How to improve memory is a common question that’s brought up once we hit that certain age. Friends and family remind us that memory is the first thing to go when we get older. Or perhaps hearing and eyesight which are linked to our ability to learn and develop ourselves.
True, as we get older, things don’t always work the way they are supposed to. But maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe it’s not because we’re getting older, but rather the methods we use to learn and improve our memory are bad?
Nevertheless, it’s important to not panic as there are all kinds of strategies and resources available to improve our learning and memory.
Table of Contents
Why Is Our Memory Not Good Enough?
To understand why the strategies I’ll share are helpful, you need to understand why your memory is bad in the first place. The first most important thing to remember is:
People forget all the time.
Passwords, grocery lists, our phone, car keys, and more. People forget that stuff and it has nothing to do with age. That being said, there are particular causes that enhance the frequency of this. Excessive use of the following will further inhibit our memory and learning capabilities:
- Lack of sleep – Quantity and quality of sleep are essential to memory. Most tips offered for retaining and growing memory is to get sleep. So it’s no surprise a lack of it will harm memory.
- Depression and stress – Depression will normally cause people to lose focus and not pay much attention. This state of mind eventually turns to people losing their memory. Stress works in a similar fashion as we struggle to concentrate. We’re too tense and our mind is overstimulated.
- Nutritional deficiency – Our brain needs certain nutrients in order to function. Specifically, B1 and B12 are vitamins that impact our memory. Lack of which will cause memory loss.
- Alcohol or drug use – Excessive use of either substance has been linked to brain damage which results in memory loss. Smoking also falls in the same category.
- Medication – A large number of over-the-counter medications can actually cause memory loss. From antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to sleeping pills and pain medications.
How to improve memory can first be as simple as avoiding these causes and considering the following:
- Ensure you get good and the appropriate amount of sleep.
- Find ways to manage depression and stress.
- Make sure you get all of your necessary vitamins for the day.
- Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol or using any tobacco or smoking.
- Be wary of the medication you take and read into the side effects.
These are all great things, but we can always do more. The number of causes of memory loss isn’t subject to those causes. There will still be lapses in memory and other factors.
Thankfully, the tactics I’ll share below will help in mitigating those factors.
How to Improve Memory Fast
How to improve memory quickly is no easy task. In most research revolving around memory, the training process can take months or even years. The upside is that all these techniques are simple and take a few minutes out of your day.
So while the process takes a while, the daily demand is minor and easy to get into a cycle with.
1. Work Out Your Brain
Our brain is immensely powerful. Over the span of our lives by this point, our brain has developed millions of neural pathways. These pathways give us the ability to process and recall information quickly. The speed in which we can solve problems, execute habitual tasks with no effort is thanks to these pathways.
That being said, if we continue to stick to those comfortable roads, we’re not really growing, are we? While well-worn pathways are helpful – especially when they’re linked to good habits like exercise, grooming, or reading – they’re not challenging.
So do yourself a favor and once in a while challenge yourself. As the saying goes:
“Use it or lose it.”
This refers to muscle strength, but the same can be said for our memory. If we don’t use it, how will we be able to retain it? The further you give your brain a workout the more you’ll be able to use it in the future.
2. Learn Actively
Another great way to improve memory is to get out there and learn a thing or two. But instead of learning passively by just reading more or taking classes, use your brain as you learn actively. How Take some practical steps to support your own learning and memory:
- Pay attention. Even if the topic is familiar or you’ve heard it all before. Learning isn’t always about hearing it once and abandoning the subject. Ideas and concepts are worth repeating. It takes exactly eight seconds of intense focus for us to fully process a piece of information and keep it to memory. So pay attention.
- Tie information in with what you already know. People learn through stories or by example. It’s why some people associate words or items with people’s names sometimes. These strategies help us in learning and retaining information. The same can be said about the information on any subject.
- Rehearse the information you already know. Reviewing and studying do help in retaining information and growing. When we have a grasp of the basics, we can expand from there.
3. Work Out Your Body
At the same time, research has shown that working out our bodies also promotes memory growth. Specifically, exercising affects our plasticity. Plasticity is more or less the ability for our brain to change its structure as it develops and grows.
