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Improving Memory with Simple and Practical Lifestyle Changes

Updated on December 13, 2015
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We’ve all done it: You’re at a gathering, someone calls out your name, and then runs over. She begins chatting about how good it is to see you. As you talk, you just stand there with a slack-jawed grin, while still trying to figure out who this excited stranger is.

How embarrassing.

What about the times where you’re in a rush to get somewhere and your cell phone vanishes, or your keys disappear from the place you knew they were. What about the myriad times you headed back to the car after shopping, only to discover you have no clue where you parked. All of these issues are the ordinary results of memory lapses and deficiencies in recall. Don’t worry, this really is a common occurrence, but you definitely can use some tips to improve your memory.

Fortunately, there are very helpful actions that can be taken to improve working memory, in turn curbing those awful moments where your brain just seems to fail you entirely. Before committing to these techniques it’s beneficial that you understand a small bit of basic brain 101. This not only may curb your concerns, but it can help you to realize that you aren’t alone in the experience.

Brain and memory function

Picture your brain like an organic hard drive. It places memories as files in differing folders that make storage less cluttered and easier to access. The hippocampus is the largest part of the brain that accumulates these memories, placing each one in its proper place.

The hippocampus allows you to recall everything from typing on your keyboard to your first grade music recital. Even though the complex capabilities of the brain are astounding, lack of conscious recall, no matter our age, is a widespread occurrence.

Some researchers note that the influx of modern technology over the past 50 years has slowly eroded the need for mental storage. The utilization of laptops and smartphones have usurped the necessity for your memory to keep specific dates, times, and names on file and readily accessible.

In other words, just a couple generations ago people used only their memory to call to mind birthdays, names, phone numbers, addresses, and important dates. Because the brain was the primary tool, it was at the forefront of recall activity and the exercise and entrainment involved kept it working optimally. This showed that the best way to improve your memory was to solely utilize your brain for storage of common information.

Many people blame the fast-paced speeds of contemporary living. This could seem a possible culprit but a prominent researcher in the field of memory and aging says this:

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“Our lives may be more frenetic, but we actually have the capacity to remember much more
than we do. We simply need to work on improving our attention.”
—Gary Smalls M.D., Memory and Aging Institute, UCLA

So, if we have the capacity to improve working memory and wish to commit to achieving it, what are some of the things that we can do? Because of the fact that our general memory retention ability naturally slows down over the years, we should keep our brain primed and well-suited for most any situation by using some well researched techniques.

Less stress for better memory and brain health

One of the first actions you should carry out is to find a means to lower the stress in your life. At first this seems like an impractical tip on how to improve your memory but there is a noteworthy reason for it. Remember the hippocampus that we discussed? When you stress, research has shown that there is an increased release of cortisol, a hormone that affects your brain.

Stress induced cortisol interferes with memory retention and retrieval. Also, as you get older, elevated cortisol levels link to memory impairment and a smaller hippocampus. Due to this discovery, it is pertinent that you learn to control stress and maintain a more moderated emotional balance. Doing so will improve your memory in the long-term and keep the brain’s recall abilities from eroding.

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Dietary effects on the brain and memory

In tandem with stress control is a requirement that a troubling majority of the population neglect: Diet. This is also a subject that many detractors would simply rather not discuss. So many of us love our diets and don’t want to restrict our feeding habits for the sake of an increase in memory. In contention with that wish though, is the fact that the wrong diet not only affects the brain, but will slowly rob your general health throughout your entire body.

It’s a sad reality that so many people attempt to correct their diet too late or after problems have occurred. You need to take action now. This will not only improve working memory, but your entire physical system.

Grain-free and Paleo diets

Two well-researched, and similar, diets for the brain have been quite controversial in recent time. The grain-free and paleo diets have their share of detractors, but on their side are some of the most capable researchers and physicians in the medical industry. These professionals have found that all grains cause inflammation in the body and brain, hindering the ability to increase your memory.

One doctor has even claimed that inflammation is the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis — all of the neurodegenerative diseases are really predicated on inflammation. Dr. David Perlmutter and many others say that if you cut out all grains and consume whole foods including grass fed meats, fish, non-gmo vegetables, and fruits, you will immediately increase your brains ability to sustain itself, reduce inflammation, and improve your memory.

Those in contention claim we’ve eaten grains for thousands of years and our bodies adapt to the required changes in consumption. These researchers state that grains are not a culprit in brain inflammation and problems with memory. Despite these statements by opponents of a grain-free diet, there is little research that disproves the relinquishment of grains. Overall, the use of a grain-free paleo style diet are becoming more and more accepted and supported by physicians across the world.

Visualization techniques for memory

If you feel that stress levels and eating habits are under control, a less clinical suggestion that is popular when looking for strategies to improve memory is visualization. Visualization can be an effortless lifestyle change if you incorporate it into your daily routine. The practice involves placing pictures with thoughts in order to anchor the necessary memory appropriately. The technique is simple and can even be fun.

For example, if you have an appointment at seven o’clock, you can picture a game show where a nervous person is attempting to choose what number holds the prize behind it. You hear the crowd chanting in the background. The player finally decides on the number seven. When the attractive assistant grabs the big bright number seven from the display a chime sounds and two big words appear saying “YOU WIN!”

The claim states that because you visualized what you intend to remember, your memory will consider it of greater necessity. This leads to a higher percentage of recall and a valid means of improving working memory.

Method of Loci dates back millennia

Did you know that memory retention techniques go back as far as 450 BC? What is considered the first evidence referencing how to improve memory was discovered by the Greek poet Simonides. It is called the Method of Loci, or Method of Place. Similar to the visualization methods discussed above, it requires the utilization of pictures in your mind. What makes it unique is that you tether your needed memories to things you are already familiar with on a common route that you take. This method has been in use for thousands of years and is still considered to be a highly effective tool for improving your memory by researchers.

If you are going to the market and need milk and bread, for example, you can use the Method of Loci to improve your memory. When, on the way to the store, you pass a large tree that’s well established in your mind, you picture milk being poured all over the tree as you go by it.

Further down the road you visualize throwing bread at that old church step on the corner, taking time to picture it well in your mind. This effective method piggybacks your items to well established memories and utilizes these already recognized landmarks to hold on to what is necessary. It’s a valuable and worthwhile technique that has a long history of improving memory for the user.

Excercise is important for your brain health

Finally, in tandem with the methods prescribed above, memory specialists say it is crucial for exercise to be a part of your daily routine. A good workout program is an excellent way to improve memory naturally and without any conscious thought. Exercise provides a much needed influx of oxygen and nutrients to the brain from your bloodstream.

When you don’t exercise often enough, your brain can become nutrient starved. This in turn affects your brain’s ability to perform optimally. You might find that even a quick 20 minute daily walk or a dip in the pool increases your cognitive abilities and improves your memory.

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Concluding on memory tips and tricks

Tips to improve your memory, if researched and proven, can make a marked difference for enhancing recall. Along with the lifestyle techniques above, there are also other straightforward methods that can be used while being entertained or when in those dreaded moments where time is not on your side.

As we grow older, the decline of our physical and mental resources naturally occurs. Despite this, these tips to improve memory make the decline less impactful, assuring a more enjoyable experience in our twilight years. Overall the best way to improve your memory is to commit to a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle that includes the techniques you’ve just learned about. This will secure you the finest chance possible of never having to contend with a bad memory again.

More tips and possible tricks

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