This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Have you been noticing lately that you’re forgetting more things throughout the day, like where you put your wallet or what you were supposed to buy at the grocery store? You’re not alone. Many of us experience short term memory loss from time to time, especially as we grow older.
But what you might not know is there are things we can do to protect the health of our memory as we age. Many of these things are quite simple, and offer a host of other benefits that go far beyond just improving memory. It’s so important to maintain our brain health, so that as we age, we are less susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Ready to strengthen your mind and overall health? Here are some useful tips and trick to improve your memory.
How to Improve Your Memory
Get physical exercise.
You may not initially associate getting exercise with improving memory. But physical movement is actually great for your brain health! It increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain, oxygenating the neurons to keep them healthy. There are many diseases that can come from a lack of oxygen to the brain, so opt for 150 minutes of physical activity each week per the CDC’s guidelines.
Find ways to stay organized.
Sometimes, forgetfulness comes down to the systems of organization we have in place for ourselves. If we don’t have any method to keep our schedules organized, our papers filed, or our items put back in place, we’re far more likely to forget things.
Try to incorporate writing down important notes, appointments, or reminders by hand. Studies show that writing things down by hand strengthens our memory and helps us ingrain that information more deeply in our minds. Speaking things out loud can also help, so talk it out and write it down as you create systems of organization.
Learn a new skill.
Just like exercise for your body can improve memory, exercise for your mind can also strengthen your memory. Learning a new skill, picking up a new hobby, practicing a new language, or playing brain games can all create new neural pathways in the brain and strengthen existing ones. This allows you to more fluidly formulate thoughts and store memories. Strengthening your brain by learning new skills will consequently improve your memory.
Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is perhaps one of the most important restorative processes we have biologically. It’s where we heal, replenish, and solidify the memories of things that happened before sleeping. If the rest is not deep enough or too short, we cannot maximize these positive health effects. It is recommended that adults receive at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep a night. If you have difficulty sleeping, you may want to explore natural sleep supplements.
Manage stress and other health conditions.
A lifestyle riddled with chronic stress or other difficult health conditions can make it challenging to maintain mental clarity. The more we rush around, feel anxious and overwhelmed, or are trying to overcome a health condition, the dimmer our memory faculties can get. If we can properly manage our stress and any health conditions we’re living with, our minds will feel more relaxed and focused on the information we’re taking in.
Maintain plenty of social connections.
Social connections are an underrated means of improving your memory, but it makes a difference. Studies show that having healthy social connections and spending quality time with friends and family can ward off symptoms of mental illness, decrease stress, and strengthen our memory as we age.
Use repetition, meaning, and mnemonics.
Let’s talk about the more concrete, hands-on tools you can use to learn new information and solidify memories in your brain. A few concepts have been proven effective, including the use of repetition, assigning meaning to something you want to remember, and creating mnemonic devices for learning.
The first, repetition, is simple. You can verbally or physically repeat the same action or phrase over and over again in a short amount of time, so that it sticks in your mind. Want to remember someone’s name? Say their name out loud 20-30 times in a row, and you’re far more bound to recall that name.
Another tool is giving something a special meaning. You may not remember where you stored an old soccer ball, but if you used that soccer ball to score the winning goal in your college championship, the meaning will help you remember where the ball is and the memory attached to it.
Try using a mnemonic device to remember things. A mnemonic can be a catchy sentence, rhyme, song, or acronym that you create using information you want to remember. For example, want to remember where each direction on a compass is, if you’re reading that compass clockwise? It goes N(ever) E(at) S(oggy) W(atermelon), or North, East, South, West.
Finally, if you struggle with recalling names, try to envision a nametag on the person you are speaking to. The first time you meet them, ask them to spell their name, so you can envision it spelled correctly on their imaginary name tag. If you’re anything like me, from time to time their imaginary nametag will peel off and float to the ground, and you’ll have to ask their name again, but eventually you’ll get it.