with new ideas, and this can include improving memory. Here is a selection of visualization recordings.
A small study in China found that meditation produced changes in the brain that no other relaxing activity, including deep-breathing exercises, could cause. These effects could be seen after a few short sessions, even in people who normally don't meditate. Another study showed that meditation can help reduce anxiety, improve concentration and clear negativity.
Tai Chi - Also called a "walking meditation", Tai Chi is great for body and mind
Exercise your Brain
The more you stimulate your brain, the quicker and better it will be able to remember and register new information. You can keep learning as long as you are alive. It doesn’t need to be complicated. For example, if you are right-handed, try holding or picking up objects with your left hand. Get dressed with your eyes closed. Take a different route back from work. Because you are not used to doing this, your brain will have to concentrate harder to perform the task well.
Pay Attention and Use Repetition
Stay in the present when you are given information. Avoid background distractions such as music, television or cell phones so you can fully concentrate. Repetition works well both for action and for information retention. While dropping your car keys, say out loud: "I am putting my car keys on the little white table." It will be easier to find your keys later on.
When meeting new people, focus on them instead of you. They will love you for it, and this will help you remember them. Repeat their name immediately: "It is so nice to meet you, Miss Vélisaridès!" According to researchers, this repetition increases your chances of remembering the name by 30 percent as well as your capacity for improving memory.
Use the Magic 3
Chunking the information in 3 makes it much easier to remember. Going to the store, it is easy to remember that you need eggs, butter and milk. Or you may want to stop at the library, the gym and the bakery. The same principle applies to telephone numbers. By chunking them in 3, we make them easier to recall.
The Method of Loci
When Michelle took her five year old daughter Florence to the market, she didn’t expect that Florence would get lost in the crowd. After desperately trying to find her, Michelle came back to her car in tears. And there, she found Florence waiting for her. How did a five-year-old manage to find her way back? Because of her sense of observation! Going to the market, Florence had noticed all the lively shops and booths along the way. When she got separated from her mother, she decided to retrace her steps to the car, and she just followed – in the opposite direction – the shops she had admired earlier. She had unknowingly used an old mnemonic technique dating back to Ancient Greece. It consists of associating things with a place or location and it is known as the Method of Loci. It is often used to remember who was present at a meeting by recalling where people where seating.
Draw on Visible Clues
Improving memory may be as temporary and as simple as an object out of place - such as a ribbon tied to your finger! – that will attract your attention. Instead of a ribbon, some people write a note on their hand. When I am afraid of forgetting something before I go out, I put the object on top of my shoes: I know I will have to see it. When I carry an umbrella with me on the train, I tie it to my purse and I have never forgotten an umbrella (even though I have sometimes forgotten my purse!)
If you want to remember to bring something from work, leave yourself a voicemail at work. Tie a flower to your coat, put a cross on your hand, stick a red tape to your wallet, anything out of the ordinary will catch your attention and will help you remember.
Train your Brain
Improving memory is like speaking a foreign language or exercising your muscles: if you don’t practice, it will go away. So apply some of the ideas presented here and keep using your brain and your memory. Practice, practice, practice!