If you’ve ever wondered if there’s anything you can do to boost your memory, then you’re in luck! There are many practical steps you can take to improve your ability to remember. Many of them are lifestyle elements: the foods you eat, how active you are, etc. However, there are also simple tricks and tactics you can employ to optimize your cognitive function. Scroll down to discover the ways you can help keep your memory sharp and well-maintained over the long term.
Get Out And Be Social
One of the best things you can do for your overall cognitive function is to maintain strong relationships and social networks. When it comes to your memory function, this is no exception. Engaging in social gatherings and community activities can not only boost mood and positive neurochemicals, it can also jump start your memory.
Some Practical Steps
Create Rituals with Others — You could pick a certain day every week to do something with others: go out to eat, watch a movie, etc.
Use Social Media — The internet has made it possible to find groups with virtually every interest. Peruse social media and community sites like meetup.com to find events near you where you can connect with others.
Take a Class — whether it be something intellectual or active like a dance class or tai chi. The more interactive it is, the better.
Become a Connector — Many people are looking for social connection as well. Sometimes the easiest way to make friends is to suggest ideas for activities and invite others out.
Exercise is across the board one of the best things you can do for your body, but it’s also a key element to maintaining a well-functioning brain.
Exercise affects the brain in many ways. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It aids the release of hormones which provide an excellent environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new connections between cells in many important cortical areas of the brain. It is also thought to boost cognition. One study reported that exercise helps the brain release a molecule called irisin, which can activate genes associated with learning and memory.
Gyms can often double as community centers. Organizations like the YMCA have sports and activities geared toward every age group and fitness level. Check your local YMCA for more ideas, here's a few we suggest:
- Plant a garden or mow the grass.
- Walk the dog.
- If you have a bike, consider riding a bike short distances instead of driving.
- If you like to take walks, invite a neighbor to be your walking buddy.
Adjust Your Diet
We all know that diet plays a huge role in health, but what exactly is a good diet for brain function, and specifically your memory?
In general, a low-glycemic diet is your best bet. If possible, lowering your intake of refined sugar and grains will help support your memory by reducing inflammation. Insulin resistance and inflammation can both be precursors to brain health problems. Another helpful guideline is to consume foods high in antioxidants, probiotics, and Omega-3’s. Antioxidants help protect the brain against harmful free radicals. Probiotics provide healthy bacteria in the digestive tract to boost immune function, and in turn cognitive function. Finally, Omega-3’s are used by the body to create brain and nerve cells, and they are essential to learning and memory.
Here are some practical examples of ‘memory-boosting’ foods:
- Foods like Yogurt, Kombucha, Pickles, Kefir, Sauerkraut, or fermented foods in general contain high amounts of probiotics.
- Pecans, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, walnuts, and apples all contain antioxidants.
- Eggs, Salmon, Spinach, Chia Seeds, and Canola Oil all contain Omega-3 fatty acids.
Get Some Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important, and overlooked aspects of our brain health. The time you spend sleeping is the period that your body repairs itself, and getting good sleep is critical to your cognitive function.
It’s probably little surprise to learn that sleep quality is very much linked to memory. British newspaper The Guardian cited a study that concluded that good sleep almost doubles our odds of recalling forgotten information. According to Dr. Nicolas Dunmay, who was interviewed for the article, the study “may indicate that some memories are sharpened overnight. This supports the notion that, while asleep, we actively rehearse information flagged as important.” Although we all know from experience how lack of sleep can affect our mind, many U.S. citizens still struggle getting a good night’s rest.
Here are a few tips for how to sleep deeper and wake up more refreshed:
- Pick a consistent time to go to bed and wake up, and stick to it.
- Keep your room dark at night. If necessary, get some black-out curtains or unplug electronic devices that give off excessive light.
- Avoid looking at your electronic screens (i.e. phone) for at least an hour before bed. Screens can give off blue light, which can trick the brain into believing that it’s still daylight.
- Get a quality sleep supplement, one that contains relaxing and sedating herbs. Two other key supplements are melatonin and 5-htp. You can check out Procera Sleep, which contains all of these combined into one capsule.
- What you eat and when you eat can have a huge impact on your ability to rest. As an experiment, you may try eating a healthy dinner and not eating after 7pm. You may find that you rest better without late-night snacking.
Because so many different factors can affect your memory function, there are several different types of supplements that can be of help.
Foundational vitamins and minerals can help provide the essential fuel your brain needs to run efficiently. Other supplements specifically geared toward the brain can help optimize your cognitive function and boost your overall memory.
Here is a starter list of supplements for your memory:
- Foundational supplements include: Vitamins B and D, and Omega-3 (EPA and DHA).
- Certain supplements may boost memory and cognitive performance. These include: Ginkgo Biloba, Panax Ginseng, and Vinpocetine.
- Curcumin, derived from turmeric root, may provide anti-inflammatory properties.
- Probiotic supplements (with prebiotics) support digestive health by introducing helpful bacteria into the gut. These are widely available and beneficial if you do not have a diet high in fermented foods.
A Few Extra Tips and Tricks
There are several little things you can do to make it easier overall to remember. These simple tricks can help you stay on top of your routine and get everything done that you need to.
Word Associations— Use word associations to help you recall things. For example, if someone tells you their name is Mr. Applegate, picture an apple sitting on a gate. Simple strategies like this are called mnemonic devices. A mnemonic device is mental exercise designed to help you remember.
Write Out Your To-Do’s — This is good for everyone, even if you have a great memory. Keeping a to-do list will ease the burden off of your mind to remember everything.
Keep Your Routine Going — Having a structured routine can create associations in the mind that will help you remember. Having designated times for your activities will make it much easier to get everything done in a day.
Get a Calendar/Day Planner — Physically writing something down can by itself help you remember what to do. Keeping a calendar with your schedule in advance will be of major benefit to your memory.