How to Train Your Brain and Improve Your Memory
Battling Brain Farts
You’re in the middle of an intense conversation with friends about your favorite TV show. You recall that one of the lead actresses starred in an ABC Family Movie almost 10 years ago. No one else knows what movie you’re talking about. The answer is on the tip of your tongue. Yet, it continues to elude you. Finally, you are forced to visit imdb.com for the answer. The actress is Kaley Cuoco. The movie is Crimes of Fashion. You knew this. But lately you can’t remember things like you used to.
How would you describe your memory?
Why the heck can’t I remember stuff anymore?
The brain loses some if its juice in humans after the 25 year old mark (Just when you’re able to rent a rental car by yourself, you can’t remember where you parked the rental car. I know, right?). This is nature taking its course. But, other factors can also affect memory and cognitive thinking. Remember that alcohol binge from that pivotal night in your senior year in college when you found out you could actually graduate on time? Very valuable brain cells were destroyed that evening. There are a number of things that cause decreased brain function ranging from illegal drug use to acute head injury that can be the culprits (Both reminiscent from that night at the end of senior year). Aging is also a major contributor (So, cut Grandpa some slack, okay?).
The good news is, there are a few things you can do to help boost brain power and improve memory.
Engage in Regular Exercise
Exercise is pretty much the answer for almost all the things that ail society. Along with improving your overall health, exercising can improve cognitive functions. A study published in the Journal of Aging Research back in February of this year showed that a group of female seniors (Non-undergraduate seniors) had improved cognitive ability after either briskly walking or lifting weights throughout a 6 month period. The study showed that aerobic and anaerobic exercise resulted in different improvements. But, the overall conclusion was that physical activity was beneficial for the mind. Most experts will agree that doing both types of exercises are best for optimal health. And, there are a variety of exercise plans that incorporate both types within one workout. Suddenly, that late night infomercial for Hip Hop Abs doesn’t look so lame.
Juggle Some Balls
You heard me right. I said juggle. German researchers conducted a published study in the journal Nature that showed 24 participants who juggled for 3 months experienced an increase in grey matter. Or in laymen’s terms, their brains done got bigger. Unfortunately, the study group had a decrease in brain size after 3 months of retiring those juggle balls, which means consistency is the key to improve memory. When you begin to juggle, do it often to keep that brain growing. What you don’t want to do is confuse Juggler with Juggalo if bragging to friends. The latter involves wearing face paint, drinking Faygo soda, and blasting Insane Clown Posse.
Eat Whole Foods
Food manufacturers and restaurants have effectively programmed most of Western society to believe they can’t cook. Whether it is due to lack of time, or lack of funds, eating more processed or prepared foods is touted as the way to go. But when it comes to keeping the brain in shape, you can’t succumb to being “food lazy”. There are quick, easy, and economical ways to include nutritious food in your daily menus. Casseroles and slow cooker meals are great opportunities to throw whole ingredients together in a simple feast that includes fruits, veggies, lean meats, calcium-rich foods, and whole grains. Think about it. A shepherd’s pie or chicken stew essentially contains all the random items from your pantry, fridge, or freezer in one meal. Over the counter nutrition supplements, like vitamins, can help. But, they aren’t as effective as actual food. Eat a well-balanced diet, and your brain will thank you.
Foods to Improve MemoryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation can affect your brain in the same way as drinking alcohol. You become slow to react to situations. You also have a hard time remembering things. Getting sleep may not be as simple as counting sheep. So, consulting a medical provider to help find answers should be a good idea. But before you shell out that $5 copay, try to modify your sleep behaviors. Having stimulants like televisions or computers right before bedtime will keep you up. Caffeine after lunch is a no-no. Also, treating your bedroom like anything but a place to sleep (office, entertainment center, fight club training room, etc.) will make it harder to sleep. And finally, stress will take a toll on your sleep meter. Relax the brain, let go of the day’s pressures, and mentally cuddle up to one of those fluffy sheep.
Play Challenging Games
Chess is often perceived as a game for nerds and elders. But, it is a game to improve memory and cognitive function. Games that challenge the brain will keep you on your toes. Remember the match game you played as a child? There was more to that then having bragging rights against your slower, dimwitted sibling. And remember when Grandma had you play bridge with her and her friends? She was helping to make you a more productive member of society. Yay, Grandma!! These games helped you to solve problems, memorize, and make more informed choices. There are many games out there that force you to use your brain. They are available on all types of formats, from game consoles to smart phones. I’m not telling you to play Words with friends at work. I’m just saying that when your boss catches you, there’s definitely a positive way to spin this scenario in your favor.
Here's How to Play Chess to Improve Your Memory
Did You Know?
The first published book ever written on a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Mark Twain used a Remington in 1875.
The Memory Book
Read a Book
Whenever my 10 year old laments about reading a book, I am quick to point out that this is exercise for his brain and can help improve memory. And, I’m actually telling the truth. Reading exposes the mind to building language skills. Your vocabulary is easily expanded as the brain is introduced to new words (that you hopefully bother to look up in a dictionary). Reading also builds knowledge that makes it easier to engage in meaningful conversations, whether the topic is WWE Superstars or cosmic stars. You don’t have to necessarily read a book. Magazines, scientific journals, comic books, and internet blogs can all offer opportunities to read something insightful. So, the next time you impress your friends with extensive knowledge of Washington State, there’s no reason to tell them you learned it all from the Twilight Series.