Have you been looking for ways to improve your memory naturally? Are you concerned that your memory isn’t as great as it used to be?
It’s easy to forget simple things such as a new co-worker’s name and where you put your keys. Occasional forgetfulness is normal and happens to everyone.
But it becomes more frustrating when you can’t remember critical work details or you forget important meetings. And these can cause negative consequences for you at work.
A good memory is essential for your career success. It influences your learning, analysis and critical thinking abilities as well as your overall productivity.
Your memory really can improve
There has always been a common belief that as we get older, our memory deteriorates and that we can’t stop it.
This is simply not true and you don’t have to accept a decline in recall powers.
Science backs this up through the discovery of neuroplasticity over the past few decades.
Research studies have shown that the brain can continue to grow and develop at every age (even in old age). This leads to enhanced cognitive abilities, including memory.
So while you may never develop a photographic memory (unless you’re a superhero of course), it is possible to improve your memory at any age.
What should I do now to protect my memory?
It is never too early or too late to start boosting your powers of recollection. There are many things that you can do every day to keep your mind and memory sharp for the long run.
Below are four science-backed strategies to help you enhance your memory naturally:
1. Keep challenging your brain
2. Use memory-boosting tips every day
3. Try Mnemonic devices
4. Improve your lifestyle
1. Keep challenging your brain
You exercise regularly to stay in shape and keep your heart healthy. But have you ever wondered about keeping your brain in good health?
The mind also needs to engage in regular mental exercise to stay in prime shape and function at its best.
Studies have found that stimulating mental activities cause the brain to grow new cells and strengthen existing ones. Thus leading to improved mental performance including a better memory.
Flex your brain muscles
Look for activities that are challenging, push you out of your comfort zone and that you find interesting.
Try crossword puzzles, play chess, read a book, learn a new language, play an instrument. All these things can help you keep your brain and memory in tip top shape for the long run.
Below are some ideas for keeping your brain and memory in excellent shape. If you’d like to learn more about mental exercises, check out our article on this topic here.
Get out of the ordinary
Do you get bored of your daily routines?
Going to work every day, driving the same route, eating at the same places, seeing the same people, having the same workout, listening to the same music playlist, and watching the same TV shows.
Who wouldn’t get bored?
Well your brain gets bored too. By doing the same things all the time, the brain does not use much effort to think. It’s already familiar with the routine activities so it runs on auto-pilot.
Just like you, the brain craves new things to stay engaged and challenged. And most importantly, to continue to grow, develop and enhance your mental powers.
Look for activities that are new to you make you think. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and have new experiences.
So go ahead and get out there
Try a new hobby, check out a museum or the opera, sign up for volunteer work, learn a new sport, take cooking or dancing lessons. Pretty much anything that is interesting and unfamiliar to you will work great.
Staying active and engaged in life will help keep your brain healthy and improve your memory. And you’ll have fun in the process too!
Master a New Skill
Exposure to new things is great for the mind. But learning complex things is even better for your brain. Some examples include learning new career skills, a new language, and playing a new musical instrument.
New skills stimulate more parts of your brain and force them to communicate and work together. This results in stronger neural networks and improved cognitive powers.
Search for meaning
Look for skills that you’re interested in learning and that bring purpose to your life. Something that is meaningful to you signals to the brain that the activity is important and requires full attention.
Learning a difficult skill is also great because there is a gradual process of learning. Starting with the basics and improving to master the item. This satisfies the brain’s cravings for new and challenging activities. So the brain will not get bored over the entire period of learning.
Play Mind Games
Another great way to keep your mind healthy and challenged is by playing brain games. They help enhance your cognitive abilities in a fun and creative way.
Brain games usually target a variety of mental skills including memory, concentration, processing speed, and logical thinking. Try solving puzzles, playing chess, or Sudoku.
Apps to train your mind
Download some great apps for your mobile devices by searching for “brain games” in the app stores.
The good thing about mind games is that challenging your brain never has to feel like work!
