Here are some fantastic comments people have sent us on how one can improve their memory, courtesy of a number of medical professionals, PhD’s, nutritionists and various people who have found something that’s worked for them personally. The majority of suggestions below are backed by reasonable scientific evidence, and relevant studies/research has been linked to for most comments.
To summarize, here are the main things people have suggested (where 1 comment in particular suggests a certain point in detail, I’ve included a link to that comment):
- Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep
- Play brain games to keep your mind active
- Practice mindfulness and meditation
- Use color to your advantage (link)
- Add foods high in methyl donors (link)
- Limit sugar intake (link)
- Try fish oil supplements (link)
- Integrate a diet rich in omega-3 containing foods (link)
- Eat magnesium rich foods (link)
- Use herbal teas and supplements (link)
- Make use of Mnemonic devices (link)
- Actively recall the information you want to remember (link)
Where comments relating to nutrition are given, they are either by professional nutritionists or list relevant evidence for claims made, but as this does relate to your health, we should reiterate per our disclaimer that nothing here is intended as health advice.
1. Playing Brain Games
With aging, alteration occurs in various regions of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex, medial temporal lobe, hippocampus, and cerebellum. These changes are linked to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia. It leads to impairment in cognitive functions like speed and executive functions and also short-term and long-term memory loss. A study published in 2018 has revealed that playing brain games prevents such age-related changes and improves cognitive functions. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5930973)
Another study says that people who frequently participate in cognitive brain activities display more significant gray matter (GM) volumes in the brain and also exhibit higher cognitive scores. Cognitive activities involving games and puzzles are related to better cognitive abilities, promote healthy aging, and prevent or delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417099)
2. Quality Sleep
Sleep disturbances, as well as sleep-wake rhythm disturbances, are typical symptoms of dementia, which may precede the other clinical signs of this neurodegenerative disease. Evidence suggests that the primary issue in AD is the accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the brain. These amyloid plaque depositions disrupt the sleep-wakeup cycle. Also, poor sleep quality leads to deficits in synaptic plasticity and memory processes, which adversely affect cognition and memory. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257134)
Improving your sleep quality can benefit your memory.
3. Mindful meditation
Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, the fight or flight center of the brain Amygdala appears to shrink. This results in less fearful and anxious emotions. Mindfulness weakens the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger. It improves your focus by increasing the neuroplasticity of your brain, thus helping to reduce distractions.
--Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, Best for Nutrition
Of all the organs in the human body, the brain is perhaps the most complex. Remember the term, 'Use it or lose it.' This definitely applies to the human brain, particularly where memory is concerned.
There are many different things that we can do naturally to strengthen our ability to remember things. Some examples include but are not limited to the following listed below:
Exercise, a healthy diet, and a strong social network all contribute to a better brain and better body as we age.
Focus on one thing at a time.
Make an effort to think (intentional thinking) about what you are doing and what you need to remember.
Make connections and associations to assist your brain in retrieving information from its memory archives. For example, if you need to take Exit 48, make an association: Get it straight 48!
Mnemonics are great way to help retrieve memories. They involve developing personal (relevant) association patterns such as letters, visuals, and other information to help link and cue memories within the brain. For example, if you cannot recall someone's name, try going through the alphabet in your mind. Add a vowel following each consonant (Sa, Se, Mi, Mo, Mu).
Be more aware of what you are doing. The more you try to remember and engage your brain in the active task of trying to remember – the more likely you will remember.
Practice makes perfect. If you want to remember something important – practice! Repetition strengthens the memory encoding process. Repetition assists in sending new information to long-term memory.
A large part of memory is visual. For example, when you think of someone, images of their facial characteristics automatically cross your mind (your mind's eye). These images assist with remembering other qualities about that person such as their name, feelings you have for them, perhaps the scent of their perfume or cologne, and the experiences that you have shared with them. The use of visual cues can greatly assist in remembering even simple things like where your misplaced car keys are or what was on the shopping list you forgot to bring with you.
An active mind is somebody who engages in life to the fullest, not just doing mental exercises, but actually engaging in life.
--Jodi J. De Luca, PhD, Erie Colorado Counseling
#1 Tip: Use color to your advantage.
The brain processes 90% of its information from what it sees within 13 milliseconds. Color is a strong stimulus that can be used to influence our attention- warm colors such as yellow and red increase our arousal aka our attention. Attention is the first step in the memory process.
