There are few things more frustrating and embarrassing than struggling to remember names, events and facts or even where you left your keys. Unfortunately, trouble with memory is an issue that plagues many adults on a daily basis. Stress, poor diet, too much to do and not enough rest can contribute to memory issues. The study of the brain has shown that due to neuroplasticity the brain can change and learn new patterns at any time and not just when we are young. The good news is that in addition to eating a brain healthy diet and getting adequate rest, there are also many creative ways to improve memory at any age.
Ways to Improve Memory
- Daily aerobic exercise is key! Not only is exercise great for your physical wellbeing, it is also beneficial for brain health. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of daily moderate aerobic exercise such as walking, dancing, cycling or any activity that gets your blood moving and heart pumping increases the oxygen to the brain which helps improve memory. It also reduces risk of other disorders that lead to memory loss such as type II diabetes. There are also recent studies that have shown learning new material while exercising on a stationary bike or elliptical trainer enhances your ability to retain the information.
- Make humor a part of your life. In studies at Loma Linda University elderly participants watched a twenty-minute humorous video and were given memory tests immediately following. Those that watched the video as compared to a group who did not performed better on short term memory tests. One reason is that laughter reduces the stress hormone cortisol which taxes our memory and raises endorphins which send dopamine to the brain, improves immune function and increases brain waves associated with memory and recall. Laughter can be the best brain medicine!
- Have a cup of black coffee. Researchers at Johns Hopkin’s University proved that subjects who were given 200mg of caffeine and shown a group of objects were better able to remember the objects the following day than those who were shown the same objects and were not given caffeine first. Be careful to watch caffeine later in the day when caffeine may interrupt sleep which causes negative effect on memory. And watch the sugar and cream which can add significant calories.
- Listen to classical music. This concept was first studied in the 1990’s and termed the Mozart effect. The study suggested that listening to music by Mozart while working or studying may induce a short-term improvement on the performance in spatial reasoning and memory. In addition, in a study of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients done by UC Irvine, it was shown that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music. Classical music not your thing? Studies of non-classical music have shown that if the music evokes positive emotions it can increase dopamine and improve memory similar to the effects of laughter.
- Chew Gum. Studies at University of Northumbria in Newcastle, UK have shown that chewing gum can help increase both ability to recall information and in concentration. Further studies from Cornell suggested that it is beneficial to chew gum both while studying new information and when taking tests. One theory for the boost in memory is that chewing gum increases heart rate slightly and increases oxygen to the brain.
- Doodle! In the book The Doodle Revolution author Sunni Brown discusses how doodling has been shown to help with focus, retention of new material and the ability to grasp complex concepts. Doodling also enhances creativity and allows people to express emotion that are too complex for words.