Everyone deals with moments of forgetfulness. Where did I leave my car keys? Did I forget my mom's birthday? It happens, especially when life gets busy. Forgetting things occasionally is normal, but a poor memory can become extremely frustrating.
Although genetics can play a role in memory loss—particularly with problems like Alzheimer's disease and some types of dementia—research shows us that lifestyle, diet, and even supplements have a significant impact on memory, too. This is good news! It means that it's possible for you to improve your memory naturally, and we've put together some of the best ways you may improve your memory.
Stress is the enemy of the brain. Chronic stress even has the power to destroy brain cells and cause damage to your hippocampus, the area of your brain involved with retrieving old memories and forming new ones. In fact, studies have linked chronic stress to memory loss.
What can you do to manage stress levels throughout your day? Here are a few tips:
Some other methods of stress relief that may boost your memory include:
Sleep is one an essential element for a good memory; after all, it's during sleep that memory consolidation occurs. Without enough sleep, it's tough to remember things. Even taking a nap has been found to improve memory recall. Researchers discovered that after taking a 40-minute nap, individuals performed better on memory tests and they concluded that napping can help solidify memories.
Studies show that being sleep deprived can negatively affect your memory. In one study, children were trained for memory tests. One group was tested the next day after sleeping all night, while the other group was tested without sleep between their training and testing. The group of children who slept all night performed 20% better when tested the next day.
It's recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but what can you do to ensure you're getting enough sleep to help your memory? Here are a few tips:
Maybe you've heard that your brain is 73% water, so if you get dehydrated, it's going to affect the way your brain works, including your memory. In fact, studies show that just 2% dehydration is enough to cause problems with concentration, memory, and other cognitive skills. How fast can you get dehydrated? You can actually lose as much as 10% of the body's water after a strenuous workout.
Even mild dehydration has measurable negative effects on alertness, concentration, and your short-term memory, and as many as 75% of Americans aren't getting enough fluids each day. In some cases, the effects of dehydration on your brain can be so severe that they are similar to the symptoms of dementia.
So how much do you need to be drinking each day? You've probably always heard that you should have eight glasses of water a day, but that may not be enough. It's a better idea to take your weight in pounds and divide it by two, drinking that number in ounces of water each day. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be drinking 90 ounces of water a day. If you have a tough time making sure you drink enough, you can download an app like Daily Water or Waterlogged to give you reminders to drink throughout your day.
Eating the right foods and steering clear of the wrong ones are essential for improving your memory. For example, the Mediterranean diet, well-known for its heart benefits, has also been shown to boost attention and memory while slowing down the speed of age-related cognitive decline. From that diet, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet has been designed specifically to help preserve memory in aging adults. Studies show that the MIND diet helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and protects memory and other cognitive abilities.
What does the MIND diet include?
Certain foods have specifically been found to potentially offer benefits to your memory, including:
Avoiding certain foods is critical, too. For example, trans fats have been found to harm the brain by promoting free-radical damage and causing inflammation. Regularly eating these harmful fats can also take a toll on your memory and even raise your risk of developing depression.
Sugar is also bad for your brain and your memory. Learning disorders, depression, and poor memory formation have all been linked to consuming refined sugar. Excess glucose in your blood also negatively affects mood, attention span, and your short-term memory. Researchers even believe that sugar could be one of the root causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Hobbies are excellent for relieving stress, and taking some time out to pursue a hobby is great for your brain and improving memory. While you expect hobbies like computer coding or playing chess to work out your brain, other hobbies—like woodworking, sewing, photography, and gardening—all can help boost memory as well. It turns out that purposeful hobbies work on the brain in a way that's similar to meditation, helping the brain focus. Crafting hobbies also help to protect your brain from premature aging and can improve memory now and in the future.
If you aren't currently taking time for a hobby, it's time to take one up. Not sure where to begin? Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child. Did you have a hobby you always meant to pick up again? Maybe there's a hobby you always wanted to try but didn't. Pick something and try to spend a bit of time on that hobby several days a week.
You already know that breaking a sweat is great for your physical and mental health, but it's also essential for keeping your brain and memory sharp. In fact, it may help improve memory in people of every age. One study found that in people between the ages of 19 to 93, exercising for just 15 minutes gave them a boost in cognitive performance, including memory. Regular exercise has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing dementia.
A few helpful ways to get the most memory-boosting benefits from your exercise include:
Filling your life is music is great for your brain because it's an activity that engages both sides of your brain at the same time. When you listen to music— especially instrumental music—it has a positive impact on focus, language skills, attention, and memory.
Beyond listening to music, learning to play an instrument is likely even better for your brain. Studies show that children who learn to play an instrument typically have higher IQs and better memories than kids that don't have any musical training.
Try these tips for adding more music to your life:
Just like your body needs a workout, your brain needs a workout, too. By the time you're an adult, your brain has created millions of neural pathways. They're used to help you process and recall things quickly, execute routine tasks, and solve problems with minimal mental effort. However, if you constantly stick to these pathways, your brain doesn't get the stimulation needed to continue developing and growing. To improve your memory, you'll need to shake things up with memory exercises and games that give your brain a workout.
Word-recall games, mobile apps for memory training, crossword puzzles, and classics like Tetris are all great games for boosting your memory. One study involving more than 4,000 people found that just 15 minutes of brain-training exercises five days a week helped improve concentration, working memory, problem-solving skills, and short-term memory.
Essential oils are all-natural compounds that have been extracted and concentrated from different plants. They're usually applied topically or inhaled as opposed to being taken internally. A few of them are purported to offer a quick memory boost, including:
Memory supplements have quickly become a big business, but not all supplements for brain health that claim to boost memory actually do anything. The key is to know what ingredients to look for in a good supplement. Supplements that have the strongest evidence to suggest they offer memory and other brain benefits include:
Other ingredients that people say to look for in supplements include: