Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 1, 2021

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brain Power

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brain Power

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, learning how to improve memory isn’t as difficult as you might think.

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through social media is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective strategies on how to improve your memory.

1. Get Your Body Moving

Physical activities don’t just exercise the body, but it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain, so when learning how to improve your memory, exercise (especially aerobic exercise) is king.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to regulate blood flow. Plaque buildup reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

Research has shown that exercising four hours after learning significantly improved memory retention. Researchers suggest that “appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings.”[1]

To improve memory, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming, and dancing are all excellent activities.

If you have trouble finding time to fit in a workout, check out this article: 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

2. Eliminate Stressors

Any risk factors that cause you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will, in time, begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed as a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate[2].

Advertising

13 common signs and symptoms of depression

    One study assessed memory in 3999 veterans and found that “depressive symptoms (without anxiety) had an adverse effect on immediate recall of new information and the total amount (but not rate) of acquisition.”[3]

    If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream, which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus, which is where short-term memories are stored.

    Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression and any stressors causing it—your brain will thank you.

    3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

    Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will help you in your task of learning how to improve memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information, especially during REM sleep[4].

    Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. On the contrary, sleep deprivation can put a huge dent in your ability to form memories.

    Another helpful strategy is to take a nap during the day, especially after learning something new. This can also help you to retain those memories, as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer. However, the length of your nap is also very important. In one study, scientists found that people who napped for 30-90 minutes experienced better word recall[5].

    This TED video explains how you can improve memory just by getting the right amount of sleep.

    4. Feed Your Brain

    Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages, and the quicker you can think.

    Advertising

    This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting to improve memory. Their brains need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating, even to the adult brain[6].

    Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel, and wild salmon) and dark, leafy green vegetables.

    For more great brain food choices, check out this article.

    Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat, but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats first.

    5. Eat Breakfast (And Include an Egg)

    According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins, which play a role in helping nerve cells burn glucose, producing antioxidants that protect neurons against damage, and offering omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed. If you want to learn how to improve memory, breakfast is incredibly important.

    Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, and studies showed that HFCS can actually damage the brain by promoting brain insulin resistance[7].

    Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day, so don’t skimp on this important meal!

    6. Write it Down

    If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

    Nowadays, it’s fairly uncommon to write down notes with a pen and paper. When we go to class or meetings, we take our laptops and use that to mark down important ideas. However, recent research has suggested that may be doing us more harm than good.

    Advertising

    One 2014 study found that “even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing.”[8]

    You can start a journal, write yourself emails, or even start keeping a blog. All of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information. Most importantly, if you’re going to class or to a big meeting, consider taking notes by hand instead of on your computer.

    7. Listen to Music

    Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories. If you’re looking into learning how to improve memory, this can be a great thing to try.

    Listening to music has been shown to specifically benefit the memorization of words. One study found that young adults who listened to music while memorizing a list of words, as opposed to listening to environmental sounds or silence, performed better when asked to recall the words[9].

    Next time you have to memorize a speech of want to compete in a spelling bee, try listening to music while studying. You may be surprised by how much it helps.

    8. Use Visualization

    In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

    Pay attention to photographs, charts, and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or, if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

    Another strong visualization technique for memory is the memory palace. This essentially involves imagining a place you know well (your house or a former school, for example), listing distinctive features of the place in your mind, and associating those features with things you want to remember. Then, when you need to recall information, you simply go the specific room or object where you stored the information in your mind, and it will come to you.

    For more information on how to build a memory palace, check out this article: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything.

    Advertising

    9. Teach Someone Else

    Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

    One study pointed out that this increased memory specifically because it forced students to recall the information in order to teach it[10].

    Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

    10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read, or Play Cards

    Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, reading, or playing cards on a daily basis helps to delay memory loss, especially in those who experience cognitive decline in the form of dementia[11].

    So, pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book, or enjoy a game of Solitaire if you want to boost your memory.

    Final Thoughts

    Everyone has the ability to learn how to improve your memory and boost brain power, and everyone will find that different strategies work for them. Try out some of the above in order to get a feel for what works for you.

    More on How to Improve Your Memory

    Featured photo credit: Matias North via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Julie McCormick

    Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brain Power How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide) How to Continue Reading the New York Times Online For Free How to Get Around Facebook’s New Photo Viewer 7 Ways to Create a More Tranquil Workspace

    Trending in Brain Power

    1 What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It? 2 What Is Abstract Thinking And How To Develop It 3 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 4 Do Memory Supplements Work? 10 Supplements to Boost Brain Power 5 10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on April 28, 2021

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

    These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

    What is a Fixed Mindset?

    Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

    People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

    People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

    False Growth Mindset

    Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

    I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

    Advertising

    It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

    Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

    Fixed Mindset Triggers

    A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

    The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

    Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

    Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

    Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

    Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

    Advertising

    How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

    Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

    Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

    So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

    You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

    Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

    Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

    1. Do Not Blame

    If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

    2. Aim for Self-Awareness

    Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

    Advertising

    So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

    3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

    Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

    4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

    Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

    Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

    5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

    Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

    Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

    6. Reflect and Reassess

    Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

    7. Do Not Compare

    When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

    Advertising

    If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

    8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

    Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

    If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

    Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

    It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

    Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

    Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

    It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

    More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

    Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next