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Improve your memory with these simple but powerful tips and techniques. Your brain's ability to change and grow, to get better, throughout your lifetime is.
Table of contents



Learning a new skill is a great way to keep the brain active. Prof O'Connor explains that to amplify brain activity, the best skills are those with have a social element and require you to be physically active. On top of that, you're socialising, because there are people around you, and you're having conversations with them," he says.

Remember More of What You Read and Hear: 6 Research-Tested Ways to Improve Your Memory

Over the age of 50, recall of details can be more difficult, particularly on the spur of the moment. To improve your ability to recall, Prof O'Connor suggests taking a multi-sensory approach to encoding memories. For example, if you frequently lose track of your keys, get into a habit of saying out loud "I'm putting my keys down here by the bedside table" when you put them down.

How to triple your memory by using this trick

The more senses that you use in laying down a memory and coding it in the brain, the easier it is to recall it, because there will be more connections. Dr Brennan advises taking advantage of advances in technology wherever possible to help yourself remember particular details, thereby saving brain resources for learning new things. I would advocate more systematic and wider use of these aids and good old-fashioned memory aids like post-it notes, to-do lists, notebooks and white boards all work perfectly well too," she says. It can be well worth taking the time to set up regular reminders for important recurring tasks like medications and appointments.

If you're right-handed, swap over to the left hand - or vice-versa - when doing simple, everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, combing your hair or buttoning up your shirt.

6 Research-Tested Ways to Improve Your Memory

It may take a little longer to complete the task than normal, but using the non-preferred hand can help to strengthen the brain. Wearing your watch the wrong way forces your brain to rotate the face of the watch to find out the time. Prof O'Connor explains that the part of the brain that carries out the rotation in space is the same part where Alzheimer's disease starts. Would you add a conservatory, move the shed, put up walls down the side with some shrubs running along?

The elite brain food is fish oil, but Prof O'Connor advises against spending money on expensive supplements, and instead incorporating fish into your weekly diet. Buy them in oil, not in brine, and eat them once a week on toast or in a sandwich," he says. Nuts and seeds are important for the brain, but Prof O'Connor recommends taking cues from what we feed our animals. Ironically, these are now regarded as inferior and are fed to horses and cows, and instead we feed ourselves elite grass seeds called wheat, which isn't really that healthy for us, it's too refined for our gut," he says, adding that we're better off with porridge oats for breakfast with fruit than a bowl of cornflakes.

If you're thirsty, it's too late, warns Prof O'Connor - you're already dehydrated. We need to drink lots of water, and those living in the countryside who are lucky enough to have their own well are even better off. But stay away from sparkling water, or any fizzy drinks, as recent research has linked carbonated beverages to premature ageing. If you feel you have the name on the tip of your tongue, Prof O'Connor suggests using the 'alphabetical filing cabinet' method.

Go through the alphabet, and as you move through A, B, C, there may be a connection which will help you pull out the name. When you first meet someone, Dr Brennan recommends behaving as if you're interested in the person's name as soon as you hear it. Think of why it is of interest," she explains. To give names more meaning, attach rhyming or alliterative add-ons, like 'Super Susan' or 'Perfect Pete'. Recall the name to yourself after a few minutes; nothing polishes a memory like repeated use. Use a process known as 'memory chunking', where you divide information such as a phone number into blocks of three or four digits, for example: Establish a 'one-drop place' for important items that you need and lose regularly, such as keys, glasses, passports, driving license, hospital appointment cards and so on.

Dr Brennan advises being strict about putting these items in the designated place and only this place when you come home - never put them anywhere else. Do this for two to three weeks until it becomes a habit. Ask for directions in the format that you remember best - some people need to see it written down, others prefer to hear it or visualise it.


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Take a photo of the car park location or write the location on your parking ticket, then develop a habit of putting that ticket in the same place, such as your wallet or suit pocket, each time. Henry Bodkin Warning middle aged people they risk embarrassing themselves through drinking is more effective at improving behaviour than highlighting the health implications, a new study has found.

