In today’s short-attention-span world, it’s easy to filter out important things you should remember. Doing so can be dangerous. You need to keep your mind sharp as your body ages, to stave off disease—in fact, Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the top 10 causes of death in America, responsible for 121,499 souls last year. To protect yourself, follow these essential 7 tips that improve your memory, according to science. Some of them are even fun to do. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these 19 Ways You’re Ruining Your Body, Say Health Experts.
Science has shown “that memories relating to an event are scattered across the brain’s sensory centres but marshalled by a region called the hippocampus. If one of the senses is stimulated to evoke a memory, other memories featuring other senses are also triggered.” This is why if you smell a favorite dish, like lasagna or brownies—or, say, beets and sourdough bread for me—you can remember the exact place you were when eating it as a kid (in my parent’s kitchen in Poland). Apply this learning to making new memories. If you want to remember something, consider your 5 senses when doing so.
When learning new information, chunk it up, like you do with a phone number (555-439-9999). Notice the three separate sections? Now you can apply that to anything: A grocery list (meats, veggies, dairy, snacks). People’s names at a big meeting (those on the right side of the table, and those on the left side). A list of ways to improve your memory (lucky for you, we chunked this list into an easy 7 to remember—keep reading for the rest of the tips). Anything can be chunked up.
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Get at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity in—even a brisk walk will do, or 75 minutes of something more hardcore. “Exercise and physical activity programs have been shown to improve brain health in a variety of ways, including aspects such as memory, attention, and processing speed,” said Ryan Glatt, MSc, CPT and Brain Health Coach. “With dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease on the rise, an evidence-based, individualized, and multimodal exercise program led by certified exercise professionals may be one of the best ways to make a dent in the epidemic of cognitive decline.”
“Get enough sleep!” says Dr. Myles Spar, Chief Medical Officer of Vault Health, “Besides the above-mentioned sleep benefits, late at night, people make poorer choices with food and alcohol. Shutting it down on the early side can reduce those temptations. Throughout the day, take time to rest when you can. Think about your craft, sport, or work – in a positive way – before going to bed.” A good night’s sleep “can improve memory, attention, and sleep,” says Dr. Spar.
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“You’re more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner. You might even repeat each entry out loud as you jot it down to help cement it in your memory. Keep to-do lists current and check off items you’ve completed. Set aside a place for your wallet, keys, glasses and other essentials.”
“Limit distractions and don’t do too many things at once,” says the Mayo Clinic. “If you focus on the information that you’re trying to retain, you’re more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you’re trying to retain to a favorite song or another familiar concept.” Next time you want to remember people from a dinner party, sing their names to the tune of “Happy Birthday”—you can even do it while washing your hands.
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Stress has been proven to interfere with your memory—in fact, “stress affects cognition in a number of ways, acting rapidly via catecholamines and more slowly via glucocorticoids,” says one study. To destress, “use mindfulness to transition more smoothly between the different areas of your life, such as from the office to home — or from work mode to family mode if you’re working remotely,” says Julie Potiker, certified Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) instructor and author of Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos. “Taking 5 – 10 minutes to get grounded and centered after work before you interact with your family, for example, can make a huge difference in how you show up for them.”
“And you can do this practice for any transition,” she continues, “between running errands and returning home, between weaving through traffic and meeting a friend for dinner, between dropping the kids off at school (or setting them up for remote learning) and starting your day. Tapping into mindfulness for even a few minutes as you go from one thing to the next can reduce stress and increase feelings of calm and clarity — which benefits you and everyone around you!” And to get through life at your healthiest, Don’t Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.