Still can’t find your car keys? Forgot your girlfriend’s name or <le gasp> her birthday? You’re not alone (but will be soon). We all forget things, but memory loss is nothing to overlook or take lightly. Is this forgetfulness your fault? Is it natural? Can you change it? In this piece, I’ll answer those questions and give you practical tips on how to improve your memory. Let’s get into it!
What is Memory?
Memory is the ability to take in, store, and remember information. Memory has to be practised, trained, and improved like other abilities.
Why Do You Forget Things So Much?
Forgetfulness is the inability to retain or remember information. If you’re struggling to keep things in mind, it might be due to any of these causes:
The brain is always active. But, when you’re asleep, the brain becomes less hyperactive; this allows the brain cells to reorganize, recuperate, and function well. The brain also processes your memories from the previous day, filtering important ones and eliminating others.
Therefore, not getting enough sleep can stop the brain from recuperating enough to sort out your memories accurately. And that’s why you have a hard time remembering things.
Excessive consumption of alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can have adverse effects on the brain. It causes short-term memory loss by slowing down the nerve-to-nerve communication in the hippocampus — a part of the brain which plays a significant role in forming memories.
Mental disorders like bipolar disorder, ADHD, and depression can cause short-term memory loss because they often share symptoms like restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety. These can hinder the brain from storing and recalling information effectively.
Side note: Sadness can be mistaken for depression (and vice versa) because of their similarities. If you’re unsure about what you are experiencing, you should learn to differentiate between depression and sadness.
Some medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills, and painkillers impair the functioning of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory and learning.
Falling or getting hit on the head can cause brain damage, resulting in temporary or long-term memory loss.
Effective Ways To Improve Your Memory
Have you ever walked into a room for something, forgotten what it was, and had to rack your brain to remember? I bet that can be pretty frustrating (trust me, been there). Although there’s no assurance that you can prevent memory loss, you can take practical steps to sharpen your memory. Consider 8 effective tips on how to improve your memory.
Get enough sleep
Sleeping lets the brain settle, recoup, and effectively sort, store, and recall all the information gathered during the day. Hence, adopting good sleeping habits is a great way to improve your memory. Here are some tips:
— Create sleep-inducing surroundings. This can be done by turning on dim lights, playing peaceful sounds (like rain/ocean), and properly laying your bed.
— Sleep for 8 hours daily.
— Avoid sleeping pills.
— Put away your computers while in bed.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Heavy consumption of alcohol can slow down or damage the hippocampus (the part of the brain that’s majorly involved in memory and learning). Reducing alcohol intake will help to improve your memory and concentration by allowing the nerves of the hippocampus to function faster and more adequately.
Common symptoms of mental disorders include anxiety, sadness, and restlessness. Concentration is nearly impossible if you’re restless or anxious, so it’s best to tackle the problem by its roots by seeking therapy. Therapy would help you understand your emotions, process them, and cope healthily.
Protect your head
Accidents involving hitting the head can lead to traumatic brain injury, which can harm memory. Safety measures like wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle, protecting your head during a fall, or being cautious of accidents will help avoid circumstances that can lead to bad memory.
Engage in mental and physical exercises
Exercise helps to boost memory by stimulating direct changes in the body, like a reduction in insulin resistance and inflammation. It also encourages the growth of blood vessels in the brain. Exercises to improve your memory include:
— Cardio-physical exercises like walking, running, and jump-roping — anything to exercise your heart! Exercising increases blood flow and the amount of oxygen in the brain, making the brain healthy.
— Exercises that involve balance and coordination of the brain with the body. This increases your concentration and synchronization between your brain and body. Examples: balancing on a foot for some time, hopping on a foot, and balancing a ping-pong ball on a spoon.
Stress is a dangerous enemy of the brain because physical exertion damages brain cells and is also a vital part of the brain’s memory-forming and memory-retrieving region, the hippocampus. Some tips to relieve stress include getting sufficient sleep and exercising regularly to relieve your body and brain of tension.
Maintain a memory-boosting diet
A good diet plays a good role in improving memory because it provides the necessary nutrients that keep the brain healthy. Plus, a healthy brain does its job of storing and recalling information efficiently.
If you’re wondering how to improve your memory with a nutritional diet, try these:
— Include fish (like salmon, mackerel, and other seafood) in your diet. This is because fish is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that help improve overall health.
— Avoid consuming too many calories. Research shows that high consumption of calories can affect memory. Examples of food with high-calorie counts are ice cream, cheese, butter, and red meat.
— Eat more fruits. Fruits contain antioxidants which prevent brain-cell damage. Fruits are also rich in vitamins C and K, which improve memory and general brain health.
Put in practical effort
Eating healthily and exercising won’t do all the work. It’s equally important to make deliberate efforts to keep information in your brain. Here are five techniques you can use to improve your memory:
— Pay attention to whatever important activity you’re involved in. The logic is simple: if you don’t pay attention, the brain will interpret your apathy to mean the information you’re learning is insignificant and won’t store the event as important. Hence, you can have a hard time remembering it.
— Visualize concepts in your head about what you’re learning. Visual images can make recollection easy when it becomes hard to remember things.
— Devise mnemonics and sing or recite them regularly. It could be by using the first letter of each word in a concept or subject to form funny sentences or by shortening different words into a single word — with the first letter of each word acting as a representative.
For example, the characteristics of living things are movement, respiration, nutrition, irritability, growth, excretion, reproduction, and death. They can be acronymized as MR-NIGER-D.
— Don’t engage complicated information without understanding the simpler ones because when simple information is first understood and stored, it becomes easier to understand and remember the more complicated ones related to the simple ones.
— Link new knowledge to those you’ve already known.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bad memory be improved?
Memory can be improved depending on the reasons behind a person’s bad memory. A person suffering from depression can improve their memory by being free from depression; a person who is physically stressed can improve their memory by getting enough rest.
Can learning a new language improve your memory?
Learning a new language is a mental exercise that can be challenging. And exercising one’s brain helps in improving memory. In fact, multilingual have active and fit brains.
Can reading improve your memory?
Reading stimulates the brain to perform different activities like cognition which allows the information to be stored. Frequent reading (and understanding) improves memory.
Can video games improve your memory?
Video games make problem-solving a necessary skill to improve memory because to be a good problem-solver, one has to have good cognitive skills, quick thinking, and a good memory.
Can you actually improve your memory?
Memory is an ability; like other abilities, you practice with them to improve them. So, to improve your memory, you constantly have to give your brain things to store and recall.
Does meditation improve your memory?
Meditation helps to put the mind at ease. A serene mind will allow the brain to sort, process, and store information easily.
Does memory get better with age?
Memory in ageing people differs per person. Some might maintain their good memory, while some decline. Memory loss in old age largely depends on the habits and genetic makeup of the individuals involved.
About the Author(s)
Oluwafikunayomi is a content writer and proofreader who (loves and) reads French Language at the University of Lagos. When she is not writing or reading, she drags John Grisham and Stephen King in her book club, Elysium.