Having a sharp memory will depend on the overall health of your brain. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in – a student studying for college exams, a working professional trying to increase your productivity or a retiree who wants to preserve memory. There are many things you can do to promote your brain’s health.
Research shows that our brain has incredible neuroplasticity. This means it has the ability to reshape and change itself no matter how old you are! Thus you can use this amazing ability of the brain to learn more and improve your memory no matter what your age is.
Here are 8 tips on how you can keep your brain sharp:
1. Continue to learn
Learning something new encourages allows for the brain to become stronger. By challenging your brain with you help to stimulate brain cells and encourage communication among them. It’s important to note that whatever you learn should also being applied.
This learning is not limited to only academic learning or having a job that keeps your brain active – pursuing your favorite hobby or learning a new skill can have the same impact. Taking a short course on a subject of your interest, reading, painting, doing crossword puzzles or playing chess are all mental exercises that can help in keeping you mentally active.
2. Repetition is key
If there is something that you have heard, read about or thought of that you need to remember, it’s often helpful to repeat it out loud or write it down. Repetition helps reinforce the memory and add additional references inside your brain.
For example if someone has told you their name and you want to remember it, you can try to use that name while conversing with that person. This simple act will help cement that information in your brain.
3. Get adequate sleep
This seems quite simple but it is one of the key secrets to strengthening your mind. Research shows that adequate sleep is essential for learning and memory. A person who has not gotten enough sleep will not be able to focus properly and cannot learn to an optimal level.
As far as memory goes, consolidation is a key function in having a good memory. Sleep plays a pivotal role in the consolidation of memory; it is while we sleep that neural connections are strengthened and that is what forms our memories.
Tips to get optimal amounts of sleep:
- Avoid screens an hour before bedtime: The blue light that comes from phones, laptops and tablet screens causes wakefulness. Moreover, it suppresses a chemical called melatonin that makes us sleepy
- Reduce intake of caffeine: Try to limit yourself to a maximum of one cup of caffeine a day. Caffeine can interfere with your sleep
- Have a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning as well.
4. Get exercise
While it is extremely important to stay mentally active, it is equally important to stay physically active as well. Exercise increases the amount of oxygen the brain gets and also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes (both of which are disorders that can contribute to memory loss). Exercise reduces stress hormones and plays a critical role in promoting neuroplasticity as it encourages new neural connections.
5. Be social
Humans are and always have been social animals. Having strong, meaningful relationships is not only vital for our emotional well-being but also for brain health. Numerous studies show that people who have the most active, social lives normally have the lowest chance of memory decline.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up busy lives or electronics these days that time gets lost. Perhaps in times with less distractions it’s easier to with friends and socialize. There are many ways to become more social – join a club of your interest, make regular plans to meet up with friends, volunteer at a nearby organization or reach out to a friend on the phone.
6. Keep a careful eye on your stress levels
Stress is extremely harmful to brain health. Research shows that prolonged stress can contribute to the destruction of brain cells along with the hippocampus (which is responsible for forming new memories and retrieving the old ones).
Tips to manage your stress levels:
- Take out time for self-care
- Talk about your feelings rather than bottling them up
- Try to complete one task at a time rather than multitask
- Set reasonable expectations
- Practice gratitude
- Learn breathing exercises
7. Follow through on a task you have started
If you have started a particular project or task its best to follow through, finish completing that before moving on to something else. The reason is that if you leave it in the middle your brain does not get the opportunity to work through the completion of a task and hence a majority of its processing power remains unused.
Also, when a task remains incomplete, our minds get stuck on that; this takes up valuable mental power that could have been used for applying to new experiences.
8. Choose to eat a brain-boosting diet
Eating a healthy diet is not just important for your physical health; it also plays a key role in the health of your brain. Research shows that there are certain foods that can help improve memory and keep your brain alert.
The following tips on nutrition will help keep your brain sharp:
- Consume Omega3 Fatty Acids: these are extremely beneficial for the brain and can be found in foods such as fish, walnuts, avocado and flaxseeds
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables: these are full of antioxidants and protect your brain cells from damage
- Reduce intake of saturated fat: a high consumption of saturated fats can increase chances of dementia
- Consume green tea: regular consumption of green tea can help to enhance memory and promote mental alertness
Our brains are incredibly complex, powerful resources that also need care and attention. Help your brain, help yourself!