What Was That? 10 Tips for Improving Your Memory
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on November 5, 2018 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in General Wellbeing
The human brain is constantly changing. The cells and neurological pathways that help us think, feel and remember are constantly adapting, rebuilding and reshaping themselves to help boost our ability to focus and recall important information.
However, many things can reduce our memory. Sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet and old age are just a few of the most common ones, but brain cell damage and more serious health conditions can also negatively affect the brain.
If you’re having a hard time remembering things, all hope is not lost. With a little attention to your overall health and a few brain-boosting methods, you can help your brain reshape those pathways and bolster your memory.
- Stay mentally active: It can be easy to “check out” and absorb hour after hour of Netflix shows, but doing so can actually be the mental equivalent of watching paint dry. While your body needs routine physical exercise, your brain needs mental exercise. Doing puzzles and playing problem-solving games can help improve your cognition, concentration and memory. There are numerous apps and websites that offer “brain training” exercises and games that can be done quickly in your spare time. Otherwise, fun games like Tetris or crossword puzzles are good options.
- Get a good night’s sleep: A lack of sleep can hurt your brain’s ability to focus and remember things. When you sleep, your brain consolidates memories, turning them from fleeting, short-term memories into long-lasting ones. Aim to get between seven and nine hours a night, and stick to a routine sleep schedule for the best night’s sleep possible.
- Cut back on sugar: A high-sugar diet has been linked to poor memory and decreased cognitive function overall. It can also cause brain fog, or feelings of forgetfulness, an inability to concentrate, confusion and disorientation. It’s also a good idea to cut back on refined carbohydrates like white bread, rice and cookies. All of these simple sugars get broken down in your body very quickly and can cause your blood sugar to spike. These spikes can actually hurt your brain, leading to decreased memory function.
- Load up on anti-inflammatories: Chronic inflammation, or the body’s immune response that lasts far longer than it should, can be detrimental to numerous aspects of your health, including your brain cells. Eating foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts can help reduce inflammation in your body and boost your brain power.
- Get all your vitamins and minerals: A well-balanced diet isn’t only beneficial for the body. Getting your full serving of each vitamin and mineral every day will help keep your brain sharp, so you can remember things more easily. B-vitamins like vitamin B12 are particularly important, as they are directly linked to cognitive support. Vitamin D is also critical; you might need to take a supplement during the winter time if you are not getting out in the sun often.
- Take a brain-boosting supplement: Adding a natural supplement intended to support memory function to your daily routine can help you focus better, achieve clearer concentration and improve your memory. The better you are able to concentrate, the better your brain is able to lock down important information to recall later.
- Cut back on alcohol and smoking: Drinking too much is not only bad for your body but can also damage your brain. Alcohol has neurotoxic effects on the brain and can harm your memory. Similarly, smoking cigarettes can cut off the oxygen supply your brain gets, reducing some cognitive function and memory.
- Meditate: Meditation techniques—particularly when done before studying, a big test or something mentally challenging—can help you clear your mind and improve memory function in the short term. Additionally, routine meditation can help reduce stress, which is one of the leading causes of poor memory. When you’re stressed, it’s likely that you will be unable to focus on the important information you need to remember. Stress also impacts sleep, which is yet another critical component of memory.
- Practice mindfulness: Another major part of meditation is mindfulness, which is an act you can do outside of mediation, as well. Mindfulness centers you in the present moment, focuses on your breathing and helps you take in your surroundings. Staying connected to the world you’re in at that moment can help you take in more information and remember it later.
- Employ memory devices: Taking the time to identify your ideal learning style, practice pneumonic devices and employ other memory tricks like writing down important information or breaking complex ideas down into smaller concepts can help you retain information more easily. Try a few different techniques and make sure to return to the ones that work best for you.
Memory doesn’t have to be fleeting
Living with a declining memory can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. A lot of memory-prohibitors are diet- and lifestyle-related and can be fixed with simple changes to your daily routine.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan