- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
Our memories define us. What we recall and how we process it can influence how we interact with others in business, love, and day-to-day. Keeping your memory sharp is a vital part of personal development. Let’s take a look at some of the research and techniques out there for improving what we remember.
It’s a common misconception that you can’t alter your mind, but science has discovered that’s not true. Neurologists have found that the brain has an amazing ability to change and adapt. Called neuroplasticity, the science behind changing your mind is as simple as providing the right stimulation. Given the right set of circumstances and mental triggers, the brain can alter its neural pathways to develop a powerful memory.
Improving your memory is a matter of adding a few simple activities to your daily life. Exercise and a healthy diet are somewhat obvious solutions. Less obvious are things like meditation and friendship. What other activities and ideas are there for improving memory? We’ve collected a few of the best options here to help you develop a strategy for memory improvement.
GIVE YOUR BRAIN A WORKOUT
You can think of the brain as a muscle and just like a muscle, working out is a great way to make it stronger and healthier. Brain boosting exercises help rewire your brain for better performance and memory recall. A routine of new and moderately challenging mental games and activities strengthens your brain’s recall capacity.
This doesn’t mean playing countless games of solitaire. You want to focus on specific brain-building exercises that teach you something new and challenge you. Additionally, you should look for skill sets you can build upon. Learning how to play chess is a great example. You don’t have to worry about being a chess master right away, but you can build that skill over time.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT TOO
Giving your brain a workout is only the first step in improving your memory. Taking the time out of your week to get some old-fashioned exercise is proven to work wonders on memory development. By increasing oxygen and blood flow to your brain, physical exercise stimulates neuronal connections and reduces stress hormones.
Any physical exercise is good, but aerobics seem to deliver particularly good results. Choose exercises that keep you moving and keep your heart rate up. Exercises that require good hand-eye coordination also stimulate healthy memory improvement. That’s because you have to remember the movements and placements required by the exercise. The neurons that responsible for that are the same ones responsible for memory recall.
KEEP STRESS IN CHECK WITH MEDITATION
There’s endless scientific evidence in favor of meditation for stress reduction. Myriad studies show that meditation not only reduces stress, but it improves memory, too. How? It changes the brain. Brain scans have proven that people who meditate regularly have more active connections between brain cells. That equates to higher mental sharpness, cognitive processing, and memory recall.
There are other ways to manage stress in addition to meditation. It’s important to set realistic expectations, take breaks throughout your day, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Managing stress could be an entire series of articles, but one thing is certain. Cognitive ability and memory recall are stronger when you’ve got your stress levels under control.
EAT HEALTHY AND STAY HYDRATED
I know I sound like your mom telling you to eat your vegetables and drink water, but she wasn’t saying that just to say it. Now, mom may not have known the benefits of diet and hydration on memory improvement, but she knew it was good for us. There are countless foods proven to have a positive effect on memory and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released a study that pointed to the power of hydration for short term memory.
In a test of 101 students facing adverse conditions, they found the students who were not allowed to drink water performed poorly on memory tests. Those who were allowed to drink water found the tests far less difficult. When it comes to foods, doctors recommend omega-3s (found in seafood, spinach, broccoli, and many other foods.) They also advise limiting calories and saturated fats, eating more fruits and veggies, and drinking green tea.
HANG OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Improving your memory isn’t all work and no play. Several studies say spending time with friends is a great way to boost cognition. That’s especially true if you’re having some lighthearted fun. Laughter and social engagement are shown to increase memory strength dramatically. Relationships stimulate our brains. Healthy interactions with friends and loved ones keep our minds sharp and help us create new pleasant memories.
Laughter is just as important. Listening to a good joke and trying to figure out the punchline triggers areas of the brain responsible for creativity and learning. These are essential functions of memory. I guess it’s true what they say, “Laughter is the best medicine!”
GET SOME SLEEP
The brain needs time to rest. On average the human body needs about 8 hours of sleep. The truth is, most of us probably don’t get that much sleep. Scientifically, that poses a problem for healthy memory improvement. Even skimping a little can cause us to be forgetful. Sleep is important for memory consolidation. Some of the most important memory strengthening activity happens in deep sleep.
One of the best ways to improve sleep is to stick to a schedule. If you can go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day, you will see a big increase in memory. It’s also a good idea to cut out screen time at least an hour before bedtime. Research shows phones, computers, tablets, and televisions trick our brain into staying awake.
We are defined by what we remember and how we process our memories. Everything we do is affected in one way or another by memory. When we improve our memory, we’re improving our quality of life. Luckily it’ as simple as creating a few new habits.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell