7 Ways to Train Your Memory

Blog Health 7 Ways to Train Your Memory

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3.15.2024 0 comments

Memory, the ability to recall details from our past in the present, shape who we are as human beings.

Think about it: all the opinions you’ve formed over the years, all the thoughts and feelings that have led you to become who you are, they’re all from the past. Only because you remember them can you really be who you are today.

Memory tells us how we got to where we are, who has shaped us into our current selves. It establishes our very essence.

Sadly, as we grow older, our brains often begin to deteriorate and memory can fade. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, it’s estimated that 40% of people will lose at least some of their memory once they pass the age of 65 [1]. Up to 8% of people will suffer from dementia or memory loss brought on by Alzheimer’s or some other neurodegenerative condition. When that happens and we lose our memories, we lose bits and pieces of who we are.

Which is why it’s absolutely essential for you to train and protect your memory starting TODAY. If you begin working on your memory from a young age—when your brain is healthy and pliant—it will reduce your risk of memory loss and dementia as you grow older.

Below, we’ll share with you 7 science-backed ways you can train your memory to protect your brain and age gracefully.

1. Meditate

Research [2] has shown that people who regularly practice meditation have better cognitive function and working memory.

Meditation actually expands your frontal region and hippocampus [3], increases gray matter density [4], decreases the effects of stress [5] and lowers cortisol (which can impair brain function), and protect your brain against neurodegeneration [6]. It can even increase the activity of neurotransmitters critical for healthy brain function and your memory [7].

To improve your memory, you can use general meditative practices, or you can focus on specific techniques that sharpen your memory.

To begin, try simply focusing on your breathing, the sensations in your body, or clearing your mind. This will get you in the practice of meditating on a basic level.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can try to sharpen your memory using specific recall-focused techniques. For example, once you’ve cleared your mind, open your eyes for 60 seconds to take in everything in the room or space around you. Then, close your eyes and focus on building a mental image of everything you’ve seen. The more complex the mental picture you can build, with as many details as possible pulled up from your memory, the better.

You can practice this meditation and mindfulness anywhere. For example, try it on a weekend, going out to a coffee shop and practicing building the mental image of the streets around you, or sitting in a park and paying attention to passing people and the different textural-visual elements around you.

Regular meditative practice with a focus on memory and recall can be hugely beneficial in keeping your brain sharp and increasing your awareness of the world around you.

2. Create Mnemonics

Mnemonic systems (or devices) are learning techniques that increase retention by using the brain’s ability to remember patterns or simple concepts, which you associate with more complex concepts.

Common mnemonic devices include:

  • ROYGBIV, used for the colors of the rainbow.

  • Knuckle mnemonics, used to remember the months of the calendar.

  • My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, used to remember the order of the planets.

Research [8] has proven that mnemonics make it easier to not only store the data using an easily repeatable and recognizable pattern, but also retrieve it.

There are many types of mnemonics you can use: music, names, words, models, expressions, rhyme or rhythms, images, connections, and more [9]. Anytime you need to remember something important, consider using a mnemonic device to imprint it in your memory and make recall down the line easier. The more you learn in this manner, the easier it will be to absorb more complex information as your memory and recall sharpen.

3. Engage in Regular Brain Exercises

Brain exercises are amazing for keeping your mind sharp and honing your memory.

There are a great many types of exercises that can improve your cognitive function:

  • Games – Card games and board games have been proven [10] to keep your mind sharp. Not only do you have to remember a number of rules, but you also have to analyze tactics that will change with every game you play.

  • Memory Card Games – These are simple games—find two cards with the same symbol, shape, color, or pattern—but they can do wonders to sharpen your short-term memory. They also activate the regions of your brain involved in recall and pattern recognition.

  • Puzzles – Jigsaw puzzles have been scientifically proven [11] to sharpen your working memory, reasoning, pattern recognition, perception, and mental rotation, and can seriously enhance cognitive function. Regularly doing puzzles can have long-term benefits for your mental health and memory.

  • Crossword Puzzles – Crossword puzzles are not only great for sharpening your brain, activating your pattern recognition, and challenging your ability to recall words and information, but it can actually stimulate the brain to the point that it prevents memory decline [12].

  • Sudoku – Sudoku number puzzles can have benefits similar to crossword puzzles [13], protecting your brain against deterioration and sharpening recall.

Incorporate these brain exercises into your life to improve cognitive function—not to mention have a lot more fun playing games!