2. Daily practical tips to boost your memory
Do simple things slip your mind on a daily basis? Such as reading a great article and then a few minutes later forgetting the topic? Or making a mental note to write down an urgent task at work, and then not being able to recall the item?
It’s easy to forget small things every day.
And it doesn’t mean that you have a bad memory.
It simply means that the information was not stored properly in your memory in the first place. So it’s more difficult to retrieve it.
There are many steps involved to remember information correctly including observation, learning and retention.
Below are memory tricks to help improve these skills every day. You’ll commit new information to memory more quickly and then recall it when needed at a later time.
Sharpen your powers of observation
One of the main reasons you forget things is that your observation skills weren’t great in the first place.
When your new co-worker introduced herself, were you paying attention to her name? Or was your mind preoccupied with your work projects and planning for a meeting later in the day?
It’s impossible for your mind to recall something new that it didn’t fully absorb.
So the next time you want to learn something new, remind yourself to pay attention. Take the time to observe and think about the details that you’re learning. This way, your mind can process the information and store it into memory.
It’s also important to focus your mind only on the one item and block out distracting thoughts.
Write everything down
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the millions of things that you have to do? And that your mind is racing with many scattered thoughts?
A great way to overcome this anxiety is to write everything down. Create a to-do list and include all your work and personal tasks. And also write down all your other thoughts and ideas that are taking up mental space.
Things are never as bad as they seem
Simply getting things down on paper will immediately make everything more manageable. Reviewing your lists will help you to prioritize, focus and come up with a game plan to tackle your tasks.
Writing things down also helps your mind to learn new information. So not only will you be more productive and less stressed, but you’ll be able to remember everything that needs to get done.
With all your many responsibilities, it’s impossible to remember everything on your own. Thankfully, there are some great tools and apps to help you out.
Time management apps to the rescue
Use a calendar or day planner to help you keep track of and remember your meetings, deadlines and appointments.
Use a to-do list app to create your task list and check things off as you complete them. Set a timer to help you stay focused and on track with your work.
There are many great apps to help you manage your time. Check out some of the best free ones in this review.
Organize your space
Keep your work area neat and organized so that you can find important papers and files. Keep your home organized too and always put things back in the same place so that they’re easy to find.
Being organized will keep your mind clear of clutter and allow you to focus on more important things. You’ll also save time not searching for lost items. And you can use that time on more enjoyable things!
Practice makes perfect
Just as you would practice your golf swing or backstroke to master your sport, the same concept applies to building a great memory.
Repetition is the key to memorization. The more you become familiar with new information, the easier it will be to remember.
Try saying new things out loud to yourself, write them down, and then go back and review several times.
Explain new concepts to someone else. You can claim you’ve mastered something well when you’re able to teach it to another person.
Rehearsing information is critical for encoding and retaining in your mind.
How can you make sure that the new information actually stays in your memory? There are several retention strategies you can use to solidify the memories.
It’s impossible to memorize many random details or facts. But adding context allows you to learn and remember things more easily.
Context changes everything
As you’re reviewing new information, engage yourself in the material as if you’re part of the story:
- Question yourself: What is the point to the information? Why is it important? What interests you and why? As things evolve, what are the implications?
- Comment on the material. Summarize and state the key points, and answer the questions out loud.
- Categorize the information. Can the material be assigned into groups? Are there any common factors? How does it connect to other details you’ve already learned?
Understanding the context of the material is an effective way to build your memory. The brain is more likely to remember details that have connections to other concepts, and that build on your existing knowledge.
Think of it this way, it’s easier to remember a completed puzzle as opposed to a thousand random pieces that don’t fit together.
Once you have learned the new information, go back and test yourself. Review and repeat the details to test your recall.
Do this in regular intervals (such as every few hours or days) to make sure the material stays fresh in your brain. Keep at it until you can recall everything perfectly.
Visual cues are also helpful to remember information. Keep a post-it on your computer or fridge to remind you of an urgent task. Use the alarm on your phone or a timer app to help you remember an appointment or time-critical project.
Keep an object related to your task in an obvious place that will help you remember. Visual reminders can be powerful cues to boost your recall!
