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10 Practical Tips on Improving Your Memory

10 Practical Tips on Improving Your Memory
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As long as there’s a scrap of paper to be written on, anything can be remembered. But why rely on writing everything down when there are easy, natural, and sometimes strange ways to improve your memory? These ten practical tips on improving your memory will definitely stimulate your brain.

1. Play brain games.

By the time you’re an adult, you probably have a routine carved out. Get up, go to work, come home, be with family. These habits work because you’ve done them over and over, and they use the same neural pathways in your brain. Shaking up this routine can stimulate your brain so it keeps developing. Find brain teasers, or do sudoku and crossword puzzles in the paper. There are an influx of websites and game cartridges that will help you use your brain in different ways. Brain games don’t have to be on a computer or handheld device! Taking a new way home from work, visiting different places over the weekend, and reading different types of books will also activate lesser-used areas of the brain. Anything that’s new, fun, and challenging will stimulate your brain.

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2. Eat brain foods.

Food is fuel for the body, and also fuels the brain! Eating a well-balanced diet will not only improve your memory‒it can reduce your risk of dementia in old age. Eat plenty of omega-3s, which can be found in a variety of fish. If you don’t like seafood, try eating more walnuts, spinach, broccoli, and kidney beans. Eat more fruits and vegetables; they’re packed with antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage.

3. Exercise.

Exercising keeps your body in shape, but it also keeps your brain healthy. Losing weight not only restores your body to how it used to look, it also improves your memory function. Walking six to nine miles a week, especially as you get older, helps preserve your memories. It’s been shown that, after nine years of this type of exercise, you’ll have more brain volume than someone who has led a more sedentary lifestyle.

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4. Get enough sleep.

It’s common sense that you need a certain amount of sleep to function every day, but did you know that sleep improves memory? It’s because your brain stays so busy, even while you’re asleep! The brain works on memories, even reorganizing them. Now some of your dreams make a little more sense, right?

5. Chew gum.

A study showed that chewing gum helped individuals stay more focused on a task. They also had improved short-term memory compared with those who didn’t chew gum. Just make sure your chewing doesn’t turn into annoying chomping‒that might disrupt others’ concentration!

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6. Manage stress levels.

Stress makes you feel strung out and hectic, but it also negatively impacts your brain. Over time, chronic stress kills brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the section of the brain that forms new memories and stores old ones.

7. Have a healthy iron level.

Iron deficiency can have adverse effects on brain function, including attention and memory issues. Studies have shown that people who have low iron levels and took memory tests took longer to finish these tests, as well as scored significantly lower than people with normal iron levels. Thankfully, taking an iron supplement easily reverses these negative points. In that same study, people who took supplements scored at a normal level just a couple of months later.

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8. Clench your right fist.

Sounds crazy simple, right? … Or just crazy. But a study was done showing that individuals who clenched their right fists while learning new material, then clenched their left fist when recalling that material, remembered more than groups who didn’t clench their fists at all.

9. Learn to focus.

Multitasking has always been hailed as a good thing, a trait that makes people more productive. But it’s not. Multitasking actually distracts your brain. Trying to juggle too many tasks at once prevents you from focusing on, and completing, one thing.

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10. Sip red wine.

Last but certainly not least! Don’t we always love a doctor-given reason to drink wine? Red wine is rich in resveratrol, which boosts blood flow in the brain and reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Be sure you drink in moderation, since alcohol can kill brain cells. Doctors recommend one glass a day for women, and two for men. If you want to stay away from alcohol completely, resveratrol is also found in cranberry juice, grape juice, peanuts, and fresh grapes and berries.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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