A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. The brain’s incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of neuroplasticity to increase your cognitive abilities, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory at any age. Here are some evidence-based ways to improve your memory naturally.
Repeat and retrieve
Any time you learn a new piece of information, you’re more likely to mentally record that information if it’s repeated. Repetition reinforces the connections we create between neurons. Repeat what you hear out loud. Try using it in a sentence. Write it down and read it aloud. Simple repetition is an ineffective learning tool if used on its own. You’ll need to sit back down later and actively try to retrieve the information without looking at where you wrote it down. Testing yourself to retrieve the information is better than repeated studying. Practicing retrieval creates more long-term and meaningful learning experiences.
Avoid T.V. before bed
The blue light emitted by cell phone, TV, and computer screens inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). A poorly regulated sleep cycle can really take a toll on sleep quality. Without enough sleep and rest, the neurons in our brain become overworked. They can no longer coordinate information, making it more difficult to access memories. Roughly an hour before bedtime, turn off your devices and allow your brain to unwind.
Time for Meditation
The practice of meditation may positively affect your health in many ways. It is relaxing and soothing, and has been found to reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure and even improve memory. Meditation has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain. Gray matter contains neuron cell bodies. As you age, gray matter declines, which negatively impacts memory and cognition. Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to improve short-term memory in people of all ages, from people in their 20s to the elderly. Spatial working memory is the ability to hold and process information in your mind about the positions of objects in space.
Reduce sugar intake
Sugary foods can taste delicious and feel rewarding at first, but they may play a role in memory loss. The researchers also found that drinking too many sugary drinks, including fruit juice, may have a connection a lower total brain volume, which is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Avoiding extra sugar may help combat this risk. While naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, are a good addition to a healthful diet, people can avoid drinks sweetened with sugar and foods with added, processed sugars.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential for well-being and is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in top condition. Several studies have established obesity as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Interestingly, being obese can actually cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, negatively affecting memory. Obesity can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which can negatively impact the brain. A study of 50 people between the ages of 18 and 35 found that a higher body mass index was associated with significantly worse performance on memory tests. Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and cognitive function.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of proper sleep has been associated with poor memory for quite some time. Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation, a process in which short-term memories are strengthened and transformed into long-lasting memories. Research shows that if you are sleep deprived, you could be negatively impacting your memory. One group of children was trained for memory tests in the evening, then tested the following morning after a night’s sleep. The other group was trained and tested on the same day, with no sleep between training and testing. The group that slept between training and testing performed 20% better on the memory tests. Another study found that nurses working the night shift made more mathematical errors and that 68% of them scored lower on memory tests compared to nurses working the day shift. Health experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.