3. Try Mneumonic Devices
Mnemonics are tools that help you convert information into an easy to memorize format. This is typically done in a creative way by organizing the information using rhymes, visualizations, and acronyms, to name a few.
Mnemonics are effective because the human mind can remember interesting things more easily as compared to random or boring details.
Below are some of the most common mnemonic techniques. Give them a try next time you’re struggling to recall something. They’ll help you commit the material to memory much quicker!
The mind loves rhymes to help remember information. It’s a popular technique used every day.
You know those songs and ads that you can’t get out of your head? Well, it’s usually because rhymes were used to make sure the words get stuck in your head.
So you can also use this technique to help you out. Just make up rhymes for the material you’re trying to learn and you’ll see how easy it becomes to recall.
Having problem’s remembering people’s names? Try rhyming with a quality you notice about the person. Such as: “Fred has a big head”; “Sandy is sweet like candy”; “Marty is a super-smarty”.
Some common rhymes that we learned in childhood include:
- When did Christopher Columbus discover America?: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”
- Spelling of words such as “receive”. “I before E except after C”
- Which months have 30 days? “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November”. All the rest have 31 days except February.
Acronyms and Initialisms
Acronyms are new words that are created by taking the first letters of the words you’re trying to remember.
Initialisms are similar to acronyms except that a new word is not created and just pronouncing the letters of the abbreviation individually.
Acronyms and initialisms are a popular method used by companies and organizations to remember their names and marketing their brands.
Some common acronyms:
- NABISCO: National Biscuit Company
- NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- SCUBA: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
- SONAR: SOund NAvigation Radar
- LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
- AWOL: Absent WithOut Leave
Some common initialisms:
- Which is more familiar to you? IBM or “International Business Machines”. It’s not surprising that most people have never heard of the latter.
- The same thing goes for NBC vs “National Broadcasting Company”. And BMW vs “Bayerische Motoren Werke” (which translates from German as “Bavarian Motor Works”).
- Organizations such as AMA (American Medical Association), DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), UN (United Nations)
- Sports leagues: NFL (National Football League); NBA (National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League); PGA (Professional Golfer’s Association)
- Internet chat and texting: LOL (laugh out loud); BRB (be right back); TTYL (talk to you later); and thousands more.
You may recall these from school:
- BEDMAS to help remember the order of mathematical operations. Brackets, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction.
- The colors of the rainbow as ROY G BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
- The sentence “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” to memorize the lines of the treble music clef, representing the notes E, G, B, D, and F.
Go ahead and create your own
Make up your own acronyms to help you with daily reminders such as grocery lists: BECAME (Bread, Eggs, Chicken, Apples, Milk, Eggplant). Or more complex phrases such as DSLAM “Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexor “
Research studies have shown that the human mind remembers pictures more easily than words.
So when you’re committing new information to memory, associate vivid images with the details. The more creative the images, the easier it will be to recall the details.
For example, if you are studying the history of the British Royal Family. What is your role and what are you doing? What images do you see as you take part?
Associating images with details helps to encode and retain the information in your mind. As you recall the images, you will also recall the larger story and details that you learned in the process.
It’s more difficult to remember longer lists of items. In this case, it helps to group the items into smaller chunks or categories.
This concept explains why it’s easier to remember a phone number as 888-467-5978 as opposed to 10 digits together: 8884675978.
When going to the store you can group your list of 20 items into the store sections such as produce, dairy, meats, and baked goods. It will be easier to remember that you have 4 items for each category instead of just 20 uncategorized items.
Use your surroundings
This method involves changing the usual place of things to help you recall something.
For example, if you need to remember to pick up dinner on the way home, leave a large casserole pot on the stand by the front door. As you leave the house in the morning, it will remind you that you need to pick up dinner when you return.
Move items that are related to your tasks. And then seeing them out of their regular places helps you remember that there is something you need to do.
4. Improve your lifestyle
The connection between mind and body is a powerful one and shouldn’t be ignored. A healthy lifestyle is not just good for your physical well-being but also supports your mental powers. A healthy body is essential to having a healthy mind.
