Do Mental and Physical Exercises
Think of your brain as a muscle in the sense that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Moreover, if you don’t shock the system, so-to-speak, by introducing new challenges, you’re memory won’t improve. You can give your brain a workout just by trying anything you’ve never done before. It could be mastering a more challenging piece of music than you’re used to or learning to play a new instrument. You can take up dancing, finally figure out how to solve a Rubik’s cube, take a drawing or painting class, or speak another language.
It could even be as simple as taking a different route to work or reading a book if you’re not a regular reader. The key is to make sure that you introduce your brain to brand new things. Once something starts to become second nature, it’s time to tackle something different.
Increase Your Physical Activity
In addition to mental workouts, physical exercise increases blood flow to your brain, which can help sharpen memory. Try to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. If you don’t have enough time to workout, go for brisk walks when you take a quick break from work.
Get Enough Sleep
We’re constantly being told to make sure we get enough sleep, and that’s because people still underestimate the restorative power that sleep as on our minds and bodies. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours in order to restore their energy and critical thinking and problem solving abilities along with memory and focus.
If you can’t always get that much sleep, try taking power naps in the early afternoon. Taking a long nap late in the afternoon when we typically start to slow down can actually impede our ability to fall asleep only several hours later. You should also cut back on things like caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
If you feel like you’re really struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or feel like you might not be hitting your REM cycle, consider scheduling a visit with your doctor. There are a lot of things you can get by on with less – sleep should not be one of them.
Feed Your Brain
A healthy diet will help your brain function optimally. Start paying attention to what is in your food by reading food labels. You’ll probably be surprised to find out how much sugar, fat (although not all fats are bad), and additives are in processed foods. You can avoid these things by eating clean.
Swap foods high in sugar and bad fats for more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats that are high in protein, and nuts containing healthy fats. Try to drink more water, too. The rule these days is to take your body weight, cut it in half, and consume that many ounces of liquids each day. Some of this you’ll get from food, but sipping water throughout the day will help you stay hydrated, which helps your entire body – not just your brain – function more efficiently.
Talk to People
Human beings are social animals. We need to interact with others for many reasons including to reduce stress and depression, which have been seen to increase memory loss. A short conversation with the clerk at the grocery store as he or she rings up your items, can help you if don’t get a lot of opportunities to socialize.
If somebody invites you to dinner, drinks, or some event, do your best to go. Also, think of things you do every week that you could invite a friend or family member to do with you such as going to the gym or eating a meal. This could be particularly helpful if you live by yourself.
Organize Your Life
Easier said that done, right? But the further your life falls into disarray, the more difficult it is to remember everything. A large part of keeping track of where you left your cell phone or what time you scheduled an appointment is developing habits that will enable your brain to remember.
Instead of jotting down reminders in random places, start using a calendar or electronic planner to keep track of everything. If you have a smartphone, such as an iPhone, you can easily use the reminder and calendar apps to stay organized. These will often sync with your computer depending on what software you’re using, so you can have your calendar with you whether you’re at your desk or not. You can set alerts for minutes, hours, days, or weeks in advance of an event and set color codes for appointments, family events, time set aside for hobbies, etc.
Here are some additional habits you can develop to stay organized:
- Keep To-Do lists up-to-date
- Designate an area for items like your phone, sunglasses, keys, wallet, etc. and be disciplined about putting those items in that spot
- Don’t go overboard with multi-tasking; trying to do too many things at once will prevent your brain from being able to focus enough on one thing in order to remember it
Manage Health Conditions
Sometimes all of the tricks in the book aren’t enough to improve memory if you have a health problem. Chronic conditions like depression, thyroid problems, or other hormonal imbalances (i.e. women going through menopause, mean low in testosterone, etc.) can inhibit your brain’s ability to make a memory of something. Taking the necessary steps to properly manage conditions like these can make a noticeable difference in your memory. Also, note that some medications can negatively impact memory, so talk to you doctor.
A lot of the things you can do to improve your memory will also help you improve your ability to concentrate. The difference between improving memory and improving concentration is that it takes a little bit more practice to increase focus. Here are some things you can try in order to stay present:
- Cut out distractions. If you need to concentrate on something, go somewhere quite where the sound of other people talking, the TV, music, traffic, or other interruptions won’t be an issue.
- Make attentiveness a goal in everything that you do. Draw yourself into the moment by paying attention to details. A common example is to not just see the forest, but also the leaves and the bark and the animals living in the trees.
- Avoid multi-tasking, as this will counteract your efforts to make attentiveness a goal.
- Fight boredom by finding little ways to make something more enjoyable or engaging. For example, next time you’re stuck with a mundane task, try to make a game out of it.