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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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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

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“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

“When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

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When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

Silence relieves stress and tension.

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

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A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

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But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

Reference

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