4. Use the Three Rs

If you ever find yourself struggling to remember something or want to make sure some detail is locked tight in your memory, practice the three Rs:

  1. Repeat – Repeat what you’ve just heard or learned. Repeat it out loud to yourself or to someone else.

  2. Retell – Take it a step farther than just saying it out loud; teach it or tell it to someone else. In order to explain it clearly, you have to understand it, and the retelling helps to lock the information in your memory more effectively.

  3. Register – Write it down somewhere, be it a notebook, journal, or computer document. The act of writing something down transforms it from merely verbal information to written information, which your brain is more likely to retain.

The three Rs will be game-changing to help you recall important information.

5. Exercise Daily

Countless studies have proven that exercise is amazing for your cognitive function.

Not only does exercise induce structural changes in your brain, but also affects functional changes [14]. It’s a protective factor against neurodegeneration and increases cognition, and sharpens both your thinking skills and your memory [15]. It can actually reverse or slow the cognitive decline that is a common side effect of aging [16].

The CDC [17] recommends a minimum of “150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity”. Typically, that’s best when broken up into small chunks—15 to 30-minute workouts that you perform 4-5 days per week. It’s also recommended to engage in at least 2-3 muscle-strengthening workouts in addition to exercise that improves cardiovascular conditioning.

The more exercise you do from a young age, the healthier you will be in every way—your muscular strength and endurance, your cardiovascular conditioning, and, of course, your cognitive function.

6. Take Memory-Boosting Supplements

There are a few supplements you can take that will boost your memory:

  • Gingko Biloba – Research [18] has linked gingko supplementation with better cognitive health and improved memory. There are bioactive compounds in gingko that can stimulate the cholinergic system, the part of your autonomic nervous system that controls digestion, blood pressure, heartbeat, and working memory.

  • L-Carnitine – L-carnitine is an amino acid that your body turns into acetyl-L-carnitine, which is needed for a wide range of functions, particularly nervous system function, thinking, and memory [19]. It may even aid in the treatment of depression.

  • Omega-3 – The Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are incredibly important for brain health and cognitive performance. Research [20] has linked these Omega-3 fatty acids with healthy neurotransmitter production and function, easier learning, sharper memory, faster recall, and response time. Plant-based Omega-3s derived from walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds can provide a significant dose of these critical fatty acids.

  • Phosphatidylcholine – Phosphatidylcholine is a form of choline found in sunflower, soy beans, mustard, and other foods. Research [21] has linked it to increased activity in the forebrain (including the hippocampus and cortex) even in those suffering from dementia. An increase of this form of choline led to improved memory and ensured the brain had enough of the acetylcholine necessary for healthy function.

  • Magnesium – Magnesium supplementation (or an increase through your diet) has been linked to an improvement in memory [22]. In fact, it’s believed so critical to healthy brain function that “magnesium therapy” is used to maintain neural plasticity and enhance cognitive ability.

Add these supplements to your daily diet to increase and improve brain function.

7. Maximize Sleep Quality

Quality sleep is absolutely crucial for healthy memory and cognition.

Not only does it regenerate damaged or deteriorating brain cells [23], but it also maintains healthy neuron function, flushes toxins from the brain, and gives your brain the time and space to process the information it has absorbed during the day [24].

For a healthier brain:

  • Make sure to sleep the recommended 6 to 8 hours per night. Everyone’s needs are different, with different circadian rhythms that govern exactly how much sleep is necessary. Make sure to give yourself enough time for “sufficient” sleep each night according to your specific requirements.

  • Nap smart. “Power naps” between 10 and 30 minutes [25] improve your mood, concentration, alertness, reaction time, short-term memory, and focus, and allow your brain to organize and file the information you’ve absorbed. Typically, the best time for a power nap is in the middle of the work day when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

If you implement these seven ways to train your memory into your daily life, you will give your brain the nourishment, protection, and training necessary to keep it sharp and functioning well. It’s critical for aging gracefully and maintaining healthy cognition as you grow older.

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[1] https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/differences-between-normal-aging-dementia

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7967907/

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811909000044?via%3Dihub

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092549271000288X?via%3Dihub

[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2639

[6] https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0018438

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987703001750?via%3Dihub

[8] https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/ss2/cresource/q1/p04/

[9] https://www.seattleu.edu/media/learning-assistance-programs/files/9-Types-of-Mnemonics-for-Better-Memorya4b4.pdf

[10] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2598835

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174231/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885259/

[13] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/gps.5085

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999/

[15] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-can-boost-your-memory-and-thinking-skills

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/

[17] https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/physical-activity-brain-health/index.html

[18] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27414695/

[19] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-834/acetyl-l-carnitine

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9641984/

[21] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7782901/

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507270/

[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651462/

[24] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210715124527.htm

[25] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/power-naps


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