Scientists have continually placed human beings at the top of the food chain, branding them the "apex" predators. This could be attributed to our ability to adapt to almost any environment, but what mainly sets us apart from other creatures is our inept capacity to learn. Airplanes, Cars, Rockets and modern medicine all seemed to be a pipe dream a millennium ago, but you can see where constant learning and improvement has brought us. Learning, however, goes hand in hand with memory. You have to be capable to retain what you've learned to promote growth. So, what are the different ways you can use to improve your memory?
Before we look at ways to improve your memory, let's take a slight biological detour. Undoubtedly, you know that information is processed and stored in the brain. What you may not know is the fact that the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum (which covers approximately 75%), is the one associated with memory storage.
Additionally, no studies have been conclusive on the memory capacity of the brain. You may think that forgetting may be associated with the brain filling up, but the 2 main theories on forgetting; "Decay theory of forgetting" and "The Inference theory" don't mention the brain filling up as the cause of memory loss. So, since you now know the basics of memory, how do you get to improve it?
1.) Get enough sleep and rest
If you may not have realized it, sleep plays a very important role when it comes to memory retention. A recent study by Harvard University showed that adequate sleep helped people connect distantly related ideas by up to 33%. This in turn enhanced their memories, enabling them to perform better.
Adequate sleep and/or rest facilitates memory consolidation so that it is properly stored in the brain. Have you ever wondered why infants require so much sleep, even during the day? It's because sleep facilitates cognitive development, enabling them to familiarize with the environment. The same applies to adults.
With enough sleep and rest, you'll be able to remember more. At least 7-9 hours of sleep per day should do the trick.
2.) Tweak your diet
Interestingly, most foods associated with a healthy diet also play a vital role when it comes to improving memory. Some of these include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated (healthy) fats and lean protein.
Vegetables and fruits are natural anti-oxidants, meaning they are crucial in protecting your brain cells from damage. The more the brain cells you retain, the better your memory gets.
Fish, a common source of lean protein, are very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to promote a healthy brain, in addition to reducing your risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease. That is really good news for your memory. Other rich alternative sources of Omega-3 include walnuts, kidney beans, spinach and broccoli, just but to mention a few.
As mentioned, unsaturated fats are the best. The saturated type not only increases your chance of dementia, it also vastly affects your concentration levels. Therefore, avoid it at all costs. Basically, make sure to make a diet change if you wish to improve your memory.
3.) Exercise your brain
Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires regular exercise to stay healthy. So, how do you achieve that?
Firstly, you need to choose an exercise that is new, challenging and fun. When choosing an exercise, going for one that is new to your routine causes your brain to create other pathways to accommodate the new activities, which subsequently improves your memory.
Activities that test both hand-eye coordination and creativity are the best when it comes to improving memory. Some of them include playing an instrument, knitting, filling a Sudoku puzzle and juggling, just but to mention a few.
If you don't exercise your brain regularly, just like regular body muscle, it will wither. So, as much as you can, get to learn new challenging things. It will vastly improve your memory.
4.) Use memory-enhancing techniques
Luckily for you, there are some proven techniques that can help in boosting your memory. Studies have shown that the use of mnemonic devices such as acronyms, rhymes and acrostics is pivotal in improving your memory. Your brain should be able to adapt very well to association. For example, if you need to remember the colors of the rainbow, just use the acronym ROYGBIV; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and violet. It will be easier to remember.
Additionally, you could use flash cards. On the cards, write formulated questions on a subtopic on one side and their answers on the other. When you need to remind yourself of something, you don't have to go back to your books, just use the flashcards. With time and after continuous use, you get to remember information easily even without using the flashcards.
5.) Don't strain
Remember, the brain is a very delicate organ. Pushing it beyond its limits is bound to be counterproductive.
When reading, do so in-between breaks. The brain needs time to process and store the information you've read, so taking breaks is very important. In relation to that, you should also breakdown long threads of literature to smaller parts when reading. This makes it easier for your brain to process it.
Additionally, if you try to cram, you'll not be doing yourself any favors. This is because all the information you get is short-term, meaning you'll have to start all over the next time you want to read.
6.) Reduce your stress levels and stay happy
Undoubtedly, a stress-free environment is sure to promote enhanced memory. Controlling your stress levels helps give you more focus and prevents gradual brain damage, which consequently boosts your memory.
Furthermore, socialize as much as you can and laugh often. Human interaction is a well-known stress reliever. Laughing, on the other hand, has been scientifically proven to light up different parts of the brain, including the one that deals with memory.
The above methods should come in handy in improving your memory. However, if you're suffering from chronic memory loss, immediately consult a doctor. Remember, the main trick to achieving better memory is being both positive and consistent. Eventually, you'll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.