After a long day at the office, you need to grocery shop, but you can’t remember what items you’re missing from the fridge. You need to call your doctor, but as soon as you pick up the phone, her name slips your mind. Eventually the information comes to you in an “aha!” moment, but it would be a lot easier if there were a way to improve memory instead of waiting for such a moment of realization.
You may think memory gaps are bound to increase as you get older, but there are actually ways to strengthen your memory as you age. According to Real Simple, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to develop neurons and build connections to improve your memory. No matter your age, you have the ability to learn new tasks and strengthen your memory, as your brain is able to form new pathways that assist you with learning new information and remembering it for longer periods of time.
Like a muscle, you have to work out your brain and provide it with proper nutrition in order for it to fully function. Here are five tips to improve memory, which will keep you sharp for years to come.
One of the most effective ways to strengthen memory is to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. According to Health, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that losing three or four hours of sleep in a single night can be deeply detrimental to your memory. It is believed that it can take eight hours of sleep for your brain to turn new memories into long-term memories; without this sleep, you may not be able to remember details at work that could help you perform at your next meeting or with your next report.
If you get a full eight hours of sleep one night and skip a full night’s rest the next night, beware: One night of good sleep may not make up for the second night’s deficit.
Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you can’t attain that amount, then consider taking time out of your busy schedule for a nap. Tech Times states that a 45-minute power nap can help your brain move newer information into long-term storage.
2. Eat the right food
To help keep your memory as sharp as possible, pay attention to the food you’re consuming as well as the food you should consider adding to your diet. Mercola.com says fresh vegetables and healthy fats are absolutely necessary for brain health, and you should keep refined sugars and grain carbohydrates to a minimum.
Increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake by consuming more fish, like salmon and fresh tuna, will maintain healthy brain function. But you should work to eliminate foods high in omega-6 fatty acid, such as processed vegetable oils, corn oil, and margarine. If you find that you’re having trouble removing oils from your diet, aim to use olive oil as your primary cooking oil, or better yet, reach for coconut oil — it’s a healthy fat that can actually help prevent neurological disease.
Additionally, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts all contain brain-healthy antioxidants that may even help stimulate the production of new brain cells. Curry is another great food for brain health. Turmeric, the main spice in curry, contains an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that has been shown to boost memory.
3. Exercise on a regular basis
Though your main motivation for working out may be toned muscles, you may not realize physical exercise is excellent for increasing your brain’s memory-holding abilities. Mayo Clinic states physical exercise keeps your brain sharp because of the increased blood flow through your body. When you exercise, your brain releases norepinephrine, a chemical that strongly influences your memory.
To reap the physical and mental benefits of exercise, most healthy adults should get around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of more intense aerobic activity per week.
Another added benefit of exercise is its stress-relieving properties, which can do wonders for the brain. Regular activity is known to aid in managing stress, which can bring about a clearer mind. Even if you can’t fit in a full-blown hour of gym time, a 10- to 20-minute brisk walk each day is enough to help clear your head and improve memory.
4. Work out your brain
Playing games designed to challenge the brain can help you retain memories. By the time you’ve reached adulthood, your brain is familiar with your day-to-day tasks. While you may run into difficult assignments at work that stray from your typical workload, overall, your brain guides you through your daily routine with minimal effort. According to Help Guide, the best way to “work out” your brain is to break from your typical routine and try a new task that you may not be very good at.
Have you ever tried a crossword puzzle in the local paper? Or, better yet, have you gone on a guided tour of your local art museum or taken a class on something you’re interested in? From small tasks like sudoku puzzles and crosswords to more stimulating activities like learning something completely new, these are great ways to turn off autopilot and challenge your brain.
When looking for brain-boosting tasks, look for experiences that demand your full and undivided attention. If you don’t have much time, try activities that only require 15 to 30 minutes each day, such as cooking a new recipe or learning how to play a new instrument. Eventually, these new tasks will become second nature to you, so switch them up when they become too easy. It’s not difficult to work out your brain so long as the activity is a genuine challenge and offers some kind of reward once it is accomplished.
5. Hang out with your friends
Concerning your brain health, hanging out with your friends may be just as helpful as spending your day studying in the library. Time states one of the best ways to increase memory is to stay socially active and contribute to conversations in groups. Dr. Karen Li, head of Concordia University’s laboratory for adult development and cognitive aging, said in the story that following conversations and then adding your thoughts and relating your experiences requires a rather proficient mind.
Socializing is also great for de-stressing, which can aid in memory strength. As social creatures, humans need other people to interact with, and talking to your friends can instantly improve your mood and keep you in a healthy mental state. In a recent study, the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that people with active social lives had the slowest rate of mental decline. Relationships stimulate the brain, so it’s important to catch up with your friends and family frequently — it may even be the best way to support your mental and emotional health, and ultimately, your memory.