If you’ve been lately concerned about just how little you are able to remember, take a deep breath first. It’s possible you have too many things going and too much on your mind. It’s also possible you are not sleeping well. You may even be having a drink too many. It’s but natural to forget things as we grow older. Plus we depend so heavily on digital reminders and notes, we don’t really make the effort to commit information to the memory. But if you are really at a loss about how to improve your memory, here are 9 things to try.
1. Berries Are The Way To Go
There is a large volume of research that proves the wonders of flavonoid-rich foods for improving memory. They work to protect vulnerable neurons, enhance existing neuronal function, and stimulate neuronal regeneration.1
Sources: Munch on red, blue, and purple berries like blueberries and cranberries, plums, apples, pears, peaches, bananas, citrus fruits, nuts and beans, teas, red wine, unfiltered fruit juices (particularly grape juice), peppers, tomatoes, onions, and eggplants.
2. Eat More Spinach
A diet rich in iron and folic acid ensures improved memory and concentration. It is not only a must for growing children but also the elderly. Iron deficiency contributes to the less efficient supply of oxygen to the brain and also decreases brain energy production. Folic acid deficiency decreases intellectual capacity and impairs memory in the elderly.
Sources: For an adequate supply of these vital nutrients, gorge on green vegetables like cress, spinach, leeks, lentils, asparagus, and broccoli. Also have liver, eggs, beef, maize, fortified cereals, chickpeas, kidney beans, walnuts, almonds, apricots, and chestnuts are other top choices.2
3. Include Soya In Your Diet
Soya, made of soybeans, is popularly used as a meat substitute in many countries and is rich in isoflavone phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). A study examined the effects of high versus low soya diets on attention, memory, and frontal lobe function in young healthy adults of both sexes for 10 weeks. Males and females on the high-soya diet showed significant improvements in short-term and long-term memory along with increased mental flexibility.3
4. Give Fatty Fish A Try
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which improve brain health. Studies note that fatty fish and fish oil supplements can promote cognitive function, especially in middle-aged adults.4 Furthermore, fish is also believed to enhance memory and reduce the risk of age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.5
Sources: Mackerel, lake trout, tuna, salmon, sardine and herring.
5. Say Bye To Booze
Several animals studies have shown that alcohol impairs memory. It primarily hampers the ability to form new long-term memories. Research suggests that the higher the volume of alcohol consumed, the greater the memory impairment. And if these large quantities are consumed rapidly, they can produce a memory blackout, making you forget key details of events or even the entire events.6
6. Cat Videos For The Win
Well, we’re not kidding you on this. According to a research conducted at Japan’s Hiroshima University, looking at cute images of baby animals yields careful behavior and better concentration. A series of experiments engaged 132 students in different activities like playing the game Operation or finding a number in a random sequence. When these attempts were followed up with looking at cute baby animal photos, the participants improved their performance ratings by 44% on an average.7
7. Be A Social Butterfly
According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, elderly people in the US with an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. Marital status, volunteer activities, and contact with parents, children, and neighbors were used to analyze social integration in the study involving elderly subjects observed over 6 years.8
Another study observing 1138 older individuals revealed that even a 1-point increase in social activity score was associated with a 47% decrease in the rate of decline in global cognitive function. The 12-year study concluded that the rate of global cognitive decline was reduced by an average of 70% in folks who were regularly socially active.9
So don’t be all cooped up inside the house always. Go out, cultivate relationships, call up those friends and make memories – you’ll actually remember them if you’re more social.
8. Get Some Physical Exercise
The hippocampus in the brain is the seat of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. As we age (or even with alcohol abuse), the size of the hippocampus shrinks. According to a research, one year of aerobic exercise training was found to be successful in turning back the clock and increasing hippocampal volume by 2%. The age-related loss in volume of this part of the brain was actually reversed by 1 to 2 years, resulting in improved memory function.10 Running has been seen to tremendous benefits for the brain, from improving memory to increasing creativity.
9. Try Some Yoga, Too
It’s the age of ADHD and with so many distractions it’s hard to concentrate and focus for adults and children alike. That’s where yoga comes in. According to a study of 159 high-stress and 142 low-stress adolescent students, those who practiced yoga scored higher on concentration levels and exhibited better short-term memory. The students were divided into experimental and control groups for 7 weeks, with the experimental group practicing yoga asanas, pranayama, meditation, and prayer.11
10. Do A Lot Of Creative Activities
Research suggests that actively engaging in a variety of lifestyle activities such as listening to music, going to the movies, gardening, cooking, volunteering, playing games and cards helps maintain cognitive health in late life. These cognitively challenging activities especially help the elderly keep their wits and memory intact. The more challenging the activity, better the results.
