Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why? Or struggled to recall a word or name during a conversation? Or forgot where you put your phone (even while you were using it)? If so, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot. A quick Google search on “how to improve memory” yields nearly two million results.
Here are five favorite, (relatively) simple, brain-provoking lifestyle changes for improving your memory.
Perhaps the most important change you can make to improve your memory is to get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is shown to affect both short- and long-term memory, recall, and decision making. Most of your memory consolidation happens while you are sleeping, so it makes sense those who are sleep deprived can struggle remembering, or even committing new things to memory.
A few factors determine how much sleep you should get, including age. For most adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7–9 hours.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
You may not be what you eat, but food can affect your memory. Research shows diets high in trans and saturated fats and sugars may have a growing impact on cognition—especially as we get older.
Foods shown to most benefit brain health are also some of the foods touting cardiovascular advantages, specifically foods found in the Mediterranean diet.
Shoot for a diet full of foods with a low-glycemic index, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and other lean meats.
Test Your Brain
Seamlessly endless brain game apps and websites exist to stretch your mental acuity. Although they boast about their memory boosting results, research is mixed on their actual effects on long-term memory. But—much like hitting the gym for physical health—you need to exercise your brain to stay sharp.
Try to integrate things that stimulate your brain into your daily routine. Take a few minutes to do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle as you wind down for the day. Socialize over a chess match. Read a book, learn a foreign language, or take up a musical instrument. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s as fun for you as it is challenging for your mind.
Peruse our health tip blogs, and you’ll probably find exercise suggested in most of them to promote a variety of benefits. Brain health is no different.
Moderate exercise is shown to contribute to neurogenesis—the process of generating new neurons—in the memory centers of the brain. This doesn’t mean you’ll remember your locker combination from high school, but it does increase your capacity to create new memories.
Take a Break from Your Cellphone
You may think you’re a multitasking genius with your ability to focus both on what you’re doing and your social feed. If you really can, you are truly the exception. A reliance on our phones has been shown to both split attention and affect short-term memory. As we try to focus on multiple things at the same time, we typically fail at both. A 2009 study performed at Stanford University shows the brain really isn’t great at trying to focus on multiple things at once. Another recent study shows cellphone usage can have an impact on memory—even after as little as five minutes of use.
When you put down your cellphone, you can turn your attention to pastimes that are more beneficial for improving memory—like the tips listed above. And if you’d like to read more about building brain power, take a look at our newest article on Ask the Scientists.