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We’ve all had those space out moments where we forget something normally burned into our brains (Who starred in “Titanic” again??). But the fuzziness might make you wonder what you could be doing to make your memory a bit better.
Legit memory issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s don’t typically develop until later in life (think mid-60s and beyond).
Still, it’s never a bad time to start building habits to protect your future brain power — especially since some of these things might give your memory and concentration a boost right now.
So what should you be doing to max out your memory, both now and in the future? Doing those crosswords really is a good place to start, but it’s not your only option. Here are 15 easy ways to improve your memory.
Your brain is a lot like your muscles: The more you push it, the stronger it gets. A brand new skill or activity gives your gray matter a challenge, forcing it to form new neural pathways that boost your thinking power as a whole.
The key is picking something that takes you outside of your comfort zone, to the point where you really need to focus to make progress. Never played an instrument before? Try teaching yourself how to play the banjo. Only speak English? Try diving into another language.
Add “brain health” to the list of reasons for why maintaining a healthy weight is a good idea. Obesity can mess with genes associated with memory in your brain and negatively affect brain health by ramping up inflammation, which can contribute to poorer memory and cognitive function.
Depression can actually mess with your brain function. So if you find yourself in a dark place or are struggling with heavy stress or anxiety, consider talking with a mental health professional to come up with coping strategies.
Regularly feeling burdened with sad, high-stress situations can actually shrink your hippocampus, the area of your brain involved with memory, and worsen your ability to recall information.
And spending large amounts of mental energy fixating on upsetting things can steal brainpower away from other functions like memory.
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel are loaded with DHA omega-3 fatty acids that nourish the fat-rich tissues in your brain — and keep it functioning at its best. And experts say you need a steady supply — at least 8 ounces a week — to reap the protective benefits.
Not a fish fan, or just don’t eat it that often? A supplement might help you out. A review of nearly 30 studies found that adults with mild memory loss who took fish oil supplements containing DHA and EPA improved their episodic memories.
Working out boosts the flow of oxygen to your brain and helps squelch stress, which can both go a long way towards protecting the health of your noggin and keeping your memory sharp.
Any form of moderate to vigorous exercise fits the bill, but if you need a brain boost ASAP, you might wanna take a quick run. One study found that participants who huffed it out on the treadmill for 15 minutes performed better on memory tests compared to those who stayed sedentary.
Here’s just one more reason to limit your intake of added sweeteners like sugar, honey, and maple syrup: Sugar-loaded diets can actually sap your memory function.
In fact, a study of some 4,000 people found that those who guzzled the greatest amount of sugary drinks like soda had worse memory function — and smaller brains overall — compared to those who drank the least.
It won’t just help you stay calm — it’ll keep your cranium a-crackin’. Regularly practicing yoga seems to protect the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory and cognition, found a recent review of 11 studies.
Some of the studies in the review found that yoga even helped folks’ hippocampi grow bigger.
Both are delicious and high in fat, but that’s where their similarities end. Foods rich in healthy unsaturated fats, like avocado, are tied to better cognitive performance and memory compared to those high in unhealthy saturated fats, like cheese, studies show.
Next time you’re making a salad or sandwich, trade the cheddar or brie for a scoop of the creamy green fruit.
After a crazy day, the urge to cancel on a hangout last minute after a crazy day can sometimes be pretty high.
But social connections are a key component of brain health, and emerging research on animals suggests that spending time with others can actually enhance your memory performance and protect your brain from age-related cognitive decline.
Next time you’re folding the laundry, doing the dishes, or vacuuming, let yourself get lost in the present moment.
When you zone in, cleaning and chores can totally be a form of meditation, which bolsters the network of blood vessels in your brain by boosting blood flow. That can lead to less stress, along with better memory and concentration.
Meditation bolsters the network, which can actually lead to better memory and concentration. And there’s more than one way to get into a meditative state.
A drink a day (for women) or two (for men) isn’t a big deal — and might actually protect your memory. But excessive alcohol consumption — especially in the form of binge drinking — is tied to worse performance on memory tests.
Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can actually hurt your hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.
While we’re on the subject of stuff to sip, green tea definitely falls under the category of stuff to have more of. The leafy brew is rich in brain-protecting polyphenols, and findings suggest that drinking it regularly could give your working memory a boost.
Obviously, writing stuff down will help you remember it. But that’s not all.
Jotting down your thoughts actually enhances the capacity of your working (aka short-term) memory, which helps you process your surroundings in real time. It’s a proven tool for stress management, too, which is also a must for protecting your memory.
It’s way more of a memory-friendly choice compared to cookies or a cupcake. Chocolate is thought to boost blood flow to parts of the brain, including those involved in memory.
Just be sure to choose the dark stuff, made with at least 70 percent cocoa. In one study, folks who consumed flavonoid-rich dark chocolate fared better on memory tests compared to those who ate “white chocolate,” which doesn’t contain flavonoids.
Want to fire on all four mental cylinders tomorrow? Then make it a priority to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Research shows that sleep encourages the formation of neural connections that help your brain consolidate memories — upping the odds that you actually remember what your boss said during that epically long meeting or that you promised your mom you’d FaceTime her after dinner.
Cognitive decline and memory issues are pretty uncommon in younger adults. Still, it’s worth knowing the signs that something might be up so you can find out exactly what’s going on and get the appropriate help. Symptoms that warrant a call to your doc include:
- getting lost when you’re walking or driving around an area you know
- repeatedly putting objects in weird places (like storing your keys in the refrigerator)
- asking the same questions over and over
- forgetting a word or name in conversation (like not remembering what a table or chair is called)
- mixing up everyday words (like calling a banana an apple)
Young adults in their 20s and 30s don’t typically have to worry about memory loss. But it’s never a bad idea to take measures to boost what you’ve got and build habits that can help protect your cognitive health.
You’ll think more clearly right now, and your future self will be seriously thankful.