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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

10X Your Memory With These 9 Memory Improvement Tips

10X Your Memory With These 9 Memory Improvement Tips

Anyone who knows me knows that I have the memory of Dori of Finding Nemo fame. One of my husband’s biggest frustrations with me is that I just can’t seem to remember where we ate last weekend or what he just reminded me of today. Luckily, there’s hope for people like me. With the help of the following 9 memory improvement tips, it’s possible to remember better and boost your overall brain health and functioning and even help prevent dementia later in life.

1. Sleep

Sleep is crucial for improving and maintaining a healthy memory. Recently, scientists discovered that sleep plays a pivotal role in helping the brain process memories. During your natural sleep cycles, your brain erases some synaptic connections, which strengthens others. In short, forgetting is a key part of remembering because it clears out the less important memories so the brain can retrieve what’s more important.

A good night’s rest is crucial in this process of clearing out the clutter in the brain, which helps you remember things that matter.

Sleep is also important because it helps you regulate stress and stay healthy, which are also important ingredients for a good memory. It’s hard to remember things when you’re overwhelmed or run-down.

2. Eat Right

Another of the important memory improvement tips is to eat right. Foods filled with healthy fats and antioxidants have been shown to improve memory and support overall memory and brain health.

That means load up on the blueberries, salmon, and broccoli. It may be a cliché, but eating a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats and fish is probably the easiest way to boost your memory.

On the other hand, processed foods and foods with refined sugar have been found to have the opposite effect on the brain; they actually harm memory and may even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.[1] So skip the sugar and the prepackaged foods and go right to the whole, healthy foods that are good for your memory and your overall health.

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Some studies have also shown that coffee and dark chocolate are good for your brain health because they contain some natural caffeine that keeps you alert. Part of the memory process requires alertness because you’re not going to remember things that you’re not alert enough to pay attention to in the first place. You can’t store what you don’t notice.

However, like all things, moderation is key. I skip coffee altogether because the memory benefits don’t outweigh how jittery and anxious it makes me. Pay attention to your body to figure out whether or not a little coffee or dark chocolate seem like good ideas for you to boost your memory.

3. Exercise

Speaking of being alert, exercise helps get the body going, which is great for your memory, too. Researchers[2] found that regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat helps strengthen the hippocampus. Since your hippocampus is in charge of verbal memory and learning, this means regular exercise helps boost your memory.

While toning exercises are good for your overall health, the same study showed that they did not affect memory. So get your heart pumping and sweat it out at least three times a week to experience another natural memory-booster.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

A new study[3] has shown that being even a little dehydrated impairs short-term memory. Participants were put into one of two groups. One group was allowed to drink water and the other wasn’t while they sat in a hot room for a few hours. The group that did not drink water did worse on memory tests. The study showed that losing just 0.72 percent of one’s body weight caused memory impairment.

That means drinking plenty of water throughout the day. I’m super guilty of not doing this, which may explain my Dori memory, so let’s all vow to drink that water to boost our memories.

5. Limit Toxins

Now let’s talk about what to avoid. The next of the memory improvement tips is to limit the amount of alcohol and drugs you consume. Alcohol messes with the firing function of neurons all over the brain, which is not good for memory[4]

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One study covered in WedMD showed that middle-aged people who drink at least 2.5 drinks a day experienced a faster mental decline than those who didn’t.[5] However, they didn’t find any difference in mental decline between the participants who completely abstained from alcohol and those who drank moderately. The takeaway is to drink in moderation to maintain your healthy brain and memory or abstain completely.

Similarly, heavy marijuana consumption has also been shown to harm short-term memory in middle-aged participants. People who consumed marijuana every day for at least five years showed declines in their verbal memory, focus, and ability to make quick decisions compared to those who consumed marijuana moderately or abstained.[6]

A good rule of thumb for protecting and improving your memory is to consume alcohol and other drugs moderately or not at all.

6. Supplements

You can also boost your memory by using some supplements. Let’s start with the old standards like Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps reduce brain inflammation, which is important for healthy memory functioning, and Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect cell health, which is also important for memory.

There are also some lesser-known supplements like Lion’s Mane and Rhodiola Rosacea that have been shown to boost memory. Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that affects the brain similarly to Vitamin E and other antioxidants. It helps reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to function better. Lion’s Mane also helps improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for memory and learning.

Rhodiola Rosacea is an herb that helps protect adrenal health. This helps to prevent mental and physical fatigue.

Make sure to consult your doctor about what supplements might be right for you in protecting and improving your memory.