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Research-based strategies to boost your memory and keep it strong

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The flipside is also true in that a healthy lifestyle can support your brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis. Your brain's hippocampus, i. These "tools" are primarily lifestyle-based, which is wonderful news. You don't need an expensive prescription medication or any medical procedure at all to boost your brain, and your memory.

You simply must try out the following tricks to improve your memory. The foods you eat — and don't eat — play a crucial role in your memory. Fresh vegetables are essential, as are healthy fats and avoiding sugar and grain carbohydrates. You can find detailed information about nine foods for brainpower here. For instance, curry, celery, broccoli , cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells. Increasing your animal-based omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats think processed vegetable oils in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, is also important.

I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin , which not only protects the omega-3 fats from oxidation but also appears to be particularly beneficial for brain health. Coconut oil is another healthful fat for brain function. According to research by Dr.

Mary Newport , just over two tablespoons of coconut oil about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides MCT , which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case. Exercise — Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by stimulating nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage.

During exercise nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor BDNF , triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning. A study on primates published in Neuroscience also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys.

This is a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well. To get the most out of your workouts, I recommend a comprehensive program that includes high-intensity interval exercise , strength training, stretching, and core work, along with regular intermittent movement. Stop Multitasking — Used for decades to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers, multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, multitasking may actually slow you down, make you prone to errors as well as make you forgetful. Research shows you actually need about eight seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory, so if you're talking on your phone and carrying in groceries when you put down your car keys, you're unlikely to remember where you left them. The opposite of multitasking would be mindfulness, which helps you achieve undistracted focus.

Students who took a mindfulness class improved reading comprehension test scores and working memory capacity, as well as experienced fewer distracting thoughts. If you find yourself trying to complete five tasks at once, stop yourself and focus your attention back to the task at hand. If distracting thoughts enter your head, remind yourself that these are only "projections," not reality, and allow them to pass by without stressing you out. You can then end your day with a or minute meditation session to help stop your mind from wandering and relax into a restful sleep. Get a Good Night's Sleep — Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping, 3 but few realize that their performance has actually improved.

Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you "practice" and improve your performance of challenging skills. In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.

The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity , is believed to underlie your brain's capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. Plasticity occurs when neurons are stimulated by events, or information, from the environment. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.

Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber. As you might suspect, this holds true for infants too, and research shows that naps can give a boost to babies' brainpower. Specifically, infants who slept in between learning and testing sessions had a better ability to recognize patterns in new information, which signals an important change in memory that plays an essential role in cognitive development.

Play Brain Games — If you don't sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it eventually begins to deteriorate. What research into brain plasticity shows us, however, is that by providing your brain with appropriate stimulus, you can counteract this degeneration. One way to challenge your brain is via 'brain games,' which you can play online via Web sites like Lumosity.

Editors Choice

Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, who I interviewed two years ago , has pioneered research in brain plasticity also called neuroplasticity for more than 30 years, has also developed a computer-based brain-training program that can help you sharpen a range of skills, from reading and comprehension to improved memorization and more.

The program is called Brain HQ, and the website has many different exercises designed to improve brain function and it also allows you to track and monitor your progress over time. While there are many similar sites on the Web, Brain HQ is one of the oldest and most widely used.


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If you decide to try brain games, ideally it would be wise to invest at least 20 minutes a day, but no more than five to seven minutes is to be spent on a specific task. When you spend longer amounts of time on a task, the benefits weaken. Merzenich, the primary benefits occur in the first five or six minutes of the task.

The only downside to brain games is that it may become just another "task" you need to fit into an already busy day. If you don't enjoy brain games, you can also try learning a new skill or hobby see below. Master a New Skill — Engaging in "purposeful and meaningful activities" stimulates your neurological system, counters the effects of stress-related diseases, reduces the risk of dementia and enhances health and well-being. In other words, the task must be important to you, or somehow meaningful or interesting — it must hold your attention.

For instance, one study revealed that craft activities such as quilting and knitting were associated with decreased odds of having mild cognitive impairment. Ideally this should be something that requires your undivided attention and gives you great satisfaction… it should be an activity that you look forward to doing, such as playing a musical instrument, gardening, building model ships, crafting or many others.