The good news is that you can achieve this by having good lifestyle habits. In particular, those that can boost your memory include exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and managing chronic conditions.
You may be tired of hearing about the many physical benefits of exercise such as staying in shape and keeping your heart healthy. But it’s important to keep in mind the many mental benefits of exercise as well.
Exercise increases the oxygen supply to your brain, thus improving thinking and cognitive powers. Choose high-intensity exercises that get your heart pumping such as running, biking or swimming. Even speed-walking works great if you’re not into cardio exercises. Aim for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
Your mind and body will both reap the rewards of your activity!
Eat a balanced diet
A well-balanced diet is essential for a healthy body and mind. Follow the nutritional guidelines and eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meat, dairy and whole grains. Make sure to limit your intake of fatty, sugary and salty foods.
It’s tempting to select food that tastes great. But unhealthy foods can sap both your physical and mental energy. Instead, think of food as a fuel source for both your body and mind. You’ll not only feel better but also improve your thinking and concentration skills.
Get plenty of sleep
When was the last time you had a full 8 hours of sleep? Given today’s busy lives, most people get by on only 5-6 hours a night. But the problem is that this isn’t enough rest for the mind to function at its best.
When we’re sleep deprived, our cognitive abilities are slower and we end up in a foggy mental state.
Experts recommend between 7 to 9 hours of sleep for optimal rest. Research studies show that sleep is critical for enhancing cognitive abilities including thinking, problem solving and memory. This is especially important for a good memory as concepts are consolidated into memories during sleep.
Make sure to get enough sleep every night. Even if it means cutting back on other activities. Sleep is one of the most important factors to feeling your best and thinking at your best.
Being able to think clearly will help you learn information quickly and keep you productive the whole day.
Stress and anxiety have a negative impact on your body and mind. The brain perceives the negative emotions as threats, and turns into “fight or flight” mode.
The brain’s full powers are directed towards fighting the perceived threats and away from your cognitive abilities. This is why it’s difficult to concentrate and think clearly when you’re under a great deal of stress.
Over time, chronic stress can cause damage to the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, and result in memory loss. So it’s important not to let stress take control of your life.
You can’t prevent the stressful situations that come up each day, but you can control how you deal with them.
Some helpful tips for managing stress include:
- Don’t immediately react to a situation. Take time to breathe, think, analyze and then respond. This will help you react more calmly and ward off the stress.
- Stop multi-tasking. Trying to do many things at once is inefficient and most things end up not getting done. Focus on one task at a time. Your tasks will be more manageable and you’ll be more productive as well.
- Take breaks during the day to give your body and mind a chance to recharge. You’ll be refreshed and ready to continue tackling your tasks.
- Don’t let work take over your life. Set realistic expectations for your work and life balance, and stick to them. Don’t be afraid to say no to additional projects at work.
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. These will help you relieve stress and improve your focus.
Social interaction is a great way to have fun and combat stress. But did you know that it’s also good for your brain?
Studies have shown that healthy relationships are great stimulation for the brain and to keep you interested in life. As a result, your cognitive abilities stay sharp and there is a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Surround yourself with a great support system of friends and family and make time to get together. If you’re in a new city, there are many ways to meet new people and make friends. Join a club or sports league, take classes and sign up for volunteer work.
Check for chronic conditions
Do you already have a healthy lifestyle and actively challenge your brain? But you notice that your memory is getting worse? Then it’s time to check with your doctor.
There are many conditions that can affect your memory and cognitive abilities, such as vitamin deficiencies, heart and thryroid problems, among many others. Medications can also have an impact on your memory.
Your doctor will recommend the best course of action and help you manage any conditions. This will help reduce the effect on your memory and keep your mind sharp.
Feeling low on energy?
Do you feel drained most days? And that it’s difficult to find energy to keep up with all your responsibilities? There are many things you can do to boost your energy naturally – check out our article to find out more.
What are your thoughts?
How do you keep your mind and memory sharp? Which tips work best for you? We’d love to hear any comments you have. Please share below.