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7. Meditate

The next of our memory improvement tips is to try meditation. Meditating isn’t about not thinking or forcing your brain to go blank. It’s actually about becoming curious and aware of your thoughts.

I like to compare meditation to watching the clouds roll by. When you have a new thought, you don’t judge it, you just accept it and let it pass. Then another thought rolls by and another. Eventually, with enough practice, you get better at quieting your mind.

One of the benefits of meditation is that it improves memory. In one study, students who tried mindfulness meditation for eight days performed better on their GREs, improved their working memory, and were less easily distracted.[7] Those are some pretty major improvements in just eight days, so it’s certainly worth a try.

Here’s a beginner’s guide for meditation: The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

8. Be Mindful

If you’re not a big fan of meditation, you can also try other mindfulness techniques and strategies to improve your memory.

In my book Play Your Way Sane: 120 Improv-Inspired Exercises to Help You Calm Down, Stop Spiraling, and Embrace Uncertainty, I feature games that you can play to practice mindfulness while you’re going about your day.

One game is called Call it Like You Sees It. All you have to do is point to things as you walk somewhere and say the names of those objects, “Car, tree, grass, branch, telephone pole.” If you do this for fifteen seconds, you can’t be overthinking, worrying, or stressing.

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It’s a way to force yourself to be in the present, or mindful, and as I’ve already explained, mindfulness is great for your memory. It’s just nice to know that you don’t have to sit on a cushion and say “Om” to experience the benefits of mindfulness.

9. Use It or Lose It

Finally, the last of our memory improvement tips is to use it or lose it. A study published on Science Daily[8] showed that people with mentally challenging or complex jobs and people with more years of education had higher levels of a beneficial brain protein and lower levels of memory loss and Alzheimer’s. That means you need to keep your brain challenged and thinking if you want to boost and maintain a healthy memory.

You can do brain teasers, crossword puzzles, join a book club, or study a new language, anything to keep your brain challenged and your memory healthy.

Bottom Line

The bottom line for improving your memory is to start with a healthy foundation. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, stay hydrated, and get some aerobic exercise. Then, practice mindfulness or meditation, try some brain-boosting supplements, and challenge your dome each day. These are the ingredients for improving your memory and keeping it working for you for many years to come.

You may always be a little bit Dori, but that doesn’t mean you can’s take some steps each day to boost your memory and maintain good health.

More Memory Boosting Tips

Featured photo credit: Jess Bailey via unsplash.com

Reference

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Published on April 14, 2021

8 Surefire Problem-Solving Strategies That Always Work

8 Surefire Problem-Solving Strategies That Always Work

Whether you’re dealing with a creative block on a personal project or you’re facing challenges in the workplace, finding sustainable solutions to problems is an integral part of personal and professional growth. As the British-Australian philosopher Karl Popper once said, “all life is problem-solving.”

As important as problem-solving is to success, not all approaches are created equal. The best problem-solving strategies ensure both efficiency (finding a solution as quickly as possible, with the minimum number of barriers) and effectiveness (finding a solution that actually solves the problem long-term).

To accomplish both, you may need to try out some new ways of seeing and handling challenges. Here are 8 surefire problem-solving strategies that work, no matter what you’re struggling with.

1. Break It Down Into Smaller Pieces

Staring down a big problem can feel overwhelming, especially when the stakes are high. That sense of overwhelm doesn’t just cause you to feel on edge, but it also compromises your ability to work effectively. Studies show when the stress response is active, the part of the brain required for problem-solving tasks essentially shuts down.[1]

To ease that stress and enlist the much-needed logical part of your brain, try breaking the problem down into smaller, individual issues you feel more confident tackling. For example, if you’ve missed your revenue goal two quarters in a row, try to resist framing the problem as “we’re losing money.”

Instead, identify the individual problems contributing to the larger one—for example, marketing, supply chain, or communication issues that may be at play. Then, work—slowly but surely—to overcome barriers in each area, ideally, in order of importance. Not only will you feel less stressed in the process (which leads to smarter decision-making), but you’ll also feel more motivated to press on as you gain a sense of accomplishment, one step at a time.[2]

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2. Ask Someone Else for Input

I remember it clearly: I was sitting in my office, staring at the computer screen, trying to figure out where I went wrong in a line of code. Two hours in, and I wasn’t any closer to figuring out where I’d messed up (and, more importantly, how to fix it). Then, a colleague I’d planned to have lunch with came in. Almost instantaneously, she looked over my shoulder and saw the issue. I had to laugh—she hadn’t even been working on this project with me, but her fresh set of eyes solved my problem.

