Science continues to reveal how simple changes to our daily routines can help us improve our memory capacity. Follow these eight tips to start enhancing your memory and retention today.
1. Keep Stress Under Control
People often overlook the damage perpetual stress can cause to the brain. Over time, chronic stress destroys brain cells and reduces the volume of the hippocampus — the part of the brain in control of forming new memories and retrieving old ones. This is why stress has a direct connection to memory loss.
To better manage stress in your life, try:
- Setting realistic expectations whenever you set goals
- Taking breaks throughout the day to do something you find relaxing
- Expressing your feelings rather than bottling them up
- Keeping a healthy balance between work and leisure time
- Completing one task at a time instead of multitasking
2. Meditate to Improve Your Working Memory
Working memory is what you use to hold on to new information temporarily. When you learn a new person’s name or the address of a place to which you’re invited, you hold on to those details until you no longer need them.
Because you use working memory every day, strengthening this part of your memory can make navigating daily life much easier. If you’re unsure of your ability to use your working memory to its maximum capacity, practicing meditation can help. Research shows that people who lack experience in mindfulness meditation can boost their memory recall after practicing meditation for as little as eight weeks.
3. Exercise to Boost Your Memory Recall
Studies of both rat and human brains also found that regular physical activity can boost memory recall. Research even shows that physical fitness in older adults can slow the decline of memory. Another study concluded that regular exercise can enhance cognitive abilities beyond memory.
If you need a way to stay sharp mentally, aerobic exercise can help.
4. Sleep More to Consolidate Your Memories
Sleep is one of the most important factors in boosting memory, according to a growing pool of research. Most of the brain’s memory consolidation process occurs while you sleep. That means you may struggle to remember things you learned when you haven’t slept well.
In one study, for example, participants memorized a set of illustrated cards. After memorizing the cards, one group of participants took a nap while the other group stayed awake during a break period. After the break, both groups took a test to see how well they remembered the cards. The group who napped scored higher.
While sleep after learning is a critical part of the memory creation process, sleep before learning something new also can prove beneficial. Another study found that sleep deprivation can reduce our ability to commit new things to memory and consolidate any new memories we create.
5. Learn Something New
Just like muscular strength, the more you use your memory, the stronger it grows. That means learning new skills can provide an effective way to expand your memory capacity.
Most importantly, you must engage in something that will push you out of your comfort zone and require your full attention. Examples of such activities include learning to play an instrument, playing mind games like chess or sudoku, or learning a new language. Research shows that speaking more than one language can help delay the onset of dementia in older adults.
6. Cut Down on Sugar
Research now links the consumption of too much added sugar to many serious health issues, including cognitive decline. A sugar-filled diet, according to one study, can lead to poor memory and reduced volume of the hippocampus.
A separate study of more than 4,000 people found those with a higher consumption of sugary beverages like soda had, on average, a lower total brain volume and poorer memory when compared to people who consumed less sugar in their diet.
7. Avoid Binge Drinking
While moderate alcohol consumption may have a positive impact on memory and overall cognitive function, remember that moderation means just one drink for women and two for men each day.
Drinking more than that can negatively affect your ability to retain information as well as cause other damage to your body.
8. Make Time for Friends
While it may surprise you, socializing can help boost your memory. As a highly social species, humans rarely thrive in isolation. Interacting with others — and maintaining a strong support system — is essential for brain health.
People with the most active social lives also have the slowest rate of memory decline, according to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
You can take advantage of the memory-boosting effects of socializing in many ways. For example, consider making plans to see friends more often, reaching out to family over the phone, or joining a club focused on one of your hobbies.