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How to Increase Memory Power

Three Parts:Reducing StressImproving Your DietChanging the Way You Think

It’s all too easy to neglect our memories in this digital age, where many of us can easily “google” the things we forget. Though it seems unnecessary, memorization is important for many reasons beyond being great at trivia night. For one, it disciplines the mind, making it more focused and productive; what you hold in your memory also informs how you think about things, and helps you understand concepts more quickly.[1] By reducing stress, improving your diet, and changing the way you think, you can increase your memory power.

Part 1
Reducing Stress

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    Meditate every day. Meditating for at least 15 to 30 minutes each day physically changes your brain, making you less anxious, and more rational and empathetic.[2][3] In addition, research has shown that meditation enhances concentration and improves sleep.[4]
    • The four best times of day to meditate are first thing in the morning, whenever you’re stressed out, on your lunch break, or at the end of your workday.[5]
    • Meditating right before bedtime is not recommended, as you are more likely to relax into sleep. With meditation, you want to ensure that you remain fully awake.[6]
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    Do yoga. Besides increasing your physical strength and flexibility, yoga changes your brain. Research suggests that in addition to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, yoga protects the brain from shrinking with age.[7]
    • Interestingly, yoga prevents shrinking mainly in the left hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with positive emotions such as joy and happiness.[8]
    • Along with meditating, yoga will also help you be more present — or “mindful” — in your everyday life.[9]
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    Exercise regularly. Research shows that exercise can help offset the cognitive decline brought on by aging and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.[10] It’s also an effective stress reducer that helps improve your mood and boost your self-confidence.[11]
    • Studies recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes each week of vigorous activity such as jogging.[12]
    • Choose something you enjoy — if you hate running, don’t force yourself to run three times a week; swim or join an exercise class or sports club instead.
    • Be realistic about how often you can exercise. If you know you can’t do 30 minutes of walking each day, 5 days a week, break it into smaller increments of 10 minutes here and there.[13]
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    Get enough sleep. On average, adults need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep each night; children and teenagers need even more (between 8.5 and 18 hours, depending on their age).[14] When we consistently sleep poorly, we are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, poor memory, and many other undesirable conditions.[15]
    • If you are meditating daily, doing yoga, and exercising regularly, you should find it less difficult to sleep at night.
    • Give yourself at least 30 minutes at the end of the day to wind down before sleeping. Lie in bed and spend 20 minutes on progressive muscle relaxation, or read a book.
    • Avoid looking at screens (computer, TV, phone, tablet) before bed.[16]
    • When you sleep, your brain consolidates information into your long-term memory bank. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, it affects your brain’s ability to do this, and your memory suffers.[17][18]
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    Get organized. It’s easy to get stressed out when you can’t find your keys or some important paperwork, or when you walk into your home and feel as though you’re drowning in clutter. Choosing specific places for everything and then consistently putting them away will help reduce the stress in your life, and will keep your mind free to focus on other things (like increasing your memory!).
    • You don’t have to do everything at once. Start with small things like keeping your keys in a tray or hook by the door, or making a commitment to always putting away your coat, shoes, and bag the moment you get home.
    • If you have a lot to do, making a to-do list will help quiet your mind and keep you on track.
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    Socialize. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy, and who make you feel like the best version of you. Socializing can decrease anxiety, boost self-confidence, and distract us from the things that stress us out.[19]
    • If you don’t have any friends/family or are living far away from your friends/family, consider joining a club or online community, or calling your friends/family using an online video chat program.
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    Laugh. Research suggests that laughter can improve short-term memory in older adults.[20] It also increases endorphins and boosts the immune system, lowering stress and improving memory amongst all age groups.[21]
    • Watch comedic films or YouTube videos, share jokes with friends, attend a stand-up comedy show — do things that make you laugh on a regular basis.
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    Have a spa day. Go to a spa or, if you’re on a budget, give yourself a spa day at home. Take a bath or a nice shower, use a nice face mask, clip your nails and toenails, scrub your feet, slather yourself in a nice moisturizer after your bath/shower. Take time to focus on making yourself feel good; feel proud of yourself for taking care of yourself.
    • If you can’t afford to pay for a massage, ask a friend or your partner to trade massages with you.
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    Disconnect. Cutting down on your use of technology (i.e. sitting in front of your computer, phone, or tablet) for even 30 minutes can improve your brain health and help you think more deeply.[22] Spending time away from your computer makes you less likely to engage in working outside of business hours. It also helps you stay more present in the moment, and buys you time to do stress-relieving things like exercising or meditating.[23]
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    See a doctor. If you are consistently anxious and stressed out, and/or unable to sleep, consider seeing a medical professional. You may find that counselling (with a registered clinical counsellor or a psychologist) is all that you need, or you may choose to take a medication, or perhaps you'll combine the two. Speak with your doctor about what the best choice is for you.

