Everyone experiences memory blips from time-to-time. Regardless if you are a college student studying for final exams, a working professional preparing for a big presentation in front of the bosses, or a senior who wants to maintain mental sharpness, you will experience some blunders, no matter how hard you prepare. There will always be that tip-of-the-tongue moment, where you forget where your eyeglasses are, or even an old schoolmate’s name.
Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you are in it for good. The good news is, there various ways to help you boost your memory and mental health. Here are a dozen tips to keep you mentally sharp, regardless of the number of candles on your next birthday cake.
1. Move Around
Physical exercise keeps you in shape. Did you know that it could positively affect your brain, as well? In fact, it preserves your memory and mental functions, which often deteriorates as you age.
This is because exercise increases oxygen to your brain, which reduces your risk for various disorders, including cardiovascular disease, memory loss and diabetes. At the same time, it enhances helpful brain chemicals and reduces hormones related to stress.
To ensure brain-boosting effects, go for aerobic exercises and activities that encourage complex motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Exercising in the morning could also help jumpstart your day and reduce those afternoon slumps.
2. Stick to a Healthy Diet
Fact: your body and brain both need fuel to keep working well. When it comes to boosting your brain, what you eat plays a crucial role in that, as well.
Therefore, eat lots of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, whole grains and lean proteins to improve your brain health. Diets rich in omega-3’s, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna could also do a lot up there.
If you’re not a fish fan, walnuts, pinto beans, broccoli, flaxseed oil and soybeans could be your best brain options. Drinking green tea is also beneficial for your brain because of its polyphenol content, a powerful antioxidant, which protects your brain cells against free radicals.
To guide you better, then go for the Mediterranean diet. It’s good for the heart, too.
3. Get Enough Sleep
The number of hours required for sleep to ensure proper functionality varies from person to person.
However, most experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to maintain the same level of function during the day. At the same time, it is critical to memory and learning because during this stage, your brain consolidates all memories.
To get enough sleep, make sure to avoid big, heavy meals before going to bed, don’t drink alcohol and caffeine few hours before bedtime, and close all electronic devices, which suppresses melatonin, a hormone that keeps you sleepy. Establishing a regular sleeping schedule by going to bed and waking up the same time everyday could help a lot in establishing your sleep.
4. Keep Your Heart Healthy
Another fact: anything that is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Vascular diseases such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes have special connection with poor brain health especially later in life.
This is where regular exercise and proper diet comes in. Various studies show that lowering blood pressure could prevent brain problems. Therefore, the healthier your heart, the better your brain function will be.
5. Be Socially Active
How many times do you go out in a month to meet up with your friends? If you rarely make time to see friends, or even engage in activities that encourages you to be socially active, then your brain health might suffer.
According to studies, healthy relationships come with cognitive benefits. At the same time, it is among the ultimate brain booster, which keeps your mental health in check.
In a study conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health, those who have active social lives recorded the slowest memory decline. This is because humans are social animals and could not survive in isolation.
Therefore, take time to join clubs and meet people with the same interests. The more social connections you have, the higher your chances of preserving your memory and mental function. This reduces your risk of depression, as well.
6. Use Your Senses
Did you know that using all of your senses could increase better memory retention?
Researchers conducted a study where they showed a series of neutral images to the subject participants, each image presented in conjunction with a specific smell. The researchers specifically instructed the subject participants not to remember what they saw.
Later, they showed series of images, this time with no odor, and asked the subjects to identify what they saw earlier. The subjects showed better recall on odor-paired images.
Therefore, using all your senses to learn something helps in retaining a memory. Challenge your senses to take part in the learning process, which leads us to the next tip.
7. Never Stop Learning
They say education does not discriminate. At the same time, there is no such thing as old age when it comes to learning. Whether you are 15 or 85, just keep learning.
In fact, getting more than a bachelor’s degree could lead to better mental functioning as you age.
This is because challenging your brain through thinking and mental exercise activates specific bodily processes, which helps maintain brain cells and encourage stimulation, keeping them “young.”
Pursuing a higher education is helpful, however, if you don’t have the means, don’t limit yourself. Look for free online courses, and ask your local council on aging to recommend a few. There are other options that encourage learning,too, such as reading books, playing chess, doing crossword puzzles, learning a new hobby, or even picking up an old one. Learning a new skill, or developing a new habit or project could help, as well.
Preserving the neural brain connection is an ongoing process. Make learning a part of your daily priorities.
8. Repetition Matters
Do you always forget where you put your keys? Are you struggling to memorize important concepts for a final exam, or recall events from the past for the next family reunion? In this case, repetition could work.
Repeat it aloud, write it down, or constantly recite it in your head. Repetition reinforces connection and memory, which makes it easier for you to remember things.
However, some people are not into this strategy. You can try other memory tricks, too, such as mnemonics, posting sticky notes, or setting reminders using a notepad, smartphone or tablet. Associating a particular concept with an image, color, or odor could also help you recall.
9. Give Your Brain a Workout
Is there a better workout for your brain than a mental workout itself? Healthy lifestyle habits could do the trick.
However, don’t rely on them, especially when it comes to boosting your brain. In fact, your brain needs mental exercise to keep it in the loop.
You can always go for brain boosting activities, such as completing word search and crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Board games such as boggler, chess, and even Monopoly could help keep your brain working.
If you’re not into any of those activities, then consider learning a new language, or discovering a new skill. Pick up a new musical instrument, those dusty crochet hooks, or learn how to snowshoe. The list is endless, but the bottom line is to keep your brain working.
10. Manage Stress
Stress is among the ultimate health wreckers. Aside from ruining your body, disrupting balance, and making you in your worst state most of the time, stress is among your brain’s worst enemies.
This is because stress wrecks your brain cells and eventually damages the hippocampus. This is the region in your brain responsible for forming new memories and retrieving old ones.
That’s not all. Various studies show that stress leads to memory loss. As early as you can, learn how to manage your stress levels. Take a break, set priorities, learn to say no to certain tasks, and do things one after the other. Set a balance between work and leisure time to allow yourself to recover. The earlier you start to manage stress, the higher your chance of saving your brain.
11. Laughter is the Best Medicine
How many times have you heard this? Yes, laughter does make you feel better. It makes you forget about the pressures and worries of life. Did you know that it is also the best medicine for your brain and memory?
Unlike other emotional responses, laughter affects multiple regions in your brain – in a good way. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, “Laughter … seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.”
So, laugh as much as you can. Share your embarrassing moments and don’t take everything, including life’s absurdities, seriously. Spend more time with fun people who laugh easily. Surround yourself with people who have a playful point of view and are more fun to be with. Children can also be good companions, because they are the experts in taking life lightly.
12. Identify Any Health Problems
Alzheimer’s disease is not the only condition that can cause memory loss. If your memory is taking a sudden dip, you might want to consider seeking professional help.
Various diseases and mental health disorders could interfere with your memory. This includes heart disease, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and depression. Medications, such as antidepressants and sleeping aids could also be the culprit.
The important thing is to pay attention. It takes eight seconds of intense focus to be able to process and store a piece of information in your brain. If you find it hard to concentrate and tend to be forgetful all the time, then a trip to the doctor most certainly won’t hurt.
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