By Emily Thomas
These days, it’s a challenge to remember all the tasks you need to accomplish across every imaginable platform and technology, not to mention the daily errands and responsibilities you also need to care for. From updating your passwords to checking your online bank accounts to getting your car checked to meeting new people, there doesn’t seem like there’s enough room in your brain to handle it all. But your memory is a valuable, powerful tool that relies on you to nurture through diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits that improve brain cognition and alertness. Consider these 50 ways to make your memory more like an elephant’s, and you’ll be surprised at how much more you can pack into your day.
Simply stated, there are certain foods and ingredients that heighten brain function and keep you sharper than a diet consisting only of junk food and fatty foods.
- Spinach and leafy greens: Dark leafy greens like spinach contain a lot of B6, B12 and folic acid, which help facilitate the flow of oxygen and protect brain neurons.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are an outstanding source of antioxidants which protect cells.
- Milk: Milk contains B vitamins, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are essential for brain health.
- Pink salmon: Eat pink salmon to get omega-3 fatty acids.
- Black beans: Black beans are also rich in folic acid and B vitamins, which are essential to brain health.
- Orange juice: Fresh orange juice is another good source of calcium, Vitamin C, folate and B6.
- Onions: Onions are a good source of fisetin, which is credited as helping improve long-term memory.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are an especially healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Strawberries: Strawberries are good sources of antioxidants and B vitamins.
- Green tea: Green tea has antioxidants and caffeine to protect and stimulate your brain.
Sleep, social interaction, exercise and stress all play important roles in your brain’s ability to retain information. Learn which lifestyle habits you need to nurture and which to give up.
- Sleep well: Your sleeping habits are one of the most crucial indicators of how good your memory is. When you enter into a deep sleep, your brain is able to make connections between thoughts and situations that you may not have been able to make sense of before, enhancing your ability to solve problems and remember things.
- Stay social: Actively engaging in social activities and staying in touch with friends extends brain life and helps you stay young.
- Exercise: Aerobic activity increases oxygen flow and helps you feel more alert.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking negatively affects memory, so ditch your cigarettes once and for all.
- Manage stress: Stress hinders memory by causing your brain to produce too much cortisol, which impedes your brain’s ability to create and access memories.
- Live life with all of your senses engaged: The more you experience a situation or thought, the more likely you’ll be to remember all angles of it.
- Be more organized: Organization makes it easier for you to learn new things, remember appointments and tasks, and navigate through your chaotic life with more order and less stress.
- Stay grounded: Staying grounded and engaged with the environment around you will keep your brain more alert and tuned in generally.
- Meditate: Take time to meditate, which improves your focus and helps your brain recall memories.
- Learn how to deal with a crisis: Panic also makes your brain create too much cortisol, which makes it difficult to remember even simple tasks or protocol.
These little tricks will help you improve your memory over time.
- Test yourself: Review things you’ve just learned or experienced, even if there’s no formal test.
- Reflect: Reflect on a new idea or situation to give your brain time to develop a strong memory.
- Make everything relatable: Relate a new experience to something you’ve already done to help your brain make lasting connections.
- Don’t get too drunk: Drinking too much slows brain function and makes you less able to focus.
- Use mnemonic devices: Use mnemonic devices like rhyming or acronyms to help you remember.
- Monitor your mental health: Just like stress, depression triggers the release of extra cortisol which can make it harder for the brain to hold onto memories.
- Pick out the basic information first: If you’re afraid you’ll forget something because it’s too complicated to grasp, only focus on the basic principles first. Your brain will be able to more easily build upon that foundation later.
- Visualize important information: The visualization trick is a popular way to make information sink in.
- Break down groups: Remember phone numbers, credit card numbers, lists and groups of names by breaking each element down and relating it to something else that makes sense to you.
- Repeat names: When you meet someone new, repeat their name a couple of times in the conversation.
- Really listen: If you make a point to pay attention the first time you learn something new, your brain will be able to form a more developed memory.
- Leave physical reminders for yourself: If you can’t leave out a printed sign to help you remember something, leave little clues to help you remember, like putting your dog’s food bowl in a different spot if you need to remember to pack it in the morning.
- Write things down: Writing things down reinforces what’s going on internally in your mind and provides you with a written record for later.
- Stay positive: Positivity actually helps your mind stay clear, focused and alert.
- Leave yourself messages: Send yourself texts, voicemail, sticky notes and e-mails about something you need to remember.
- Talk about it: The more you talk about something, the more your brain will start to analyze it from different angles and create an in-depth memory. Bring up whatever you’re trying to remember in conversation, or just recite it out loud to yourself.
- Involve others: Let others know that you’re trying to remember something specific, and it’ll be more likely to come up in conversation. You may also feel more responsible for yourself if someone else is holding you accountable.
Use these tools to amp up organization in ways that work with your mind’s memory systems, not against it.
- Evernote: Evernote lets you capture information in all kinds of formats, including audio, photos and text, making it easier for you to remember things and store notes.
- Yoono: Yoono syncs your social networks so that you don’t forget to keep up with your contacts across different portals.
- Remember the Milk: Constantly mange your tasks and sync them with Google calendar so that you’re surrounded by your to-dos, reminders and lists. The more you run into your tasks, the more likely you’ll remember them.
- FreeMind: This open source mind mapping software will help you map out your problems and projects so that your brain can make better sense of them.
- Google Calendar: Keep your appointments, special dates and other important information organized on Google’s calendar, which syncs with many other platforms and can send you reminders.
Try out these brain exercises to keep your memory in tip top shape.
- Strengthen your senses: Strengthen your senses by engaging in multi-sensory experiences and by limiting one of your senses during a routine activity, like closing your eyes while getting dressed.
- Try new things: Practice making new memories by constantly doing new things, like meeting new people or traveling.
- Break with routine: Break with routine to challenge your brain and test your memory.
- Read and review: Test your reading comprehension and memory by testing yourself on what you just read.
- Do crossword puzzles: Word games build vocabulary but also keep your brain sharp.
- Get lost: Take a different route home, and test your memory — or try building a new one — by finding your way home.
- Switch hands: Try performing a task with your non-dominant hand. This activity lets your brain learn something new and create a new memory.
- Travel: Travel is a multi-sensory experience and requires your brain to take in lots of new things at once.