Nearly everyone struggles with their memory from time to time. Whether you are a college student preparing for a big exam, a professional trying to stay sharp for your job, or a senior who wants to preserve their capabilities, working to improve your memory is always a smart move.
The human brain is surprisingly adaptable, and it can be taught to be more effective when it comes to retaining new information and recalling memories. Even a few simple changes can be surprisingly effective. If you want to improve your memory, here are eight things you can do.
1. Try Meditation
Memory involves more than one process. Initially, new information is held in your short-term memory, a sort of temporary storehouse for incoming details. These memories are quickly accessible while you are working with those ideas. But, if they won’t be beneficial beyond the moment, they often aren’t retained.
Meditation gives you the ability to enhance your working memory. You can retain more information in the short-term and recall it with greater ease. In some cases, just two weeks of regular meditation can have an enormous impact.
2. Get Enough Rest
When you are highly stressed or overly tired, your memory often falters. By getting enough rest, you are giving your brain a break, ensuring that fatigue doesn’t impact memory formation and recall.
First and foremost, you need to make time for restful sleep. Memory consolidation typically occurs when a person is sleeping, allowing short-term memories to get stored as long-term memories, and giving the mind time to process what you’ve experienced.
Precisely how many hours of sleep a person needs can vary from one person to the next, though aiming for seven to eight hours is usually a good place to start. However, even naps can help with memory consolidation, so adding in a short one during the day isn’t a bad idea.
Secondly, schedule in breaks when you are doing tasks that involve dealing with a lot of new information so that you can give your brain a rest. For example, after doing an activity that is going to be taxing for your memory for 30 minutes, set it down for five to 10 minutes and do some relaxing deep breathing, fix yourself a cup of tea, or do something that doesn’t require much brainpower. Then, you can return to the activity for another 30 minutes, repeating the cycle until you are done.
3. Don’t Forget to Exercise
Regular exercise is known to help with memory recall and can also enhance spatial memory. By making time for workouts, you aren’t just ensuring your body is in good shape, but your mind as well.
Either 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity during a week is a good target, according to the Mayo Clinic. The nature of the aerobic exercises matters less than the intensity you workout at, so choose your favorite ones to make sure you enjoy the activity while you are doing it.
4. Eat (and Drink) Right
When you’re hungry, it’s usually hard to concentrate. By eating at the right times, you can make sure that you have the ability to focus, making it easier to form new memories.
However, you also need to make sure that you eat a balanced diet. Your body needs calories, minerals, vitamins, and water to function correctly. If your diet is deficient in vital nutrients, your caloric intake is too low, or you’re dehydrated, your memory will suffer.
Aim to consume at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. Select a variety of plant foods to ensure you get the right nutrients too. When possible, avoid highly processed foods and drinks, and limit your sugar intake. Also, make sure to consume enough water so that you can stay hydrated.
5. Repeat What You Learn Out Loud
Repetition can be the key to memory formation. Every time you repeat something, you are making it easier for your brain to integrate the information into your memory.
Repeating what you learn out loud can be an effective way to aid memory formation. For example, if someone tells you their name, say it back to them. You can do the same thing with information like addresses and meeting times.
6. Make Time for Friends and Family
Humans are social creatures. While focusing on “serious” activities might seem like the best option for improving memory, making time to have some fun with friends and family is also important.
When you have strong relationships, you are enhancing the health of your brain. Active social lives can potentially slow memory decline, and having a good time reduces stress, something else that can harm your memory if it is left unchecked. Plus, socializing is great for your emotional health, too, which is a bonus.
7. Eliminate Distractions
When you need to learn something new, distractions are the enemy. Whether this involves noisy children, loud coworkers, sounds from a radio, or social media notifications, anything that breaks your attention from the task at hand is hindering your ability to form lasting memories.
Ideally, seek out a space where you can eliminate distractions when you need to focus. Also, turn off any smartphone or computer notifications that would usually attract your attention, ensuring that a new post or email doesn’t disrupt you while you concentrate.
8. See a Doctor
If your memory has declined in a noticeable way over a fairly short period, you need to see a doctor. There are many health problems that can lead to memory issues, and treating the condition could lead to memory improvements.
While Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the conditions most commonly associated with memory loss, heart disease, diabetes, ADHD, hormone imbalances, and even certain medications can also have an impact on your cognitive function. Certain mental health concerns – like depression, ADHD, anxiety, and others – may also impact memory formation.
By treating the underlying medical condition, your memory may naturally improve. As a result, speaking with a doctor is critical to ensure you receive the proper treatment if it is necessary.