In other words, exercise can open our minds to changes. Not always dramatic changes but changes to our habits and routines as well. Exercising can also promote new neuronal connections which in turn help solidify new habits in the first place.
Best of all, these exercises don’t have to be incredibly strenuous to get the benefit. Aerobic exercises work especially well on the brain. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Generally speaking, any exercise good for the heart is good for the brain.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep, as I mentioned above, is important though people have different definitions of proper sleep. Not to mention there are some people who know this but simply can’t get good sleep for whatever reason.
First off, the vast majority of us need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Skipping out on a few hours will make a massive difference in our daily function.
That being said, some of us are in the camp where we can’t get enough sleep. In those cases, consider the follow techniques prior to sleep:
- Have a sleep schedule. Train yourself to go to bed at a specific hour every night and to get up at roughly the same time every morning. This habit will eventually condition your brain to make you feel tired at a certain hour and to get up at a specific time.
- Avoid blue light for an hour before going to bed. People are glued to their tablets, computers, phones, and TV. This suppresses our brain’s production of melatonin – the brain drug that makes us sleepy.
- Cut back on the coffee. Sure some love to have a cup of joe in the morning, but some are also highly sensitive to caffeine. So much so that a single cup in the morning can interfere with your sleep at night. If you are having trouble sleeping, see if caffeine is the problem by reducing the amount or avoiding the drink for a week and see what happens.
My other article about building a night routine can help you sleep better too: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive
5. Socialize and Be with Others
Another way on how to improve memory is being with friends. There are all kinds of studies that highlight the benefits of being around friends; most important is the cognitive benefits including improving your mood and reducing your stress.
Start making friends and spending a lot of time together. After all, when we get older, we tend to narrow our circle of friends and that too impacts our memory.
6. Eat the Right Foods
Another way on how to improve memory is by having the right foods. I mentioned a diet above, but not the specifics of the diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy diet is eating fruits and veggies as well as whole grains. You also want protein, but make sure it is low on fat; examples are fish, beans, or skinless poultry.
On the note of protein, it’s worth noting the types of fish worth eating. Research shows that eating fish that are high in omega-3 is good for your brain. So coldwater fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or halibut are excellent choices.
And if you’re not a fan of fish, some alternatives are spinach, broccoli, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts amongst others.
Drinks also play a role as I mentioned, alcohol can impact your memory directly as well as coffee to an indirect extent. My suggestion is to stick with water and if you do want a bit of caffeine, consider tea.
7. Don’t Ignore Your Health Problems
Various health problems have an impact on our memory. Some medications also affect our own memory even if they are designed to treat a particular health problem. While it’s obvious that we ought to deal with any health problems, we can find early signs.
Particular health problems that affect our memory include:
- General heart problems – Cardiovascular diseases include high cholesterol and blood pressure. These have been linked to mild cognitive impairment and even dementia.
- Diabetes – Studies have also found those experiencing this have a greater cognitive decline than those who don’t.
- Hormone imbalance – From estrogen to testosterone and thyroid imbalance, hormone imbalance can contribute to memory loss in some fashion.
From what I’ve listed above, the techniques are quite straight forward. The tricky part is implementing these strategies into our lives. After all, these are habits and some can take time to build.
Memory loss stems from our neglect of these habits or by other factors. To accept memory loss is to accept other memory loss problems into our lives like Alzheimer’s, or dementia.
But one piece of good news I’ll leave off with is that you don’t need to implement all of these. Adding even one or two of these techniques will change your life!
More to Boost Your Memory
- How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter
- 13 Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Memory
- 13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily
- Is Memory Enhancement Possible? 12 Ways That Actually Work
Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com
|||^||PsychologyToday: Learning by Hearing, Learning by Seeing|
|||^||WebMD: Memory Loss|
|||^||Brain HQ: Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health- it also helps your brain stay sharp|
|||^||HelpGuide: Sleep Needs|
|||^||Help Guide: Making Good Friends|
|||^||Mayo Clinic: Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory|
|||^||eat right: 4 Types of Foods to Help Boost Your Memory|
|||^||WebMD: Heart Problems Tied to Early Signs of Dementia|
|||^||Diabetes.co.uk: Diabetes and Memory Loss|
|||^||Pacific Neuroscience Institute: Hormone Balancing|