One of the most effective ways to reach a solution, faster? Don’t rely only on your own mind for an “aha” moment. Involving people who see the world differently than you—ideally, someone with a different skillset or from a different department—to chime in will help you more easily and quickly find the right approach.

3. Understand the Root Cause

Albert Einstein famously said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

It sounds like common sense, but it bears repeating—you can’t solve a problem unless you know what the issue actually is. Before you start mapping out potential solutions, ask yourself, “why did this problem occur in the first place?”

For example, imagine one department in your business is consistently not meeting its goals. That’s certainly a problem, but it may not be the problem. When you dig a little deeper, you might find a need for better communication or more training.

Ensuring you have a deep and accurate understanding of what’s causing the problem will save you time working toward a solution and prevent you from having to backtrack to find a better one.[3]

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4. Define Success

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: start with a clear vision of success. Before I launched my business, I envisioned what people’s lives would be like if my product succeeded. I try to follow the same approach when I’m tackling challenges.

Begin the problem-solving process with a clear understanding of what “success” would look like when the problem is solved. How will your company and team function if this problem isn’t an issue anymore?

Once you see how you want things to be, you can work backward to find practical ways to achieve that vision. For example, if you’re consistently frustrated by low morale among your employees, imagine what a motivated, positive team would look like in everyday operations. What do you want to achieve, and how would it change the course of your business?

By picturing your ideal situation, you can more easily pinpoint the steps you need to take to make it happen—in this case, perhaps implementing team-building events, more paid vacation, and incentives for reaching goals.

5. Try Silent Brainstorming

Enlisting other people’s perspectives can be a good way to find the answer you’re looking for. But if you’re attempting to tackle a problem with others, keep in mind the dynamic of the group.

Think back to your last Zoom or in-person meeting. Whose ideas do you end up hearing or applying most often? If I kept a running tab, I’d guess my most outgoing, assertive team members “win” these brainstorming sessions most often—simply because they’re not afraid to speak up.

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If you’re hitting a wall in problem-solving, you’ll need to find a way to hear everyone’s voice. One way to do that is a silent brainstorming session. Invite team members to spend a designated amount of time coming up with solutions for the same problem. Then, have them share their approaches and ideas in front of the group, or individually with you.

When everybody has a chance to contribute equally—without the distraction of a lively discussion—you’ll be more likely to develop an effective problem-solving strategy and find the answer you’ve been looking for.

6. Imagine Someone Else’s Perspective

Can’t get a group together but feeling like you need someone else’s brain to solve the problem you’re struggling with? One of my favorite problem-solving strategies is to use someone else’s perspective to see all sides of a problem and potential solutions.

As you brainstorm, imagine you’re sitting at a table with different personality types and thinkers—for example, a critic, an optimist, an artist, and a data analyst. You can think of real people you know and imagine how they’d respond to the problem, or you can simply imagine people who think differently than you.

The idea is that by using your own creativity to adopt different perspectives on the same issue, you can more quickly reach an effective solution.

7. Decide What Won’t Work

Process of elimination can be a helpful tool when you’re trying to figure out how to overcome a challenge—mostly so you don’t waste time “reinventing the wheel.”

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Next time you come up against a problem at work, ask yourself (or someone else) if you or anyone else in the organization have encountered similar issues in the past. If so, what are the solutions people tried, and more importantly, did they work? If not, cross it off the list and keep brainstorming.

If the past solutions proved to be effective, then ask yourself one more question: “Do I have the resources to apply this solution in my current situation?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have a resource at hand—and you just saved yourself some time.[4]

8. Take Breaks

It might sound counterproductive to step away from a problem you’re trying to solve, but doing so can actually save you time and help you develop an even better solution.

Sometimes called the “wanderer technique,” taking breaks has long been shown in research to boost creativity and attention span.

When you’re focused on (and stressed about) a problem, your brain can grow fatigued, which prevents you from finding innovative ways to deal with the issue. On the other hand, when you step away and think about or do something else, your brain can wander. Given some stress-free time with your unconscious mind, you can make connections you wouldn’t have if you were staring at a screen or notebook.[5]

Final Thoughts

As common as it is to encounter challenges at work and in life, it can be frustrating to spend time finding solutions, especially if you’re not sure if the solutions will be effective. By approaching your problem-solving with a bit of strategy and intention, you can both save time and find better solutions. It’s a win-win!

Just follow these 8 surefire problem-solving strategies and you’ll have higher chances of overcoming obstacles in your journey to success.

More Problem-Solving Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

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