Part 2
Improving Your Diet

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    Eat antioxidants. Studies have shown that blueberries in particular help protect the brain and may reduce the effects of age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Aim for 1 cup of blueberries a day; they can be fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried.[24] Pomegranates (or pomegranate juice without added sugar) are also a good source of antioxidants.[25]
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    Eat healthy fats. Many fish, including salmon, are rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acids that are necessary for brain function. These acids also reduce inflammation. Aim for a 4-ounce serving 2 to 3 times per week.[26] Avocados offer another source of healthy fat — monounsaturated, which helps lower blood pressure and contributes to healthy blood flow.[27]
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    Eat nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin E, which can help minimize the cognitive decline that accompanies age. Aim for 1 ounce each day of nuts or unhydrogenated nut butters. Raw or roasted doesn’t matter, but be careful of salt content.[28]
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    Eat whole grains. Eating whole grains promotes cardiovascular health, which promotes blood flow throughout the entire body, including the brain. Aim for 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal, 1 to 3 slices of bread, or 2 tablespoons of wheat germ each day.[29]
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    Eat beans. Beans help stabilize blood sugar (glucose), upon which the brain depends for fuel. Aim for 1/2 cup of beans every day.[30]
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    Drink freshly brewed tea. Aim for 2 to 3 cups per day of either hot or cold tea. The small amount of caffeine that tea contains can help enhance memory, focus and mood. Tea also contains antioxidants.[31]
    • Make sure the tea is loose leaf or in a tea bag: bottled or powdered teas are not effective.
    • If you suffer from stress, you may need to reduce your caffeine intake as this can increase your anxiety/stress.
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    Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and several natural stimulants, including caffeine, to enhance focus and concentration, and boost one’s mood. Aim for 1/2 to 1 ounce (but no more than that) per day.[32]
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    Drink enough water. The brain is made up of roughly 80% water; when your brain is chronically dehydrated, it does not function properly. To calculate how much water you need to drink each day, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2. That is how much water you should drink each day, in ounces.[33]
    • If you weight 150 pounds, you'll need to drink 75 ounces of water each day.
    • You may need to drink more water on days where you sweat more, for example, from exercise or hot weather.
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    Consider taking supplements. There is not enough scientific research to prove that any of the popular “brain boosting” supplements actually work. Ones that have potential include ginko blob (improves blood flow), omega-3 fatty acids, Huperzine A, Acetyl-L-carnitine, vitamin E, and Asian/Panax ginseng.[34]

Part 3
Changing the Way You Think

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    Practise mindfulness. When you are mindful, you are living in the moment. Your mind is not focused on the past or present, but on the here and now. Being mindful also means acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and present situation without judgment.[35]
    • Don’t: Earlier today, someone budged in front of you in line at the grocery store. You thought about saying something, but decided against it. Now you can’t stop thinking about how angry you felt at that moment; you practise over and over again in your mind the things you wish you had said to that person.
    • Do: Whenever the angry memory of that person budging in front of you pops into your head, acknowledge it but then let it go. Think, “yes, I felt angry then, but I don’t have to waste time feeling angry now,” and then return your awareness to the present moment. In a sense, being mindful means getting out of your head (and into the moment)!
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    Pay attention to your surroundings. This is connected to being mindful. Practise making a mental photograph of your surroundings. Really pay attention to the things around you — the colours, the smells, the people, the weather. Live in the moment.
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    Avoid multitasking. Studies have shown that your brain cannot efficiently switch between tasks, meaning that when you multitask, you actually lose time. Research has also shown that we are less likely to retain what we learn when we’re multitasking. In short, if you want to remember something, don’t do it while multitasking![36]
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    Learn new things. Learn a language, play an instrument, increase your vocabulary — learning new things will keep your brain on its toes, so to speak. When we do the same things every day, our brain doesn’t receive the stimulation it needs to grow, so be sure to introduce new things regularly.[37]
    • You might also try learning different ways of using your senses — for example, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand (if you’re right-handed, use your left) or turning a book upside down and reading it that way for 10 minutes.
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    Involve all of your senses in creating a memory. Studies show that using multiple senses helps us better understand and remember new concepts.[38] If you want to remember something, visualize it, write it down, and say it out loud.
    • If you are trying to remember someone’s name, visualize them with their name written on their head. As you do this, say their name out loud.
    • If you are trying to memorize a language, pick 10 to 20 words to remember each day, and write each of them out 10 times while saying them out loud. You might even do this a few times until you can write and say each word perfectly, without having to think about it.
    • Flash cards are a good example of how you can enlist visualization, writing, and speaking to create memories; they are a wonderful tool for studying.
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    Repeat things. If you want to help a memory stick in your brain, say it out loud as you complete the activity associated with it.
    • When you meet someone new, say their name as you shake their hand (“Hi Sam”), then say it again when you finish the conversation (“It was nice meeting you, Sam”) or, if that feels weird, you can say it quietly to yourself as you walk away.[39]
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    Create associations. On the way out the door in the morning, you remember that when you get home you need to do laundry. Instead of writing yourself a note or starting laundry before you go, you can do something like leave a shoe out in your hallway (if your hallway is usually empty/tidy, that is). Simply seeing that shoe out of place should spark the memory of wanting to do laundry.[40]
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    Don’t overload your brain. Your brain can only process so much information at a time; reduce what you want to learn into bite-sized chunks, so to speak. To ensure that you use your memory as effectively as possible, prioritize what you want to memorize, and start with the most important information.[41]
    • It’s important to give yourself the time and space to properly remember things. We often need time just to process information before we can properly use it.[42]
    • Instead of remembering the number, 5-6-2-2-8-9-7, make it 562-28-97.[43]
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    Test yourself daily. Throughout the day, give yourself little tests — for example, when you leave a restaurant, ask yourself to describe what your server looked like: his/her hair, eyes, shirt colour, name (if there was a name tag).
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    Don’t give up. Your brain may get slower with age, but it is still possible to learn new things and to improve your brain’s function.[44]


  • While it certainly can’t hurt to play “brain-boosting” games, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to prove that such games actually improve anything other than the specific tasks they involve — if you do sudoku, you’ll get better at sudoku, but not at anything else.[45]

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Categories: Puzzles and Memory Games