Memory is the ability of the mind by which information is programmed, stored, and retrieved.
Memory is vital to our experiences. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. If we could not remember past events, we could not learn or develop language, relationships, nor personal identity.
The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change - even into old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways.
The brain’s incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of neuroplasticity to increase your intellectual abilities, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory at any age.
Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways.
9 tips to show you how
Tip 1: Give your brain a workout
- Teach yourself something new. Choose an activity that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. To strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new skills.
- Find something challenging. The best brain-boosting activities demand your full and close attention. It’s not enough that you found the activity challenging at one point. It must still be something that requires mental effort.
- Adopt a skill you can build on. Look for activities that allow you to start at an easy level and work your way up as your skills improve - always pushing the envelope so you continue to stretch your capabilities.
- Reward yourself. Rewards support the brain’s learning process. The more interested and engaged you are in the activity, the more likely you’ll be to continue doing it and the greater the benefits you’ll experience. So choose activities that, while challenging, are still enjoyable and satisfying.
Think of something new you’ve always wanted to try, it will help you improve your memory, so long as it keeps you challenged and engaged.
Tip 2: Don't skip the physical exercise
Physical exercise helps your brain stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones.
Aerobic exercise is particularly good for the brain, so choose activities that keep your blood pumping. In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.
Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building.
Tip 3: Get your Z's
Memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are all compromised if you do not get enough sleep each night.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Try not to break your routine, even on weekends and holidays. Also,the blue light emitted by TVs, tablets, phones, and computers trigger wakefulness and suppress hormones such as melatonin that make you sleepy.
Tip 4: Make time for friends
Humans are highly social animals. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Relationships stimulate our brains - in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise. Research shows that having meaningful friendships and a strong support system are vital not only to emotional health, but also to brain health.
Tip 5: Keep stress in check
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. Studies have also linked stress to memory loss.
Tip 6: Have a laugh
You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and that holds true for the brain and the memory, as well as the body. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain. Look for ways to bring more laughter in your life.
Tip 7: Eat a brain-boosting diet
Just as the body needs fuel, so does the brain. You probably already know that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “healthy” fats (such as olive oil, nuts, fish) and lean protein will provide lots of health benefits, but such a diet can also improve memory.
Tip 8: Identify and treat health problems
Do you feel that your memory has taken an unexplainable dip? If so, there may be a health or lifestyle problem to blame. It’s not just dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that causes memory loss. Be more aware of your general health by maintaining regular health checks with your doctor.
Tip 9: Take practical steps to support learning and memory
Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something if you don’t pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a piece of information into your memory.
Involve as many senses as possible. Try to relate information to colours, textures, smells, and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain.
For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorising isolated details. Practice explaining the ideas to someone else in your own words.
Rehearse information you’ve already learned. Review what you’ve learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter. This “spaced rehearsal” is more effective than cramming.
Use mnemonic devices to make memorisation easier. Mnemonics (the initial “m” is silent) are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by helping us associate the information we want to remember with a visual image, a sentence, or a word.