The brain responds differently to color. Not all colors are created equal due to their wavelengths. Our brain also has “color memory” our brains way of keeping color fairly consistent for us such as green broccoli and a yellow banana- the typical color these items would be in their natural state. The simple tips below offer practical ways to use color as part of an attention-grabbing routine to give your memory a natural boost.
Here are some color-related tips to naturally give your memory a boost:
+ Try a -Try a 4-color ballpoint pen when taking notes and utilize the colors differently when taking notes. ( Example: Take your notes in the regular blue or black ink. Use red to list upcoming deadlines, important meetings, birthdays, etc. Use green to star or underline important words/topics. Create your own color-coding system that works for your needs and preferences.)
+ Use color to quickly grab your attention. Make your to-do list on a colored sheet of paper and print important information on colored paper if you can such as an item pick-up sheet or flight details (opt for lighter colors so they information can still be scanned). This allows you the ability to quickly spot the piece of paper with important information quickly among the piles of other white paper or in your bag.
+ Use color to spot commonly misplace items. If you commonly misplace your keys- place your keys on a bright colored key ring or lanyard to easily spot them. Purchase a brightly colored water bottle or eyeglass case to increase your chance of noticing it within a room.
+ Color code material by project or task or use this technique for new material that you are trying to learn to help with faster recognition of the information, in addition to the recall of the information being learned..
+ Use a yellow highlighter for information that you are trying to learn or important details to remember.
Personally, I keep yellow highlighters and the 4-color pens in my purse and bags for convenient use!
--Dr. Krystal L. Culler, DBH, M.A., Virtual Brain Health Center
1. Research (https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/science-of-the-heart/study-shows-heartmath-techniques-help-improve-memory) conducted by Dr Wesnes found that HeartMath Institute meditation techniques improved a subject's memory capacity after practicing the simple meditation techniques for a short period of time (7 weeks). The basis of the meditation is to sustain a balanced in-breath-out-breath ratio to create heart coherence, which improves cognitive performance and memory.
2. The body list technique. This is where you pick 10 areas of your body (top of head, nose, mouth, ears, throat, shoulders, collar bones, fingers, belly button buttocks) and you work to remember that sequence in order forwards and backwards. Then you can naturally train your memory by creating a picture of something you want to remember, and storing the imaginary picture in a certain physical location on the body. For example, if I wanted to remember my shopping list, I may picture a bunch of bananas on my head, some broccoli in my nose, and blueberries in my mouth. The act of creating and storing a novel, humorous image in a certain body location trains the brain to remember the information. It can then be used practically on a daily basis and used multiple times in different contexts.
--Danny Greeves, Danny Greeves Coaching
I am an entrepreneur who has ADHD whose always struggled with my memory. The best memory tip that HAS worked for me and is backed by research is not just getting more sleep, but adding foods to my diet that were specifically high in dietary methyl donors. Specifically choline which is found ins some of my favorite foods: salmon, broccoli, chicken, eggs, cauliflower, the list goes on. However, being more intentional with what I ate and including at least one choline-rich food in my dishes made me feel better, but most importantly, my cognitive function improved!
--Michelle Heng, Everlaunch.io
The number one memory improvement tip that has worked for me AND is backed by research is eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet rich in probiotics and fermented foods. Why? Because a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain, and a healthy brain means you can remember and learn.
In the last few years, I not only reversed my own cognitive decline (I'm 62), I improved my memory so that I don't EVER lose my keys, and I can remember my entire to do list every day. And I remember people's names! I am so enthusiastic about the results, I even became a vegan nutritionist so I can help other people have the same amazing results!
--Kate Kunkel, BA, VAHT, katekunkel.com
Have less sugar added.
Consuming too much refined sugar was correlated with multiple health conditions and chronic disorders, including cognitive impairment.
Research has shown that a sugar-laden diet may contribute to impaired memory and decreased brain capacity, particularly in the brain region where short-term memory is processed.
One analysis of more than 4,000 participants , for example, showed that those with a higher consumption of sugar drinks such as soda have smaller overall brain volumes and worse memory on average relative to those that drank fewer sugar.
Not only does cutting down on sweets boost your brain but it also benefits your mental wellbeing.
--Dr. Vikram Tarugu, Detox of South Florida
As a professional musician, I needed to make sure that my memory remains sharp. That’s why throughout the years I have done a fair share of research on how I can improve my memory. Here are some of my best findings:
1. Try meditation. Surprisingly enough, emptying your brain and putting it at peace works wonders on improving your memory. I highly encourage putting on some soft music while you do this! A study from Harvard (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/music-can-boost-memory-and-mood) claims that not only does it help improve the memory of people (even those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia) it also boosts your mood!
2. Try fish oil supplements. I first heard about fish oil being taken in Iceland for vitamin D. However, fish oil supplements give more than that! Omega-3, EPA, and DHA are all important fatty acids that don’t only boost our general health but also contribute to slowing the decline of memory. Fish oil supplements are rich in these healthy fatty acids!
3. Try playing brain games. All those awful things we used to think about when it comes to games are extremely outdated. Games are actually very helpful in improving your memory! Playing brain games an hour or two a day can and will improve your memory.
--James Bullard, Sound Fro
Integrating a diet rich in omega-3 containing foods into one's diet is a health behavior that can have crucial benefits for cognitive function, in both the short and long-term. This is because roughly 60% of the brain is made of fat, and half that amount is omega-3 type fats. The brain requires omega-3 fat to make nerve cells, which are vital to memory and one's ability to learn.
Omega-3 rich foods include fatty fish, walnuts, chia, flaxseed, navy beans, avocado, tofu, and canola oil. With a list this extensive and diverse it is easier than expected to take in adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids through the diet on a regular basis.
--Lisa Richards, Nutritionist, The Candida Diet
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally occurring in the earth as well as the human body. It is vital to life as it is contained in every cell of the body and important for carrying out many bodily functions. This mineral is important for brain health as well. It not only works within the brain for mood and cognitive support, but also outside of the brain in the blood vessels. It acts as a vasodilator to dilate the vessels which increases blood flow to the brain. Magnesium rich foods and supplements are both ideal in taking in more of this nutrient.
--Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, Balance One Supplements
A great way to naturally improve your memory and cognitive function is by using herbal teas and supplements. Certain herbs have traditionally been used to boost brain function and later their effectiveness has been confirmed by research.
My three favorite herbs for enhancing memory are ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and lemon balm. According to research ginseng and ginkgo biloba can improve different aspects of memory in healthy individuals as well as cognitive performance in Alzheimer's patients. A study where healthy young adults were given a lemon balm supplement found that they performed significantly better in a memory test.
I have also personally tried all of these herbs and felt their positive effects on memory.
Ginkgo biloba and ginseng: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s002130000533
Ginseng (Alzheimer's): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18580589
Ginkgo biloba (Alzheimer's): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24548724
Lemon balm: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12888775
--Joonas Jokiniemi, Yerba Mate Culture
My number one memory improvement tip has to be mindfulness and meditation. Taking that time each day to relax and empty your mind of stress means the brain is more receptive to taking on new information and, more importantly, retaining it.
When I was studying for my final exams at college, I got into a meditation routine each morning. I spent just 15 minutes resting and preparing for the day in silence, without any interruptions, just after I woke up. It made an incredible difference to my studying and I aced the exams. I still meditate now I'm in my career, and it prepares me for the day ahead and my memory is so much better. Improved memory comes along when you improve the general state of the mind. Those 15 minutes are an investment for my mind each day that I highly value.
--Rhiannon Moore, Evopure
Mnemonic devices are thought techniques that are used to recall specific information. By using association, we can connect a term we wish to remember with an easily memorized mental picture, sentence, or song.
One of the most well known and useful mnemonic devices is the acronym PEMDAS to remember the pre-algebraic order of operations. Parentheses, Exponentials, Multiplication, Division, Addition and Subtraction becomes “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally” to assist us in knowing what to do first when solving a mathematical problem.
--Jeff McLean, McLean Company
As a student who scored a pretty high score of 87.5/90 rank points in the Cambridge 'A' Level examinations in Singapore, I feel that I may have the knowledge and experience to help you with this query.
Some subjects I have taken are memory intensive and over the years throughout school, I have constantly tested and honed my memory skills.
The #1 memory improvement tip I would give is to actively recall the information that you want to remember.
What I mean by actively recalling information is actually straining your brain and 'digging' your brain to try to recall what you have just learnt. With this constant need to recall that information, the neural pathways that link to that memory strengthens, allowing you to remember the information clearer and faster overtime.
The keyword here is 'active' because remembering information requires a conscious effort. This method has allowed me to remember and retain information easily without experiencing a sudden mental block during stress situations like in exams.
--Clovis Chow, TimeOrganizeStudy
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