Activities like reading books, doing the crossword, attending classes, drawing and sketching, and reading the newspaper rate higher for the elderly according to the study done on 436 older women. A greater variety of activities, regardless of cognitive challenge and frequency, led to an 8 to 11% decrease in the risk of impairment in verbal memory and global cognitive outcomes.12
11. Learn A New Language
Bilingual people could just be sharper than monolinguals! Studies note that by learning one or more languages (other than your native tongue), you can significantly improve condition and memory. Reports, in fact, have concluded that bilingual people have a greater memory power and cognitive skill, by observing the responses of several 5–7 year old children to certain demanding mental tasks.13
12. Tune In To Some Music
Good music generates positive feelings, which has psychologically been believed to enhance memory. Additionally, if you’ve learnt some form of music as a child, chances are you have a better memory than your peers who aren’t trained in music. However, this holds good in the case of verbal memory and not visual memory.14
The role of music in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in old age has also been extensively researched. Several studies report that music could help in preventing the progress of Alzheimer’s and help the AD patients remember little things from their daily life.15
13. Sleep Well
A good night’s sleep might just be what you need to improve your memory! When you initially acquire a new piece of information, it needs to be stabilized and consolidated by your brain and then moved to your long-term memory. This process mainly takes place during sleep. However, the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, is most active at night. And, without proper sleep, cortisol can affect the process of memory transfer from one part of the brain to another.(hippocampus to neocortical regions) So, if you haven’t been able to get those 8 hours of sleep, your memory consolidation can suffer.16
Well, who doesn’t really want a razor-sharp memory? Adopt these healthy lifestyle changes and see if they work.
|↑1||Spencer, Jeremy PE. “Food for thought: the role of dietary flavonoids in enhancing human memory, learning, and neuro-cognitive performance.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 67, no. 02 (2008): 238-252.|
|↑2||Bourre, Jean-Marie. “Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients.” Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging 10, no. 5 (2006): 377.|
|↑3||File, S. E., N. Jarrett, E. Fluck, R. Duffy, K. Casey, and H. Wiseman. “Eating soya improves human memory.” Psychopharmacology 157, no. 4 (2001): 430-436.|
|↑4||Kalmijn, S. V., M. P. J. Van Boxtel, M. Ocke, W. M. M. Verschuren, D. Kromhout, and L. J. Launer. “Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age.” Neurology 62, no. 2 (2004): 275-280.|
|↑5||Morris, Martha Clare, Denis A. Evans, Julia L. Bienias, Christine C. Tangney, David A. Bennett, Robert S. Wilson, Neelum Aggarwal, and Julie Schneider. “Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease.” Archives of neurology 60, no. 7 (2003): 940-946.|
|↑6||White, Aaron M. “What happened? Alcohol, memory blackouts, and the brain.” Alcohol Research and Health 27, no. 2 (2003): 186-196.|
|↑7||Nittono, Hiroshi, Michiko Fukushima, Akihiro Yano, and Hiroki Moriya. “The power of kawaii: Viewing cute images promotes a careful behavior and narrows attentional focus.” PloS one 7, no. 9 (2012): e46362.|
|↑8||Ertel, Karen A., M. Maria Glymour, and Lisa F. Berkman. “Effects of social integration on preserving memory function in a nationally representative US elderly population.” American journal of public health 98, no. 7 (2008): 1215-1220.|
|↑9||James, Bryan D., Robert S. Wilson, Lisa L. Barnes, and David A. Bennett. “Late-life social activity and cognitive decline in old age.” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 17, no. 06 (2011): 998-1005.|
|↑10||Erickson, Kirk I., Michelle W. Voss, Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Chandramallika Basak, Amanda Szabo, Laura Chaddock, Jennifer S. Kim et al. “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 7 (2011): 3017-3022.|
|↑11||Kauts, Amit, and Neelam Sharma. “Effect of yoga on concentration and memory in relation to stress.” ZENITH international journal of multidisciplinary research 2, no. 5 (2012): 1-14.|
|↑12||Carlson, Michelle C., Jeanine M. Parisi, Jin Xia, Qian-Li Xue, George W. Rebok, Karen Bandeen-Roche, and Linda P. Fried. “Lifestyle Activities and Memory: Variety May Be the Spice of Life. The Women’s Health and Aging Study II.” J Int Neuropsychol Soc 18, no. 2 (2012): 286-294.|
|↑13||Morales, Julia, Alejandra Calvo, and Ellen Bialystok. “Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children.” Journal of experimental child psychology 114, no. 2 (2013): 187-202.|
|↑14||Chan, Agnes S., Yim-Chi Ho, and Mei-Chun Cheung. “Music training improves verbal memory.” Nature 396, no. 6707 (1998): 128-128.|
|↑15||Simmons-Stern, Nicholas R., Rebecca G. Deason, Brian J. Brandler, Bruno S. Frustace, Maureen K. O’connor, Brandon A. Ally, and Andrew E. Budson. “Music-based memory enhancement in Alzheimer’s Disease: Promise and limitations.” Neuropsychologia 50, no. 14 (2012): 3295-3303.|
|↑16||Payne, Jessica D., and Lynn Nadel. “Sleep, dreams, and memory consolidation: the role of the stress hormone cortisol.” Learning & Memory 11, no. 6 (2004): 671-678.|